Somewhere at a favela — Brazilian Portuguese for a slum — in Rio de Janerio, a young boy slept every night not knowing if he would able to survive beyond his teenage days.
Paulo Eduardo Goncalves da Silva was a dealer of guns and drugs at the Chacrinha favela, his close group of friends introducing him to the ugly world at the age of 13. The quick money then kept him hooked to it through the majority of his teenage years.
"By this time, I was sure that I would be dead before 18," Paulo recalls.
"But in my young mind, I knew something good would happen to me," he adds.
The harsh reality intertwined with the hazy future struck Paulo hard when he became father to a baby boy.At that moment, he knew his life had to undergo a major transformation.
He knew he needed to channelise his youthful exuberance and inherent aggression for a much safer — and saner — life. He found his calling in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Paulo began with the Vale tudo, an unarmed, full-contact combat sport that was popular in Brazil, before turning his focus on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial art form that primarily involves grappling and ground fighting.
Paulo earned a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and after taking up MMA professionally in 2009, he has moved on to become one of the top fighters in the world.
Now 33, the Brazilian will be in Mumbai this weekend to take part in the Kumite 1 League (K1L), India's global mixed martial arts league.
From dealing with guns and drugs in the small lanes of Chacrinha to fighting top MMA fighters at the massive NSCI Dome in Mumbai, Paulo's life story is nothing short of a Hollywood potboiler.
And unlike most who don't like dwelling on their troubled past, Paulo seeks to keep reminding himself of it.
"My early life brings to my heart and soul a lot of strong and painful feelings, but it's a part of my life. I use my past experiences to tutor me, not torture me," he says.
As dangerous as dealing with guns and drugs is, it also gives you access to quick money, a heady cocktail for a child.
"Dealing with drugs and other activities at a young age exposed me to so many things that a child should never be," Paulo says. "It was easy for a young boy like me to make all the wrong choices by being influenced. But then one day, the world around me changed, and I opened my eyes," he adds.
Paulo's eyes opened along with his son's, along with the sudden realisation that his fellow dealers and friends lived their lives on the edge, without any direction.
"I realised that the guys who I was working with had no ideologies in life.
"I then wished I could live at favela in peace without drugs. After my son was born, it gave my life a new direction and I had the will power to live more," he says.
Switching from an easy, money-spinning business to earning every penny by starting from scratch in another profession can be a daunting decision to make.
It wasn't for Paulo, though.
"It was just a choice: Live short if I'd continue to do what I was doing, or live longer and happier if I stopped and decided to put all that aggression in the right place," he recalls.
"Today, I am happy to be a professional MMA fighter and I know I earn a decent living to provide a better future to my family," he adds.
Paulo lives with his mother, his wife, a doctor who helps him with his diet and nutrition, and his young son.
He will probably tell his son his life story when he grows up, but to kids in India and around the world who are caught in the web of the kind of hazardous world Paulo grew up in, he has something so say now.
"Be faraway from these kinds of stuff. I mean, don't just think about easy money. Easy money can be dangerous in the long term. Think about the next day, next month, next years of your life," he says.
In the next years of his life, Paulo wants to be a social worker and a politician.
"I want to support kids with social projects. I want to be there personally and professionally for people who have lost their will power, are caught up in the web of drugs and criminal activities," he says.
"There is always a ray of hope and I want to be that ray that gives them the will to live longer," he adds.