Gabby’s Guardians – A Fighting Family


[This article was originally published on June 21, 2015. The fund raising effort linked below is still very much active, and all donations are encouraged. Dinis Paiva competes tonight at CES 31, where he is set to take on Kody Nordby in a bantamweight bout.]

Written by @NickRiznerMMA – Photography by Pedro Blanco

In the realm of sports media, we tend to exaggerate the importance of things.

Thus is the nature of the job. We are, if nothing else, salesmen trying to persuade our audience into rallying behind a particular story line or angle of intrigue. We use hyperbole and overblown metaphors to drive our point home. We spin things to make them more dramatic and use theatrics to keep things exciting.

But every now and then, there comes a moment when there is no need for exaggeration. The significance of the story stands for itself. The motivation for the article is clear and its importance is implicitly understood.

On Friday, June 12th, as Dinis “Sweetbread” Paiva made his way to the CES MMA cage to take on Bruno Marques, his sister, Gabriela, was preparing for a fight of her own. On June 11th – just one day prior – Gabriela was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Going into the last fight, I did not know about her diagnosis. I just knew something wasn’t right.

Dinis and his sister have always been close. Although he was not actually informed of Gabriela’s cancer until days later, he could immediately sense that something was wrong.

He hadn’t heard from her in a while; a rarity for the siblings. Furthermore, Gabriela and her son, Austin, had planned on making the trip from Florida to Rhode Island to see Dinis compete. So, when fight night came and went without any word from her, it raised some red flags.

After learning of the diagnosis, his initial response was a feeling of helplessness; an emotion that a surging MMA prospect – fresh off his fourth consecutive first round finish – was not used to experiencing.

I guess I took it the hardest. I’ve grown to be the tough little brother, the mediator, the golden boy. I wish it were me. I wish I could fight this fight for her.

Fighting is what Dinis Paiva does. It’s also who he is. So it should come as no surprise that after absorbing the initial shock of it all, he decided to do just that. Fight.

It’s the only way I can relate. I’m dedicating my career to her, until her fight is won.

Gabriela is many things to many different people. To her son, she is a mother. To her husband, she is a wife. To her family, her friends, and anybody else she’s come in contact with throughout the years, she is an inspiration.

Gabriela is the owner of a salon in Florida called Gabby & Co. The responsibilities and stress associated with owning a business can be daunting for anybody, let alone someone who is actively fighting cancer. The key to recovery is rest and relaxation; an impossible task if one’s mind is constantly focused on keeping their business afloat.

As a result, Dinis has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help assist with some of the financial burden, while Gabriela undergoes chemotherapy. More than a simple fundraiser, this campaign provides a medium for support. If rest and relaxation are the most important part of recovery, then positive thinking is a close second.

What better way to motivate someone to stay positive in the face of adversity than to show them that they are not fighting alone?

This team mentality has been the cornerstone of Dinis Paiva’s success throughout his career. Now, he can apply this strategy to an even worthier cause. Sweetbread returns to action on August 14th at Twin River Casino, in Rhode Island, and this time, he has something much bigger to fight for than himself.

This time, he fights for Gabby.

Dinis has promised to donate a percentage of his fight-earned income to Gabriela’s cause, vowing to fight against cancer from inside the cage while she fights on the front lines.

I love my sister very much and will make her and everyone else proud. My best has yet to come, and if anyone ever thought I was motivated before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

A fighter is only as good as the support system around them. Not just training partners and coaches, but the friends and families that both motivate and empower them to do better. Throughout his career, Dinis Paiva has relied on the support of his family to continue fighting on and improving.

Now, it’s time for him to return the favor.

To contribute to Gabriela’s cause, “Gabby’s Guardians,” please visit her GoFundMe page. There, you can make a donation, leave an inspirational message, and share her story on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you in advance and from all of us here at MMA Mad, best wishes to Gabriela on a speedy recovery!

Check out our latest podcast episode featuring Adam Milstead & Dinis "Sweetbread" Paiva

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