Just In Amid knee recovery and ‘dengue’ scare, UFC London’s Priscila Cachoeira almost gave up on MMA MMA Life

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Priscila Cachoeira didn’t have an easy road to get to the UFC. And things didn’t get a whole lot easier once she got there.

On February 2018, Cachoeira kicked off her UFC run in a fight that became memorable for all the wrong reasons. Greeted by none other than Valentina Shevchenko, the flyweight division’s current champ, the then-unbeaten Cachoeira lasted a little less than two rounds in a tough-to-watch match that saw her rendered helpless early on.

Later, it was discovered that Cachoeira had injured her knee early in the first round. She’d go on to have surgery for meniscus and ACL tears shortly thereafter, quickly launching herself into a recovery period that proved challenging both physically and mentally.

When Cachoeira spoke to MMA Junkie last March, things were finally starting to look up. Dealing with the surgery, her first career loss and the backlash toward her coach – and her fighting skills, given the one-sided nature of the fight – hadn’t been easy, but “Pedrita” was encouraged by her progress in the early stages of recovery. She was also motivated to return, eager to show the world her “real” self.

Cachoeira (8-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) will have a chance to do that this Saturday, when she meets Molly McCann (7-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) at UFC on ESPN+ 5. But what she didn’t know one year ago was that the injury wasn’t the last curveball she’d have to hit on her way back.

“Halfway through my rehab, I caught dengue hemorrhagic fever and almost died,” Cachoeira told MMA Junkie. “My blood platelet count was very low. I was hospitalized, in the ICU. And it sent the treatment on my knee back as if I’d just had surgery.”

According to WebMD, dengue hemorrhagic fever is a rare complication of dengue, characterized by “high fever, damage to lymph and blood vessels, bleeding from the nose and gums, enlargement of the liver, and failure of the circulatory system. The symptoms may progress to massive bleeding, shock, and death.”

Cachoeira fell ill about four months into her recovery from surgery. She doesn’t have health insurance, so she resorted to local public health units spread across Rio de Janeiro called “UPA,” where they’d give her an IV and tell her to go back the next day if she didn’t feel better. She did that ritual for about four days, but remained weak, throwing up constantly and the fever wouldn’t subside.

“I was pale, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything,” Cachoeira said. “My mom was desperate.”

That, Cachoeira says, is when she talked to someone she knew in the UFC Brazil office. Within minutes, a car came to pick her up and take her to the hospital. She says she was sent to the ICU immediately after checking in, on account of her platelet count being so low. Had it dropped much lower, she said, it could have been fatal.

Cachoeira remembers spending three days in intensive care before being sent to a room, where she estimates she spent another four days. All of it was handled by the UFC.

Cachoeira eventually made it through the scary situation, but the disease brought along yet another discouraging side effect: It caused her knee to swell up. Seeing all those months of painful recovery suffer such a setback wasn’t an easy pill for Cachoeira to swallow.

“I freaked out,” Cachoeira said. “Like, ‘I’m going to have to do it all over again.’ And the pain of this physical therapy is – look, I’d rather have 10 children. It’s very painful.

“When I got home, I looked at my knee and thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore. Because it hurt so much. I felt a lot of pain. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to recover my movement there again, I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when I called (coach Gilliard Parana), crying a lot, saying I’d no longer be part of the team.”

One hour later, Cachoeira said, her coach was at her door saying he wouldn’t leave without her. There was some talking and some crying, she said, as well as some difficult conversations, but her coach was eventually able to persuade “Pedrita” to keep going.

Cachoeira says she was able to return to training about three months later. The beginning was rough, with her knee still sore and the extra weight and water retention that recovery had brought along. But she kept pushing inside and outside the mat, finding psychological help in a hypnotherapist who’d worked with another fighter in her team.

Cachoeira said the the hypnotherapist, Allan Magalhaes, made sure to check on her twice a week. In the process, he also became a friend and confidant, and Cachoeira credits him and her coach for helping overcome the mental hurdles that came with the physical ones.

“There was one year of psychological treatment, as well,” Cachoeira said. “Because my head was really shaken. The more we talked, the more he took those ‘ghosts’ that I had in my mind.”

Cachoeira gets to reap the fruits of her labor on Saturday, at The O2 in London. Just walking around the city with her coach, in what was also Cachoeira’s first time abroad, was an emotional experience. It symbolized, in and of itself, the fulfilment of a dream.

Having made it back after such trying times, one could argue that just being here is already a win. And, in a way, Cachoeira agrees it is.

But it still isn’t enough.

“I want more,” Cachoeira said. “I want to win. I want to show the real ‘Pedrita’ to the entire world. The ‘Pedrita’ who goes for it, the ‘Pedrita’ who puts her heart on her glove and fights to the end. ‘Pedrita’ gives her life in that cage. And I want to show that to the world. The world doesn’t know me yet and they will on Saturday.”

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