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Jiri Prochazka of Czech Republic prepares to fight Glover Teixeira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 275 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Jiří Procházka: Pure Concentration, Focus And Happiness

Nearly 18 Months After Winning The Light Heavyweight Title, Jiří Procházka Returns Rejuvenated And Refocused Ahead Of His Title Fight At UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira

When a fighter gets a UFC belt wrapped around their waist for the first time, there often follows an outpouring of emotion. Whether it comes in the form of tears, a smile or a combination of both, a lifetime of work coming to bear the golden fruit of a championship belt is a worthy cause for unvarnished expression. That was not the case for Jiří Procházka when he was declared the light heavyweight champion of the world after he submitted Glover Teixeira in the waning moments of 2022’s Fight of the Year. Instead, Procházka’s reaction was rather subdued. In his Octagon interview with Daniel Cormier, Procházka, who sported a wide cut over his left eyebrow, was critical of his own performance and promised to be better next time. 

That was in June 2022, and UFC fans are still waiting for that “next time.” Procházka suffered a major shoulder injury before his scheduled rematch with Teixeira in December, one that prompted him to vacate the title for which he worked so hard. In just three UFC fights, Procházka had become must-watch television. From his samurai-inspired lifestyle (and hairstyle) to his all-action fights, people wanted more of him. Sponsorships and financial opportunities came. Media requests poured in from around the world, and the introspective Czechian admitted his life became “faster,” and his lifestyle became closer to a “businessman” than a fighter.

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As he approaches UFC 295, where he will headline and once again fight for the light heavyweight belt against Alex Pereira, he believes the last year-plus helped him regain his center.

Order UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira

    “To be honest, the last year was a challenge for me,” Procházka told UFC.com. “A lot of things happened in my personal life. I had to do a lot of changes of my training, a lot of changes to people around me, and I realized that what I’m doing, fighting, I like more than everything. It’s my primal, instinctual thing.”

    Procházka didn’t have to make dramatic shifts in his life. Rather, he recalibrated things to point back toward his journey as a fighter. Two of his coaches, Martin Karaivanov and Jaroslav Hovezak, have been with Procházka from the beginning. They, along with his close friends and family, have been understanding and supportive of Procházka’s refocused nature this year.

    Well-publicized as a philosophical and thoughtful person, Procházka – who describes himself as a “weird guy” — recognized he has to go all-in on this lifestyle to achieve a full-realization of his own potential.

    RELATED: Jiří Procházka Timeline | The 10 Best Light Heavyweight Title Fights | Alex Pereira Aims For Another Signature Moment In New York City

    “I have to live like a warrior 100 percent because if you want to be the best, you have to bend everything around you to one direction,” Procházka said. “That’s what fighters and everybody have to realize in their life because that’s something fundamental. You have to realize, if you want to do something and be the best in that, you have to do that with all your body and mind and spirit, with everything. Nothing left.”

    Jiri Prochazka of Czech Republic submits Glover Teixeira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
    Jiri Prochazka of Czech Republic submits Glover Teixeira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

    Changes also included listening to his body and being “kinder” to it throughout training. The 31-year-old can dish out punishment as much as he can take it, but with 33 professional fights under his belt, he wants to extend the amount of time he can do what he loves most. 

    Two particular changes he made came in adding coaches for strength-and-conditioning, as well as wrestling. In his trio of trips to the Octagon, Procházka attempted one takedown – a desperation shot after Dominick Reyes rattled him with a left hand in the second round. These additions to his training camp help him chase a more well-rounded version of himself, what he calls a “true martial artist.” That’s not to say he’s turning into a marauding wrestler, though. Procházka knows his style is naturally violent, and he hopes to channel that violence through the various channels of MMA.

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    “I just balance my fighting style to be not just focused on one thing, but for all the things,” he said. “I don’t want to change my mindset. I want to be just me: Jiří Procházka from Hostěradice, from Czech Republic, from Brno, and keep it simple because fighting is not about doing something extraordinary, but because my style is naturally special, that’s what I had to realize — to keep it simple. Everything is there.”

    Throughout the past year, Procházka trained at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA in Thailand and Mjölnir MMA in Iceland. At the former, he focused on grappling and his strength and conditioning after recovering from shoulder surgery. After coming back to full-strength, Procházka returned to the Czech Republic to start his proper training camp.

    Main Event Spotlight | UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira

    Similar to Procházka, Pereira had a rocket ship-like trajectory to the top of the sport. In his fourth UFC fight and seventh pro MMA fight overall, he knocked out Israel Adesanya in the fifth round to earn the middleweight title at UFC 281. After falling to Adesanya in their rematch at UFC 287, he moved up to 205 pounds and defeated former light heavyweight champion Jan Błachowicz at UFC 291 in July. The Brazilian now hopes to become the latest to join the group of eight UFC fighters to earn belts in multiple weight classes – a feat he achieved under the Glory Kickboxing banner preceding his life as a mixed martial artist. 

    A stone-faced unit at 6-foot-4 (the same height as Procházka), “Poatan” has as long of a highlight reel as anyone, featuring a plethora of memorable knockouts. His left hook is particularly and rightfully legendary, and Procházka understands the danger set out in front of him. 

    Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic elbows Dominick Reyes in a light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 01, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
    Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic elbows Dominick Reyes in a light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 01, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

    “I can’t be too weird in my style like I was ‘til now,” Procházka said. “I have to be more precise, especially in a fight with Alex, and I’m happy to fight him. I’m happy to face Alex because it improved me, my style, and it sharpened my mind, my spirit and my body more than another opponent because I see how he is taking the fighting very seriously. For somebody like me, who is taking fighting a similar way, it is a pleasure, and it is an honor to face this guy.”

    Although he will mostly downplay it, Procházka is also honored to headline UFC’s 30th anniversary show in Madison Square Garden. He hints at his appreciation, but then, almost reminding himself, he says that his focus is on staying in the moment. 

    Part of that, though, is because he wants to allow himself to experience his emotions come fight night. When thinking about what he expects to feel in the hours preceding his fight, he lists three:

    Pure concentration, pure focus and pure happiness. 

     Jiri Prochazka of Czech Republic celebrates after his submission victory over Glover Teixeira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 275 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
    Jiri Prochazka of Czech Republic celebrates after his submission victory over Glover Teixeira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 275 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bot

    The latter is something he cut himself off from when he first arrived in the UFC. Each win came with a sense of relief, a sense of “mission: accomplished.” Even getting the belt wrapped around his waist felt like checking another box off in his mind. He attributes that to a little bit of fear regarding the belt and all that would come with it. The months that followed almost validated that trepidation. 

    Now, however, he knows how to handle all that and how to find peace amidst that rush of life. 

    Now, he wants to enjoy his work, his true love that is fighting. 

    Now, he knows what it’s like to be a champion, and instead of fear, he is looking at November 11 with pure excitement.

    Order UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira

    UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira took place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass