After a near-death experience, Nico Robledo Jr. will work Anderson Silva’s corner on Jake Paul

Anderson Silva will head to the ring on Saturday at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Ariz. to fight YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul in a fight that has oddly become a rallying point for MMA fans fed up have Paul finish off their heroes.

One of the greatest fighters in UFC history, Silva wasn’t ready to give up his career when he parted ways with the UFC just days after losing to Uriah Hall on October 31, 2020. It was his third loss in a row, his fifth in his last six fights, and more than 23 years had passed since his MMA debut.

He turned to boxing when MMA opportunities ran out and added a trainer, Nico Robledo Jr., to help him prepare for a fight with former boxing champ Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.

Robledo served as Silva’s longtime trainer Luiz Dorea’s assistant and was in Silva’s corner for boxing victories over Chavez Jr. and Tito Ortiz.

“I have two great coaches,” said Silva. “Coach Dorea stayed with me for many, many years, my entire career. And Coach Nico started working with me to help me and he took my work to another level.”

But for a while, Silva worried that he wouldn’t have Robledo Jr. in his corner for the Paul fight. On December 5, 2021, Robledo was hospitalized with COVID-19. In early January 2022, he fell into a coma and was kept alive on a ventilator.

On January 26, 2022, when his condition was not improving, doctors planned to pull the plug and take him off life support.

“COVID has changed lives for everyone,” said Silva.

Nico Robledo Jr. will be in Anderson Silva's corner on Saturday after surviving a near-fatal battle with COVID-19.  (Photo courtesy of the Robledo family)

Nico Robledo Jr. will be in Anderson Silva’s corner on Saturday after surviving a near-fatal battle with COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of the Robledo family)

A terrible anniversary

When Nico Robledo III heard the doctor’s words about his father’s condition, the significance of the date escaped him at the time.

It was January 26th and Robledo III, a promising amateur boxer trained by his father, just couldn’t face losing his father. By a sad, bizarre coincidence, Sabrina Torres, the mother of the six Robledo Jr. children, passed away on January 26, 2021 as a result of complications from COVID-19.

On January 26, 2022, doctors wanted to remove Robledo Jr. from life support, fearing hopelessness. Several siblings of Robledo III put the two dates together. Not Robledo III. As a promising amateur boxer trained by his father, he had only one focus: Somehow, somehow, he was desperately hoping to find a way to make his father healthy and continue their boxing dream together.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in denial, but I didn’t think of the date and that my mother died on that date,” Robledo III said. “I didn’t have time to think about the date. My brothers and sisters and everyone in the family have all been hit very hard. But I was just so focused on my dad and his getting better.

“When my mother died, my father said to me, ‘Son, you have to be this strong branch for all your brothers and sisters, no matter what. You have to be the one who gives them hope.” My father had told me this when my mother was going through her situation. Now a year later, with my father going through the same thing, I knew what I had to do. I didn’t have time to think about the anniversary. My goal was just to make my father healthy.”

Two uncanny coincidences and a miracle

Robledo III had a big amateur tournament in the spring that he wanted to shoot for. But it was different without his father. He trained with Silva and the Blackhouse team in Redondo Beach, California, but he was so close to his father and things weren’t the same.

The doctor agreed to keep Robledo Jr. on life support, but there wasn’t much optimism. Even before he fell into a coma in December 2021, doctors feared the worst. Robledo Jr. probably had the worst conversation a patient could have with their doctor.

“After a week and a half [after being admitted to the hospital on Dec. 5, 2021], all I remember is the doctor telling me I wouldn’t make it because my organs would be shut down,” Robledo Jr. said. “He just said, ‘You’re going to die. I can not do anything about that. Your whole body shuts down.’ I said “thank you” and I remember the doctor saying to me, “Are you okay with this?” He said, “Most people want a second opinion or see if they can be transferred to another hospital. You seem ok with that.”

“I said, ‘I don’t agree with this, but there’s nothing I can do.’ I said, ‘If God wants me, I’m ready to go.’ And then I went into a coma, but I don’t really remember that.”

Nico Robledo Jr. (R) narrowly survived COVID-19 and will be in the corner of MMA legend Anderson Silva on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona

Nico Robledo Jr. (R) in action during Anderson Silva’s training camp for Saturday’s fight against Jake Paul. (Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME)

In a cruel irony, he was hospitalized on December 5, 2021, a year to the day after his former wife and mother of his children were hospitalized. She died on January 26, 2021, exactly a year before doctors were about to take him off life support.

On January 26, 2022, several of the six Robledo children spoke to the doctor about leaving their father on life support.

But then something like a miracle happened.

“They said to the doctor, ‘We don’t want to lose our father the same day we lost our mother,'” Robledo Jr. said. “And the doctor agreed. And a little later, somehow, by the grace of God, I woke up.”

A dream and an awakening

Robledo Jr. said he remembered almost nothing about his coma. He said he remembers things that happened in his life and felt like he was floating in a fog.

“That’s when I realized it wasn’t fog, it was the clouds,” he said. “I felt like I was floating in the clouds. And then I remember seeing my son Nico on a plane. For some reason he was in the military and on a jet. He communicated with me and it was like I could read his mind.”

At this point, Robledo awoke and was out of a coma. It was March 15, 2022, and he had been in a coma for more than two months. His birthday was March 21, 2022 and the family celebrated him at the hospital, although Robledo Jr. does not remember it.

He said it took two or three weeks before he was fully aware of his surroundings.

He was beginning to recover from symptoms of COVID that almost killed him, but he faced another problem: he couldn’t walk. He had been in a hospital bed since early December. It was now April 2022.

He was transferred to a rehabilitation clinic so he could learn to walk again. The staff told him he could stay there for two months.

He didn’t have it. It’s been two weeks.

“My will and desire to see and be with my family got me out of the hospital in two weeks,” he said. “I had started walking and was released on April 23.”

But if you think Robledo Jr. went home, sat in the chair, and slowly regained his strength, then you don’t know the will of this extraordinary man. On May 3, he was in Kansas City with his son, who won a silver medal at the featherweight division.

Robledo Jr. lost his composure talking about it.

“They think of what we went through and me, almost dying, being in a coma, not being able to walk, being in so much pain and then being there to see my son at a national tournament, I mean how I do it, it’s kind of overwhelming,” he said. “I was a very proud father and I was also so thankful and thankful to God that I got to experience that.”

Nico Robledo Jr. ties the gloves for Anderson Silva during practice ahead of the ex-UFC champion's boxing match against Jake Paul.  (Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME)

Nico Robledo Jr. ties the gloves for Anderson Silva during practice ahead of the ex-UFC champion’s boxing match against Jake Paul. (Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME)

Back with “The Spider”

Silva noticed that Robledo Jr. was training other fighters at Blackhouse and asked about him. Silva was new to boxing and liked the way Robledo worked with fighters.

Introductions were made and Robledo joined the team. He worked on the corner for the Chavez and Ortiz fights and, although it seemed unlikely, will be at Glendale on Saturday.

Silva said: “I can feel the progress I’ve made” and believes he will win.

And while Robledo knows he’s dealing with a 47-year-old boxer, he believes Silva has a shot at winning and completing this fairy tale the right way.

“Anderson has evolved a lot,” said Robledo Jr. “He’s not the same fighter that he was for the Julio Cesar Chavez and Tito Ortiz fight. He’s still developing. He’s 47, but I don’t care. He develops and develops. I tell him, ‘Anderson, you’re 47, but you exercise and act like you’re 27.’

“The sky’s the limit for Anderson. he works so hard He always stays in shape. He’s always in the gym. He loves to learn and he is so dedicated that he always gives 100 percent.”

Robledo Jr. won’t get much attention. Silva and Dorea will be in the spotlight as they try to derail Paul’s hype train.

But Robledo is so grateful for the opportunity and a second chance at life.

“This story could have ended very differently,” he said. “Being with someone like Anderson makes you realize that life is worth living. He loves what he does and he gives everything he has and just wants to do his best and be better than yesterday. Being a small part of that is a great blessing to me.”

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