By Loretta Hunt
There's a tried and true rule in mixed martial arts these days: To become a name you have to beat a name. Like other up and coming fighters, Trevor Prangley knows this unwritten guideline all to well, which is why he's looking at his pending battle with Andrei Semenov with his eyes wide open. The Idaho resident (by way of South Africa) is one of ten "American" representatives that will square off against the visiting Russian Red Devil Sports Club this Saturday for Euphoria Entertainment's Mixed Martial Arts: Russian Invasion event at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The South African import has amassed a 22-2 overall record stateside in the last six years, and with an impressive performance against Renato "Babalu" Sobral last September at the IFC Global Domination Tournament as his springboard, the Prangley name teeters on the cusp of industry (and fan) notoriety.
A wrestler all his life, Prangley says he made his way to America from Cape town, South Africa in 1996 after earning an alternate's slot on the South African Olympic freestyle team. The plan was to spend a few years in the States, sharpen his game, then head back home for another shot at Olympic glory. Dates with destiny, however, can not be broken. After wrestling alongside now-UFC lightweight contender Josh "the Punk" Thomson at North Idaho College, Prangley's day job working on diesel engine performance found him in the Lone Star state. From there, fate pushed a wee bit harder. An interest in the growing force of MMA landed the 6'1" wrestler on the doorstep of some of the sport's original heroes. As part of Guy Mezger's Lion's Den chapter in Texas, Prangley spent over a year training and helped get Tra Telligman in fighting shape for his UFC 43 slugfest with Pedro Rizzo.
Making his way back to Idaho, Prangley merged the Lion's Den name with Team Idaho, the local team he'd trained with prior under the tutelage of coach Derek Lehman. Thomson introduced Prangley to manager "Crazy" Bob Cook, who with Javier Mendez, oversaw a growing camp of fighters at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. With a place to train and a manager onboard, the pieces quickly fell into place for the wrestler and the inevitable fights and subsequent victories followed. A berth into the highly-publicized IFC Light-Heavyweight 8-Man Tournament was South African's next big break though, and although he lasted three tough rounds with the resilient Brazilian that would go on to take the whole night, Prangley was left at the wayside in the opening brackets.
The decision to move down to middleweight contention was made after Prangley ate as much as he humanly could and still weighed in at 202 pounds for the tournament, while most of his opponents struggled to cut their weights down to the 205 pound limit. It was actually a return for Prangley, who'd originally fought at 185 pounds in the very first years of his fighting career, until weightlifting, lack of cardio, and an unwillingness to cut the extra pounds set in.
Now settled on what division he'll pursue, the 32-year old knows his time is ticking, but says he's ready to give some of his younger peers a run for their money. "The younger generation's tough, " he admits, "but we've got a little bit of mental experience on them. I don't think it's a big problem. Right now, I'm not too concerned." Splitting his time between cardio and intensive wrestling training in Idaho, and then making the trek to AKA to hone his boxing and Thai boxing skills with the likes of John Fitch, Mike Swick, and the Punk himself, Prangley feels he's ready to show the 26-year old Semenov a thing or two in the cage.
And while the other American participants have probably had difficulty pronouncing their Russian counterparts names, let alone been able to get their hands on some fight footage of their elusive opponents, Prangley has had the minor luxury of watching at least one of Semenov's two well-known UFC appearances. The baby-faced Russian's versatile win over Renzo Gracie Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Ricardo Almeida at UFC 35 has given Prangley at least a clue as to what he can expect come Saturday night. "I know he's never going to quit," he observes. "He's virtually impossible to submit. He's got the Russian mentality that you really have to break something. Even then he might not quit. It's not going to be an easy fight, no matter what happens."
Easy or not though, Prangley says he's banking on his strength and power to see him through, funneled into his superior wrestling and positioning skills. Having not even watched Semenov's second Octagon appearance, Prangley naturally channels the same game plan that Ivan Salaverry utilized to systematically pick the Russian apart at their UFC 37 soiree. It's the good old numbers game-- weigh in at 185 pounds the day before, and get a bit heftier by the time you reach the competition circle, hopefully enough to make a "bigger impression" on your foe .
Prangley is also confident in the fact that he's grown accustomed to tackling much heavier opponents in his past. "You know, I've fought my last 15 fights at 205," the South African says, "and now to fight somebody at 185? Now, Babalu. He was hard. He's a big powerful guy. But, when you take 25 or 30 pounds off that guy, which is where Semenov's going to be, well, that's not going to be a problem for me."
And if by Sunday, Prangley is able to become the name that overpowered the plucky judo stylist with cajones of steel, where does he hope the newfound recognition will lead him? "I'm hoping to have a run in the UFC at 185," he honestly answers. "I've been trying to get in there, but 205's just a tough decision." Not ironically, what Prangley says he can offer the middleweight division is what the UFC needs most desperately at the moment, and that's simply a new face with the talent to stick around. "At 185," he says, "I think I've got a good chance against everybody in there. I'd like to fight them all-- not at once, of course," he laughs.
But, first there's Semenov to contend with and this business regarding the name.
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