mixed martial artsHow a Former Czech Hooligan Became UFC World Champion
Jiri Prochazka, a former supporter of street fights between hooligans, became the first Czech world champion of UFC, the largest organization of MMA.
“Everyone has to find their own way”: As a teenager, Jiri Prochazka beat other hooligans in dark alleys in the Czech Republic for a long time. Until he found his share of the light in mixed martial arts (MMA), in which he is now a world champion.
In June, this solid guy, almost 30 years old, went to the end of his strength and pain in Singapore to become the first Czech world champion of UFC, MMA’s largest organization.
“Everyone has to find their way, what’s best for them, and that’s what’s best for me,” he says of this life-saving practice, from his lost sanctuary in the middle of the woods, half an hour by road from his hometown of Brno (south ). “I meditate, I exercise and I have the life I want,” he continues.
He has no regrets
From the height of his 93 meters, Jiri Prochazka has not always shown the same composure.
In the 2000s, as a young teenager, looking for landmarks, he got caught up in the hooligan milieu surrounding the football club FC Zbrojovka Brno. In those few years, he says, he took part in more than a hundred street fights against other groups. A “struggle” that he says he has no regrets.
“It was part of my life. (…) I had to be this guy to be who I am today,” he explains.
At 17, Jiri Prochazka found his first escape from hooliganism: he enrolled in kickboxing lessons and fought legally until winning a national title two years later.
The young Czech then embarks on the path of MMA, a discipline that is gaining popularity around the world. His talent quickly brought him to Japan, where he joined the Rizin organization.
The bun of the samurai
There, on the advice of his trainer, he meets a life, the forges of fate: “The Contract of the Five Wheels”, a work written in 1645 by the samurai legend Miyamoto Musashi.
The ex-hooligan is imbued with the rules of this master of arms and “Bushido”, the code of Japanese warriors. “You have to look inside yourself and stick to the rules – be honest, brave and calm in difficult times,” says Prochazka, who now has the “chonmage”, a traditional samurai bun, emblazoned on his part.
Dubbed Rizin, Prochazka receives a call from executives at the Las Vegas-based UFC in 2020. Then his intellectual and athletic ascent led him to this fight for a UFC light heavyweight world title against Brazilian Glover Teixeira, 42 years old.
A time in great apparent trouble, he finally won the belt after an epic fight fought in his image, he judges.
“Some say my style is unpredictable. But I don’t do unpredictable things. I’m calm, pay attention to the opponent’s weak point and attack,” he said.
From his current existence in the forest, the Czech gives a glimpse by pointing his phone camera at a window behind which appears a dojo – the combat training platform – and instruments carved into the framework.
Everything has electricity but no running water, requiring frequent trips to the nearest well. Spartan conditions that suit the new world champion perfectly, he says.
It’s been two months since that victorious fight and Jiri Prochazka continues to heal a fracture… as he prepares for the rest of his career and a possible revenge against Teixeira.
“I always look ahead. In our life we sometimes have to fight under different circumstances. So I keep learning. We should never stop learning, in my opinion,” concludes the former hooligan.
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