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Jiří Procházka trains at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Zac Pacleb/Zuffa LLC)
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Jiří Procházka Is Staying Calm In The Chaos

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Is Eyeing A Bounce Back Win To Propel Him Back To The 205-Pound Crown.

Jiří Procházka was the best in the world, then everything fell apart for him. Now, after suffering his first UFC defeat, the big Czech is looking to climb the ladder to the top once again.

Procházka captured the light heavyweight title back in June 2022 with a last-gasp submission of Brazil’s Glover Teixeira at UFC 275, but an injury sustained in that fight left him on the sidelines and forced him to relinquish his belt before he had the chance to defend it.

His return came 17 months later when he faced former middleweight champion Alex Pereira for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 295. But his hopes of reclaiming the belt he never lost inside the Octagon were dashed when he was stopped in the second round at Madison Square Garden.

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It was Procházka's first defeat since 2015, and it sent him back to the drawing board as he assessed his performance in order to make the necessary adjustments to return with a win this weekend.

“I tried to see that (defeat) positively, because everything in life, you have to see from a good attitude,” he explained.

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"If there are mistakes, OK, learn what you can and be better next time. But this fight, after that stoppage, I was not satisfied that I showed my best in that fight. So let’s go.

“I need to show right now I'm not at the level I was at on my previous fight. I need to show that I am the best, I’m on the next level.”

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Procházka’s return will see him face off against Austrian striker Aleksandar Rakic. It was an opportunity the Czech engineered for himself after Rakic’s planned January matchup with Jan Blachowicz at UFC 297 was cancelled due to the Polish former champion sustaining an injury.

With Rakic keen to get back to action after a lengthy layoff, Procházka threw his name into the hat, and got the fight.

“I just took this chance to get back into action in that fast way,” he said.

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Watch Jiří Procházka vs Dominick Reyes
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"I'm glad I can (fight) with Aleksandar, because he will prove my technique, my conditioning, my Fight IQ, because with him, I have to be 300 percent prepared for everything.

“His style is half-striker half-wrestler, and that's something I've worked on for the last year, to connect the striking and the wrestling.”

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UFC 300 will be the fifth time Procházka has been to the T-Mobile Arena, but it’s his first visit as a competing athlete. The occasion couldn’t be bigger, with the event bringing the most stacked fight card in UFC history. It’s a big night to be a part of, but for Procházka, it’s the perfect test of his temperament, as he looks to stay ice-cold in the white-hot atmosphere of a massive UFC pay-per-view in Las Vegas.

“I want to enjoy the fight,” he explained.

“I want to show that I’m a true professional, because that was a big question for me – how to keep myself calm in the fight and not be so emotional. That’s what I want to show – to have it under control through all of the fight. That space in the cage is mine, and I am able to show that I am the winner.”

Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic punches Alex Pereira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic punches Alex Pereira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Procházka’s bout with Rakic will play out before the main event, where the title he once held will be contested, as the man who defeated him, Pereira, takes on former champ Jamahal Hill for the undisputed 205-pound crown. It’s a bout that has Procházka intrigued as he eyes a possible shot at the winner later this year.

“Let the better man win, because they are both very good strikers. Maybe with Jamahal, he’s a better wrestler and jiu-jitsu guy,” he said.

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"I am curious for both fighters. I like them both. Maybe, a little bit, I want to fight with Pereira again, but I’m taking it like it is, and I want to be the champion. I want to prove that I’m able to be the champion.”

To do that, he’ll need to deliver an eye-catching performance on Saturday night. If he beats Rakic with style points, he could find himself on collision course with the winner of that main event.

And, regardless of how UFC 300’s headline act plays out, the Czech star’s goal is fixed – to return to the top of the light heavyweight tree. His fighting style may appear wild at times, but Procházka’s mind is cool, calm, and collected ahead of what he hopes will be a huge bounce back win.

“I’m ready to be the best in the world, to take the top again, to attack the top again,” he said.

“And, with all humility, just to be the best, that’s all.”

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UFC 300: Pereira vs Hill took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 13, 2024. See the final Prelim and Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass