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How fatherhood helped UFC Vegas 30’s Michel Prazeres stay focused through turbulent two-year suspension

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Michel Prazeres
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Michel Prazeres’ life changed over the past two and a half years.

The UFC welterweight, who faces undefeated Shavkat Rakhmonov at Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 30, was hit with a two-year suspension after failing two out-of-competition doping tests for exogenous boldenone and its metabolite in March 2019. Not being able to compete wasn’t his only setback since then.

“I’ve had many losses over those two years,” Prazeres said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I lost my brother, and I thought more about him than in [returning to competition]. I’ve also lost my farther-in-law, someone I loved dearly. I even had to undergo knee surgery, man. But we had the birth of my son during that suspension, too, and we were able to overcome everything.”

“Trator” hasn’t competed since a decision loss to Ismail Naurdiev in February 2019, his first defeat since returning to welterweight. Not being able to compete due to the USADA suspension, plus the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, forced Prazeres to find other outlets to decompress.

“My son became that outlet for me with everything that happened,” he said. “My wife, my mother, my friends… My son came to change my head completely. I’m way more experienced and focused now, I’ve trained a lot my technique. I’m a different Michel now, and I’m hungry. This guy I’m fighting is tough, but so am I. I’m very dangerous. It will be a war, and I’m here for it.”

Rakhmonov improved to 13-0 as a professional MMA fighter with a victorious UFC debut over Alex Oliveira earlier this year, submitting the Brazilian veteran with a guillotine choke in the opening round. For “Trator,” who tapped Bartosz Fabinski and Josh Burkman during a UFC run that also includes wins over Gilbert Burns and Mairbek Taisumov, his grappling isn’t all that impressive.

“The only thing that caught my attention is that he’s tall, but everyone has the same size on the ground, brother,” Prazeres said. “I might be even bigger than him on the ground. We’ll grapple eventually. We’ll fight on the feet, too, and he’s skilled as hell, but how many fights do I have in the UFC? You have to come well-trained. There’s are no fools here.

“I come from a great jiu-jitsu lineage. You have to take a look at who did he fight and submit. He’s not fighting a nobody. I’m from the De La Riva school and my grappling is slick. He’ll have trouble when we go to the ground. I won’t make the same mistake ‘Cowboy’ did. His ground game doesn’t worry me.”

Victorious in two of three bouts since being forced to move up to welterweight after back-to-back botched weight cuts at 155 pounds, Trator says he “will move down [to lightweight] after I win this fight.”

Prazeres’ last lightweight bout took place in his native Belem, Brazil, and he weighed in at 161 pounds for a fight with Desmond Green after Prazeres’ wife suffered a miscarriage and his brother died after being hit by a car. He also missed weight for his previous fight, coming in at 159 pounds for a clash with Mads Burnell.

“I’m doing a great work, I’m lighter, and I’ll go back to lightweight,” said Prazeres, who turns 37 in July. “I’m too small for [welterweight], and I think I’ll do better at lightweight. I’ll fight this fight and then go down to lightweight. And I think I’ll shake things up at 155. I’ll be a problem for a lot of people. I’m telling you, brother. I’m working on my standup, my takedowns, conditioning… I’ll make some noise at 155.”

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