Growing up in Brazil, Ricardo Prasel always had dreams of stardom. He wasn’t sure how he would accomplish that, but he ruled out a few things right away.
“I was not born with the gift to sing and I never had the opportunity to be an actor,” Prasel said with a laugh. “The way would be in sports.”
For his entire youth, and into early adulthood, soccer was his passion — as it is for many Brazilians. But Prasel was special. He started playing at age 5, caught on with major club teams as a teen and was signed by prestigious Chelsea of the English Premier League at 18 years old.
Prasel was gifted athletically, well over 6 feet tall, and stood out as a goalkeeper. He spent six months with Chelsea, playing with legends like Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba, before being loaned out to a team in Belgium. In total, he played three years of soccer in Europe before retiring from the sport due to a chronic hip injury.
Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card in San Antonio will feature two welterweights aiming to get into the title picture and the next test for ex-NFL star Greg Hardy.Rafael Dos Anjos, who snapped a two-fight skid in May, and Leon Edwards, a winner of seven straight bouts, will meet in the main event. Hardy also will be on the main card as he takes on Juan Adams.
“My problem was with the impact [in soccer],” Prasel said. “Where it hurt was exactly the region where I landed when I made saves. In MMA, I receive more blows to the thigh. … My problem is with impact and not movements.”
As a way to rehabilitate the hip injury, Prasel, back in his hometown of Guarapuava, took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the advice of his brother. Prasel took to the grappling art right away. In 2012, he started to win BJJ tournaments. Based on that success, he decided to take a mixed martial arts fight, which he won.
It took Prasel, now 29 years old, three more years to commit to an actual MMA career. He wanted to complete college first. The hip injury has never come back, he said, and Prasel is now a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
On Tuesday, Prasel will face Don’Tale Mayes on Dana White’s Contender Series in Las Vegas. With an impressive win in the heavyweight bout, Prasel can earn a contract with the UFC.
He believes his experience on the highest levels of soccer will help him achieve great things on the pinnacle of the MMA stage.
“Chelsea is a very powerful team and has a beautiful structure,” Prasel said. “I met many famous players that I thought would be impossible to know until the moment I was there. … I believe it should be something like fighting in the UFC.”