Jiri Prochazka has been fighting for most of his life. Growing up with copious amounts of energy that found its way out of his body by way of combat, it was almost as if martial arts divinely intervened with the trajectory of Prochazka’s life.
“I think it saved me.”
Channeling that energy in a disciplined way into a mixed martial arts career can sometimes be a difficult thing to manage, but for Prochazka, whose morals and values are rooted in the concept of discipline, it brought balance to his life.
Jiri Prochazka "My True Power"
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Jiri Prochazka "My True Power"
As the 28-year-old is preparing for his first main event on the biggest stage in MMA, one word has lived in Prochazka’s mind all fight week: happy.
“Being here makes me happy; happy and ready to show the best performance,” Prochazka said, adding that when he stepped foot inside the UFC APEX and got a look at the Octagon he’ll be fighting in on Saturday, he “felt a lot of action and power. This cage is smaller than the regular Octagon. That brings more action to the fight.”
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Don’t let the fact that this is Prochazka’s second fight in the UFC fool you, as the Czech has competed for nearly a decade on the professional circuit, amassing 27 wins and inaugural light heavyweight titles in both the Gladiator Fighting Championship and Rizin Fighting Federation prior to achieving his ultimate goal of fighting in the UFC.
“It’s always been a dream for me to fight in the UFC,” Prochazka explained. “I’m still not used to it, it’s like I don’t realize I’m here yet. Now, I’m starting to enjoy being in UFC and in the league of the best.”
The league of the best has brought forth back-to-back strenuous tests for Prochazka, who will follow up his victory over light heavyweight veteran Volkan Oezdemir with a bout against two-time title challenger Dominick Reyes.
“I think they want to have the best from me, and I’m ready to give that,” Prochazka explained of his strength of schedule so far in the UFC. “To give the world the best of me and my best performances.”
While this fight was originally slated for February, Reyes had to pull out a few weeks prior, citing injury -- a circumstance that would serve Prochazka as well.
“My body was tired and I had many small injuries,” Prochazka said, explaining his relief when he got the news about the fight being delayed. “It gave me time to recover and be more prepared for this time. Now that I’m here, I feel like it’s the right time.”
Taking time off to give his body a rest is not something “Denisa” usually prioritizes, as the fifth-ranked light heavyweight prefers to stay active, drawing something new from each fight.
“I’m a fighter who likes to learn not just from training, but from the fights,” he explained. “I need more fights to create my style and mindset. My life revolves around fighting. It’s just fighting. I’m taking that art and enjoying it, and I’m focused on the small things in the fight. I work with these things on the highest level. That’s for me the biggest challenge, and I love it.”
A true student of the sport, Prochazka doesn’t focus on his 11-fight win streak, with nine straight victories coming by way of knockout, but rather on developing his true potential as a mixed martial artist.
“I just want to show that I rule my body, rule my mind and emotions. For me, that’s the way to be the true master,” Prochazka explained. “I’m not focused on the knockouts because it’s naturally in me. I want to end the fight when I see my opponent catch a punch and he hurts a little bit. When I feel that from him, then I start to want to end the fight.”
It’s a style and strategy that was put on display in Prochazka’s UFC debut against Oezdemir, with a competitive first round leaving many wondering how the bout would end before Prochazka delivered big on his first impression with a second-round knockout.
DON'T MISS A SINGLE UPDATE: UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs Prochazka Results | Official Scorecards
With Reyes, we can expect Prochazka to once again look for the finish, but not before showing off a few flashy moves of his own.
“I think there will be a lot of action. I don’t like to wait for my opponent. I like to go directly for the shortest way to win,” Prochazka explained. “I know in the first round with Volkan, it was not like that, but I’ve upgraded my style from that fight to this one. I know I’m ready. I want to show that.”
And while the goal is the same for most of the athletes who grace the Octagon, Prochazka plans to treat every minute of every fight en route to his title shot as if it’s for a world championship.
“I want to win this fight, maybe another fight, and be closer to the title,” Prochazka said, almost nonchalantly. “Every fight for me is like it’s for the title; it’s not something I need to have. Yeah, it’s a target, but the way to the title is most important.”
For Prochazka, the most important part of his journey will continue on Saturday night.