KSW 74: Phil De Fries on life as heavyweight champ and his next challenger – a former Chelsea keeper

Britain’s Phil De Fries will be looking to maintain his iron grip over the KSW heavyweight championship when he takes on Ricardo Prasel this Saturday night.

De Fries, a former UFC fighter, has been at the top of the KSW mountain since April 2018 when he defeated Michal Andryszak to claim the title. 

Since then, six men have tried stopping the Sunderland-born heavyweight, with all six coming up short.

This weekend, De Fries will be looking to defend his crown for the seventh time when he takes on former Chelsea goalkeeper Ricardo Prasel.

During his footballing days, Prasel was regarded as one of the most promising young goalkeepers in Brazil and even caught the attention of then-Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who brought him over to Stamford Bridge.

With Petr Cech and Henrique Hilario ahead of him in the pecking order, playing opportunities were limited for the Brazilian. To make matters worse, a hip problem forced him to hang up his gloves.

Nevertheless, Prasel stayed in shape and it wasn't long before he found his second calling - MMA.

The jiu-jitsu specialist has won his last two fights at KSW and will be looking to knock off the organisation's longest reigning heavyweight champion.

That, however, is not how De Fries sees the fight panning out.

"He wants to be on his back and I want to be on top of him," De Fries told Planer Sport. "Generally, as a rule, you don't stay on your back in MMA, but he's a specialist. But I think the guys he's had on top of him aren't as good as me so I think he's going to have a hard time."

When asked about his opponent's footballing background, De Fries added: "I don't follow football, I couldn't name three England players. I don't really care about football.

"But credit to him for coming from the elite of one sport to the elite of another. He's going to get stuffed. But good on him though."

De Fries has been in the professional MMA game since 2009, however his hardest opponent turned out to be anxiety during his UFC days.

The 36-year-old had to overcome mental health issues before getting back in the sport and climbing to the top of the KSW mountain.

"If I didn't have those issues I could've been a UFC contender, I know I could've been," he said. "I handle the best now and I think 'what if' and 'could I have a run at the title there, get the PPV's, get a few million'.

"I do think about it but I'll go where the cash is for now, I'm no spring chicken."

When asked about his long run as champion, De Fries said: "I don't really pay attention to all that, I don't like to look too far ahead. I take one fight at a time. When I get a fight, that's all I care about, winning that fight.

"It doesn't pressure me or anything like that. I always say the next fight is the most important fight in your life. Winning that fight, making that happen. It's nice and stuff and but I don't really read much into it."

De Fries is also happy competing for one of Europe's biggest MMA organisations.

"I tell you what, KSW is up there with UFC," he said. "If they're going somewhere, they sell the arena out, the production value is fantastic, they look after the athletes.

"A lot of other shows I've been to, and I don't want to slag any of them off, they're giving away tickets, it's like a bad atmosphere.

"KSW is great, probably my favourite organisation that I've fought for. But all the shows are good. They're paying well, which is the main thing."

De Fries is currently top of KSW, though other British heavyweights, such as Tom Aspinall in the UFC, are also making waves.

When asked whether this is a golden era for British MMA, De Fries said: "We've got Tom [Aspinall] coming to our gym now, we've got Paul Craig coming down. For heavyweight training, I feel like we have one of the best gyms in the world.

"I've been to 'Top Team' before and there were no heavyweights there for me. I've been to other places and there's been no heavyweights.

"The gyms now and the training methods - you don't have to go to the USA anymore to get world class training. I think we're approaching the golden era here you know, we're getting better and better.

"With me as champion, I think we'll see Tom Aspinall as champion, I think there's going to be good times."

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