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Michel Prazeres' days as a lightweight will be over after UFC Belem

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Michel Prazeres (EL)
Michel Prazeres takes on Desmond Green at UFC Belem.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

BELEM, Brazil — Michel Prazeres missed weight for UFC Belem, and this will be his last fight as a lightweight.

“Trator” came in at 161 pounds for his lightweight bout with Desmond Green, and was fined by the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA). The commission told reporters in Belem that Prazeres will be forced to move up to welterweight next, and he agrees with the decision.

“I had already talked to my team about it during this weight cut,” Prazeres told MMA Fighting after the official weigh-ins. “My body is feeling the weight cuts, and I’d rather fight at welterweight and take care of my health and put on a better fight for the fans because sometimes I don’t perform as I could in the fights.

”It was an issue in pretty much all of my fights. I’ll be stronger at welterweight. I’m short, but I can surprise with other things.”

A win over Green in Belem would give Prazeres the third-longest winning streak in the division. Coming off five straight victories inside the Octagon, the last two of which came via submission, “Trator” faces Green, a 26-fight veteran with a 1-1 record in the UFC, and is expecting a tough battle.

“Every fighter that wants to get to the belt has to fight someone from the top, but Desmond Green is a great fighter,” Prazeres told MMA Fighting. “Coming off a loss or not, he’s a dangerous test for me. If you look at his record, he’s a tough fighter and I respect him a lot, but I’m going there to stop him.

”He has a good boxing, a good cardio. He’s tough,” Prazeres continued. “But I think my game kills his. My striking is better than his, and if I take him down it will be complicated for him. Wherever he makes a mistake, I’ll finish the fight.”

Prazeres will get to fight in his hometown for the first time in almost six years, when he improved to 16-0 before signing with the UFC. Excited to have his family and friends inside the Mangueirinho Arena, Prazeres changed a few things in this training camp.

“Trator” flew to the United States to help Edson Barboza prepare for his UFC 219 title eliminator clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov, and says he “learned a lot” with the “fantastic experience” of training with a few UFC stars.

”I allowed myself to learn more,” Prazeres said. “You see things with a different perspective, how wrong we train here, and I became more mature. I trained with guys like Frankie Edgar, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Marlon Moraes, and that has helped me a lot. I’ve evolved a lot as a fighter.”

The UFC offered Prazeres a spot in the UFC 219 card in Las Vegas, but he was also offered the option to wait and fight in Belem. He chose the home-field advantage, then flew back to Belem a couple of days before New Years Eve.

Having trained four more weeks in Belem for his fight with Green, Prazeres carried some of the lessons he learned in New Jersey back to his home gym. He used to spar three times a week before his previous fights, but “Trator” sparred less ahead of UFC Belem.

”I’ve changed a lot of things,” he said. “We started to focus on more technical training and less brawls. We did a lot of specific training for this fight. We used to spar a lot, and now we only sparred twice a week, with boxing on Wednesdays and MMA on Saturdays. The rest is just wrestling, striking, ground game, and conditioning.”

Prazeres only entered the Mangueirinho Arena once in his life: A few months ago, to watch Brazilian boxing icon Acelino “Popo” Freitas win his retirement match on Nov. 11.

”I went there to watch ‘Popo’s’ retirement fight, and I had no idea that I would be fighting there months later,” Prazeres said with a smile on his face. “Man, I’m so happy. Words can’t describe what I’m feeling. I never thought I’d be fighting in the UFC in my hometown. This is a dream.”