Most Brazilian kids dream of becoming soccer players, and it was no different with Ricardo Prasel. And while becoming a professional footballer is not easy, Prasel made it.
Prasel was a talented goalkeeper. He started playing at age five, then went to Atletico Paranaense when he was 14. He was transferred to Joinville, Juventus-SP, and then hit the peak of his soccer career at age 18 when he was signed by Chelsea.
Prasel stayed a few months in England and was later transferred to Belgium to play for Royal Football Club de Liege, but a chronic hip injury forced him to retire from soccer at age 22.
After traveling back to Brazil as a retired goalkeeper, Prasel decided to go to college and started training jiu-jitsu as a way to stay in shape and also help his hip injuries. His coach immediately saw talent, and it didn’t take long for him to start winning grappling tournaments and make a transition to mixed martial arts.
”Even if not for a long time, stepping a foot on the Chelsea field and seeing so many stars was a dream come true,” Prasel told MMA Fighting. “Fighting [across the world] now is as incredible as playing for Chelsea. I saw the world through both sports.”
Prasel was Chelsea’s third goalkeeper in times where stars like Peter Cech, Ballack, Lampard, Drogba, Ashley Cole, Alex and Belleti played for the Blues, and he jokes that life wasn’t easy when he had to face them in practice.
”Drogba was f*cking unbealivable, man,” Prasel said with a laugh. “I didn’t go to the games with the professionals because I was the third goalkeeper — Cech and Hilario went to the games. But I played with them every day, because after training they wanted to practice shootout free kicks, and I had to be there to try to defend it. Thirty minutes every day, Drogba and Ballack shooting free kicks. My God, they didn’t miss one [laughs]. It was incredible.
”When I started in jiu-jitsu I had no intention to become a professional,” he continued. “I started in college and trained jiu-jitsu for fun, but things started to happen. Leaving a sport and get to this level in another one is sensational. My family is proud of me, my father would be proud of me. It’s awesome.”
Prasel campaigned for a shot in the UFC for more than a year after racking up a 9-0 record with nine finishes in the regional scene, but the offer never came. His first chance outside of Brazil came back in May, when he was matched up against Ante Delija at RIZIN 10, but he ended up losing via decision.
“Unforgettable experience,” Prasel said of his debut in Japan. “Unfortunately I lost, no one likes to lose, but I’ve grown a lot mentally and learned with the defeat as well. We always have to take something positive from every experience, even in a loss. Fix what we did wrong and more forward to the next one.”
Prasel will make his return to the cages Saturday night, facing Alisson Vicente in the main event of Imortal FC 10 in Curitiba, Brazil. He’s focused on the task ahead, but keeps asking his manager Marcelo Brigadeiro for more opportunities outside of Brazil.
“It will be an interesting fight,” Prasel said. “My opponent has talked a lot of trash, he has been doing that for a while, but that doesn’t change a thing for me. My head is good, I’m well trained and focused on putting on a good performance.”