Fil-Am MMA fighter Phillipe Nover helps virus battle as New York nurse

Nissi Icasiano
Fil-Am MMA fighter Phillipe Nover helps virus battle as New York nurse
'I honestly don't mind being on the frontline… my job is to treat and help people,' says Fil-Am nurse and former UFC fighter Phillipe Nover


MANILA, Philippines – Phillipe Nover has gone from one of the most talented mixed martial arts (MMA) prospects during his time to a frontliner at a hospital in Brooklyn, New York.

The 36-year-old Filipino-American fighter now works as a cardiac nurse in his hometown, looking out for the safety of coronavirus patients.

Like any other healthcare worker in the United States during this global health crisis, Nover has his hands full, doing his best effort to attend to the needs of ailing individuals who had contracted the virus. 

“I first read about the coronavirus in December of last year. I had a feeling it would spread in the United States. At that time, I didn’t think it would be this bad,” said Nover, who was born to a Filipino mother from Quezon City and an American father of Polish descent. 

Last week, the United States took the grim title of the nation with the most coronavirus infections. As of this writing, more than 160,000 people have tested positive, edging out Italy, which has reported the most fatalities, and China, where the virus was initially detected in Wuhan last December. 

American immunologist Anthony Fauci issued a cautious prediction that the virus could claim as many as 200,000 lives in the United States as state and local officials described increasingly desperate shortages in hard-pressed hospitals. 

“We are seeing an influx of COVID-19 patients. Our emergency rooms and intensive care units are filled. It is a scary sight. The team is doing the best it can in the chaos,” Nover revealed. 



Known by his original moniker “The Filipino Assassin,” Nover was a runner-up in Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, yielding to Efrain Escudero by way of unanimous decision in the show’s grand finale. 

After 7 bouts under the banner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, he called it a career in February 2017, leaving the sport with a professional record of 11-8-1.  

Nover admitted that he easily came to terms with his decision to retire from MMA and pin his whole focus on being a full-time nurse.

“As I got older, I realized what the risk-reward ratio was looking like. At that time, it was not looking good for a 33-year-old still competing with young, hungry studs. I had way better chances in a professional career in healthcare,” he stated. 

“I am absolutely happy with my decision. My destined path is definitely toward helping people. I love what I do. I do things in my life not to be remembered. I do things in my life for the demand of current times. I am just glad I have passion in both of my careers,” Nover added. 

Three years after his retirement, it seemed that Nover made the right choice of hanging up the gloves for good as many healthcare personnel like him are much needed on the frontline against the dreaded virus. 

With insufficient access to testing and personal protective equipment to suppress the harrowing outbreak, numerous hospitals across the United States have already expressed concerns as they have left their workforce at a high risk of getting exposed. 

“We have enough protective equipment for now, but they are always reminding us to use it carefully and not to be wasteful,” Nover disclosed.


Psychologically prepared

As the pandemic is beginning to take a toll on medical professionals, Nover is still showing up day after day to face a mounting number of diagnosed patients, earning him and his colleagues praise as heroes. 

“I honestly don’t mind being on the frontline as long as I have the proper gown, mask, and eye shield. I signed up for this since the day I became a nurse. My job is to treat and help people. There is no other choice,” he pointed out. 

Aside from being physically healthy, Nover imparted that he must likewise be emotionally and psychologically prepared, especially handling mortalities that are now a regular occurrence in most medical facilities in the country. 

“Seeing a patient dying while on a vent is tough. It is something that sticks with you,” he lamented while recalling the incident. “It is a painful disease. I even heard of patients saying it feels like they have blades inside their lungs. The disease can also be spread so easily to someone who is at risk of dying.”

More than 1,200 people have died of COVID-19 in the state of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo has warned that hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise until they reach an expected peak in two to three weeks. 

As cases are rapidly escalating, it is frustrating for Nover to see that only a few are stringently observing precautionary measures and safety protocols. 

“I still see people not quarantining. It is frustrating, but I live in New York. It’s expected that not everyone will listen,” he vented. “People should take this seriously because even though most people believe they won’t die from this illness, they can still get infected and become really sick.” 

For Nover, he does not see the crisis ending anytime soon unless the American government implements a more concrete and sustainable approach to contain the virus from spreading. 

“This will continue until we have the ability to maximize testing. Right now, we are not testing enough. We don’t have enough testing kits available for the entire population. When we do, along with some better treatment plans and vaccines, we can see an end to this,” he explained. 

It may look like an uphill battle, but the current situation does not dissuade Nover from reporting to work and donning his medical scrub suit. 

“All healthcare workers signed up from the beginning of their education that we are here to help the sick. This is the one single moment where our ability to help the public will be tested. I am so glad I chose to become a nurse. I am happy to take the frontline if I am called upon,” he declared. –

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