Not only was Priscila Cachoeira’s UFC debut as hard-to-watch as they come, it left her with a long recovery period ahead. But, amid the whirlwind of emotions that followed it, there’s no place for regret.
Cachoeira recently had surgery to repair the ACL and meniscus tears suffered in her UFC Fight Night 125 meting with Valentina Shevchenko. She’s been rehabbing her knee five days a week, several hours a day, hoping to speed up the recovery process. She remains confident in her skills and is eager to return to the octagon for her “real” debut.
But, though you’ll find no hint of self-pity in Cachoeira’s voice talking to her weeks later, her mind was at a much different place when returned from the hospital early in February.
“I spent three weeks crying every day, all the time,” Cachoeira told MMAjunkie.
Of course, recovering from injuries is not exactly a breezy process for any athlete. Being bed-ridden for at least the first few days, needing assistance from anything to showering from peeing, going from a day of perpetual motion to a morose routine. Cachoeira was no exception.
“I led a very active life and, suddenly, I’m stuck,” Cachoeira said. “Before, although I already trained four, five times a day, the time I had at home I was always doing something. Whether it was doing the laundry, making dinner, I could never stand still. So being debilitated, depending on people, not being able to walk? I almost went crazy.”
But, in Cachoeira’s case, the suffering was two-fold.
Not only had she sustained a serious injury, it was in a fight that got a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. Whether the criticism was geared toward referee in charge Mario Yamasaki, Cachoeira’s corner, or even the UFC’s matchmaking, most opinions seemed to agree on one thing: there was a mismatch at the root of what turned out to be a one-sided affair.
It’s bad enough living it. But Cachoeira (8-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) got to read about it, too. And, between this and her own recovery, it took a while to be able to fully absorb the events surrounding her octagon debut.
“I couldn’t watch my fight, because I’d go online and see it being called ‘massacre’ or ‘beatdown,’” Cachoeira said. “I did the MRI. I saw my knee was busted, that it was serious, that I’d need surgery and be off for six months. It was gradual. At first, I was in shock and disbelief. I questioned if I really wasn’t at UFC level.”
While she took solace in her team, family, partner and son, as well as her faith, those feelings of self-doubt lingered for the three weeks that it took for Cachoeira to get over her mental block and finally watch the fight with coach Gilliard Parana.
“Instead of asking God, ‘Why,’ I started asking ‘What for?’” Cachoeira said. “And that’s when my heart started calming down. That nervousness, that sadness started dissipating, and that’s when I was able to watch the fight.
“At points, I tried and couldn’t, but my master insisted I kept watching. When it was over, it was like a door was open. We hugged, we cried. He said he always knew of my potential and that he knew if I was OK it would have been a different fight.”
Even without the knee injury, Cachoeira ponders, meeting a top contender in Shevchenko could have translated into a loss anyway. But watching it back made her confident that, whatever the outcome, the bout would have unfolded differently had it not been for the physical issue.
“I could have lost anyway, but it would have been a war,” Cachoeira said. “I’m sure it would have been different, because everything that happened there was exactly what I’d trained for. But I didn’t have a knee to finish my movements. So what did I do? I just defended myself.
“Every time Mario yelled, ‘If you don’t move, I’ll end the fight.’ I found a way to move and show I was still in the fight. Because the true warrior will never quit. That’s what happened.”
The injury, it turns out, wasn’t fresh. Cachoeira had felt something in her knee in training two weeks prior, but figured she would just go easy on it for the remainder of the camp and, come fight time, it would be fine.
“But then in the fight you realize my knee pops in the first 20 seconds,” Cachoeira said. “It seemed like what happened was that I took a step back with that right, kind of lost balance. But, actually, that step back was me preparing to come back on my usual bulldozer mode. But, in that, my knee popped.
“I didn’t feel the punch. The master, afterward, asked me if I’d felt the punch and said I hadn’t, that it was the knee.”
That’s when another infamous moment of the fight, when her coach told her to shut up, occurred.
“That was a ‘Listen to me,’” Cachoeira said. “Because I was hysterical. My connection with him is that of father and daughter. He knew I’d never surrender, which is why he didn’t throw the towel, as well. If he did, it would have been even worse for me. So it was good that it went all the way, to my limit.”
Considering Cachoeira didn’t run any tests at the time her knee acted out in training, there’s no way of knowing how bad the knee issue was before the fight – or how (or if) it could have manifested itself afterward. But, in what Cachoeira takes as a major consolation, the fact that it came to pass inside the octagon meant she was able to get a very expensive surgery taken care of by the UFC.
And it was during a post-fight interview in Brazil that Cachoeira met the person that would help her get her extensive care she wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. She is now fully emerged in her recovery, which involves spending several hours a day working with specialists from major sports club Vasco da Gama.
With her hopes renewed, Cachoeira’s dedication to rehab showed benefits that extend far beyond the physical.
“It was the best thing for me, having started this rehab process,” Cachoeira said. “Because I get to see people, I make jokes, I have fun with the doctor and the therapists. I’m getting out of the house. This makes me very relieved, because it was very rocky in the beginning.”
Her recovery, Cachoeira says, has been promising so far. She’s looking at somewhere between six to eight months before resuming training. But there’s one lesson that her debut taught her when it comes to making projections for the future.
“I’ve always been very hasty,” Cachoeira said. “This fight – it was hasty. Not a regret, but hasty, because fighting while injured is hasty. So I put it in my head: I won’t step on that stage until I’m feeling 100 percent. Only then will we be able to make an assessment of my fight. The intention is to return next year.”
It’s been some trying times for someone who’d seen quite her share of those in her life already, but Cachoeira believes things happen for a reason. And, while many were critical of the idea of having a UFC newcomer with no big-league experience meet a former title challenger and perennial top contender in Shevchenko, “Pedrita” neither hesitated before, nor regretted it afterward.
“I took this fight with Valentina not just because I was fearless and because I don’t turn down fights,” Cachoeira said. “I thought, ‘If I want the belt, I’ll have to get past her anyway.’ I also thought about the fact that it was Valentina and that it would get me known, that I had nothing to lose. Of course didn’t expect it to happen that way, but it did and that’s how it was supposed to.
“I didn’t hesitate, for a second. I knew many people didn’t believe me. Sometimes even people that said I’d win, I felt that, deep down, they were scared for me. But when (coach Gilliard Parana) told Valentina would be the opponent, I said it right away, I didn’t think twice, ‘I want this fight.’ He asked if I was sure. I set he could scheduled it. ‘No one wants to fight her? I do.’”
That decision, at least immediately, didn’t prove too favorable for Cachoeira. But, undefeated before her ill-fated debut, “Pedrita” is done with the self-doubting. She now believes that, if she wasn’t at the level of her octagon peers, she wouldn’t have made it up there.
And she still hasn’t given up hope of going toe-to-toe with “Bullet.”
“I’m sure I’ll be back and I’ll even ask for the rematch,” Cachoeira said. “I want to do a few fights first. Before the rematch, I want to return and do my real UFC debut. My comeback will be my actual debut, because I will be at 100 percent an able to show what I’m capable of.
“After I do two or three fights, I’ll ask for a rematch, that’s for sure. I’m recovering to show the world who’s the real ‘Pedrita.’”
For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
- Amanda Nunes may one day be flyweight champ but Valentina Shevchenko? 'I don't care about her'
- Champ Max Holloway has 'unfinished business' with Frankie Edgar, who, like Jose Aldo, is 'not dead'
- Daily Debate: Is it time for Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis to meet in the octagon?
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: There was a lot of crying at first, but recovering Priscila Cachoeira already eyes Shevchenko rematch