“Tell me about it, man… I missed this so much.”
A heavy-breathing Priscila Cachoeira answers the phone moments after finishing her last training session of the day. It is her first session of 2019 at Parana Vale Tudo in Niteroi, Brazil, and she has a smile on her face. After a turbulent year in 2018, she’s finally inching closer to being 100-percent healthy again, and is focused on her next battle in the Octagon.
Cachoeira is still remembered as the unfortunate woman who got destroyed by Valentina Shevchenko in the co-main event of UFC Belem in February 2018. It was Cachoeira’s UFC debut, made against an opponent seen as the future champion in the division, and it went even worse than many anticipated.
To further complicate things, “Pedrita” suffered a bad knee injury just seconds into the fight, which forced her to have surgery and stay sidelined for almost a year. Now, on March 16, Cachoeira finally makes her return to action against former Cage Warriors champion Molly McCann at UFC London, yet even the Brazilian flyweight questioned whether she would ever be able to compete one more time.
”I thought I wouldn’t be able to fight again,” Cachoeira said. “A lot of things go through your head after a loss like that and a serious injury. You wonder if you’ll ever get better, if you’ll be able to fight again. The doctor that did the surgery guaranteed that I would be back, but I [panicked] mentally, I was afraid.
”You’re scared, you wonder if your knee will be good again,” she continued. “I was fighting one fight after the other in Brazil and then, boom, my life stopped. That’s weird. I really wondered if I would be able to fight ever again because of the injury, but that’s a dark cloud came and went. God blesses those who work hard and he blessed me with this comeback fight. I’ll put on a great show and show the real ‘Pedrita.’”
Cachoeira slowly built her confidence back every day after leaving the gym after practice. Her knee is 95 percent now, she says, but will be perfect when the time comes.
The injury wasn’t the only issue she had to deal with over the past several months, though.
The PRVT fighter made her MMA debut in June 2016 and won eight in a row over the next 15 months to earn a contract with the UFC. She wasn’t getting paid a ton of money in the regional circuit, but it was enough to make ends meet most of the time. The UFC Belem paycheck had more zeros than all of her previous purses combined, but that didn’t last too long in her bank account.
”I went through difficulties because I had no control, actually,” Cachoeira said. “When poor people see a lot of money, they go to the mall and start spending it. It was good because I learned a lesson. You have to make mistakes to learn lessons. My master always told me what to do and how to do, but I didn’t listen. When I got the money I started spending everything, and [by the time] I realized, it was gone.”
Cachoeira had a great support from Brazilian soccer club Vasco da Gama, which provided her physical therapy for her injured knee and sponsorship money that will last until fight night. She describes the relationship as a “blessing,” one which made it possible to pay bills after she burned through all of her money.
”Do you really wanna know?” Cachoeira said with a laugh when asked how long the UFC money lasted. “Three months.”
Cachoeira says she “never had that much money in my bank account before,” but had plenty of bills to pay as soon as she returned from Belem. With bills paid and not much left, her girlfriend at the time ended up spending the rest.
”You also have your kid’s school, you have to help your mom ... and an out-of-control partner,” Cachoeira said. “I had a woman that just wouldn’t help me, but master (Gilliard) Parana opened my eyes and I realized she wasn’t good for me.
”That’s where the lack of control came from,” she continued. “I had someone who took the money and spent it like crazy. I had surgery and couldn’t leave home and she was going to the mall with my credit card. When she came back, I had R$ 4,000, R$ 5,000 less in my bank account. When I realized, where’s the money?”
The Brazilian flyweight, 8-1 in mixed martial arts, says she learned a big lesson in 2018 to be smarter about her finances. Now she’s preparing to fly to London for her first overseas bout against a “better matchup” in McCann.
”She’s an athlete who’s at my level,” Cachoeira said. “We have similar records, we both lost our debuts in the UFC, and it’s going to be a war because we both wanna win. We’re at the same level. My master said that coming off an injury, being well-trained and focused, we can win this, but it’s up to me. We should never underestimate (an opponent), but, working real hard, we’ll come out victorious.”
Always very honest in interviews, Cachoeira admits that Shevchenko was a bad opponent for her Octagon debut. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be opposed to a rematch against Shevchenko down the line, though.
”Look, it’s not like I wasn’t at Valentina’s level,” Cachoeira said. “I always consider myself ready to fight anyone. Technically speaking, Valentina was way superior than me. I knew that it was a fight that, if it went the distance, Valentina would win because she’s very technical. Valentina has trained since she was a kid. I’ve trained for four or five years. We have different fighting styles. Valentina is technical. I’m aggressive, a brawler.
”My chance of winning that fight was being a monster and connecting a [hard punch], and she knew that. She didn’t stand to trade with me. She noticed my knee injury and used that opportunity to take me down. She wouldn’t risk standing with someone who was coming off knockouts. It’s not that I couldn’t beat Valentina.
”I’ll come back to fighting, fight Valentina again and this time, injury-free, the victory will come because my hand will connect,” Cachoeira promised. “But not yet. I’ll work my way up, focus on evolving and come back a better fighter.”