Jiri Prochazka is marching into uncommon territory. The wild knockout artist heads into the main event of UFC 275 to challenge Glover Teixeira for the light heavyweight title in just his third bout with the promotion.
Teixeira vs. Prochazkain Kallang, Singapore on Saturday. The prevailing expectation is a fight of grappler vs. striker. Prochazka sees the various elements of MMA through different, blood-tinted eyes. Striking and grappling, knockouts and submissions, top control or bottom, all are nodes in a web of violence. A web spun for a cathartic release of the warrior spirit. Prochazka has to elevate his grappling game, but not to stifle Teixeira. Simply to sharpen another lethal tool.
Combat sports is a game rife with trash talk and undermining fellow fighters. Prochazka prefers to see the best in his opponents and peers. Prochazka is a fan of Japanese anime so this comparison seems apt. In "Dragon Ball Z", the android Cell consumes his enemies and absorbs their skills to become exponentially more powerful. Prochazka too draws from those he defeats, trains alongside or simply views from a distance.
"I take every guy from their best performance. I don't look at somebody from a bad view," Prochazka told CBS Sports. "I have a peace paradigm in my head on how to see the people. I don't want to look for somebody thinking they're bad. I just want to be inspired by whoever. It doesn't matter if it's [Aleksandar] Rakic or [Jon] Jones or whoever."
Check out the full interview with Jiri Prochazka below.
Prochazka and fellow contender Rakic have not been particularly kind to one another in interviews. Yet, when asked to comment on, Prochazka instead focused on Rakic's impressive left hand. He applied the same principle to Jan Blachowicz's loss to Glover Teixeira at UFC 267, a fight where Prochazka served as backup. Blachowicz looked lifeless and later confessed that he just wasn't there mentally.
"From that experience, I learned that you have to want that. You have to want to win. I saw that Jan was 70 or 80%, 'Let's go, let's win.' The other 30% was not lazy, but 'I don't want to be here.' You need to go for your opponent at 120%. You have to give it all. That is what martial arts are about. Sure, a good ground game, good wrestling and good punches. Still, you need to go with full power.
"That was not the Jan who fought with Reyes or whoever. That was just another Jan Blachowicz. It's up to us how we know how to work with ourselves. How to start or work with ourselves when something bad or good is happening. Sometimes you have so much energy and you need to keep yourself down. Sometimes you are so down and you need to boost your energy up. It's up to us. It's the way of the warrior to know yourself, how you control yourself and how to wake up."
Prochazka takes every life experience as a learning opportunity. He mines fuel from anime cartoons like "One Punch Man" or samurai classics such as "Seven Samurai." Even an activity as obscure as catching lizards, something he did while training in Thailand, is a lifelong implementation of martial arts.
"There is one thing that nobody knows. When I was a child, I would catch these lizards every summer," Prochazka said. "Every summer I had a big park next to my house. There was tall grass with these little but f---ing speedy lizards. My mission was to catch every lizard in the grass. That was my training. That was my training for the reflexes and everything. I did that day by day every day. I'd catch a full box of lizards and then release them or try to see how they swim."
Prochazka faces a difficult test in wily veteran Teixeira, a champion whose warrior spirit rivals that of the challenger. Regardless of the outcome, expect Prochazka to extract something immensely valuable.
Author's note: Some quotes have been condensed or tweaked for clarity.