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. The 28-year-old is preparing for his first main event on the biggest stage in MMA as he takes on two-time title challenger Dominick Reyes in UFC Fight Night.
You came to the UFC after a big career in Japan. Were you a fan of Pride?
Yes sure. Pride was ending when I started to do MMA and boxing, but I saw a lot of videos of Fedor Emelianenko and all those great legends from the old school.
What were your feelings and thoughts when you first went to Rizin and Japan?
For me it was a very nice experience. Because my coach gave me a book from a very famous samurai, Musashi’s “Book of Five Rings", and I live by this code that he wrote. I was very glad to be in Japan and to experience it. It was a great time for me.
Do you have a favorite quote from that book, or a passage that you remember and think about often?
I like the whole book. There are many pages that are important, especially about Bushido, moral codes. There is one page he writes about “the body of the rock". That means your state of mind must be calm and unmovable. An unmovable mind. That’s the right word.
When you went to Rizin, you were fighting in Japan, in an organization that’s across the world, so you might not know who is going to be your next opponent. How was your feeling when you didn’t know who would be the next?
For me, all my career is like this, it’s the same. I don’t care about my opponents every time because I need to be ready to fight everybody, to fight whoever. So that’s my rule and I don’t mind that.
You were in Rizin a long time. There was so much growth for you as a fighter between the first fight and the second fight with Muhammed Lawal. What do you think is the biggest point of growth for you in that time period?
Like I said with my last answer - all the time, when I’m fighting, it’s the same for me. There is one thing - I’m still looking to be better and better. After my first fight with King Mo, I started learning more, how to be better and better. How to realize all my powers in fighting. I upgraded in my career in Rizin.
Many fighters talk about adjusting their style or strategy when they sign to UFC. What are the changes you have made in your fighting style, game plan, and training since you joined UFC?
Nothing’s changed. Well, maybe after my first fight in UFC, I half changed. That first round was crazy. After that fight, I started to learn to be more professional, like to keep my hands up and to defend myself better and better. And in this in this fight I want to show this upgrade.
When you were offered #7 ranked Volkan Oezdemir as your first opponent in UFC, what were your thoughts? Were you shocked, or did you feel proud that your level was assessed as being already quite good?
That was the second choice, it was good, it was right. I was very glad that they gave me such a good opponent for my start. And I want to show, especially right now, that I’m the best fighter.
How do you feel about having a main event spot for your second UFC fight? Is there any added pressure?
No, I don’t have the pressure, because in Japan I had a lot of main events. I had many when I was the main fight. So, for me it’s not that it is normal, but I am treating it like any another fight. I’m doing it just to win for me.
What do you think about 5 rounds? Does that make any difference, five rounds versus three rounds?
I’m ready for that. I trained for four or five rounds. I’m treating it like it’s not just five rounds, I’m taking every round, every moment in each round, to catch the moment and win. So, for me, it’s my strategy that will be more important, not the time. I can fight for one hour or more. So, there is a more important thing, how to win. That’s the more important question.
What is your opinion of Dominick Reyes as a fighter? What are his biggest threats?
Dominick is very good. He is a very good striker. I have watched him before, many times before our fight, and I think I know his style. And in this Saturday I will show it.
What do you think your biggest strengths are? Can you share how you think you will take the fight, how you will make the fight happen?
I think my biggest strength is in stand up, but not many people know that I like to wrestle and ground and pound. That’s my strength and strength side, and my strategy for the fight. It’s both these both of these, I can do the stand up or I’m not scared to take him down and be on the ground.
How do you see the finish, how do you see the win happening?
However, I will do my best. For me, the form of victory is not so important but there is something much important. The moment. Saturday night. I can’t say it how it will be right now, because the time is not yet here.
With a win, what do you expect to be your next fight, and how soon do you expect to be in a title fight?
I don’t care about the next fight yet because I’m focused on this Saturday, this fight. After that, you can ask me again, because I’m living in the in the present. So if I win, then my way is to the title. If it will be after one fight or two fights, for me it doesn’t matter.
Champion Jan Blachowicz’ next fight will be against Glover Teixeira. How do you think this fight will go?
Well, I think that Jan Blachowicz will defend the title… I think I think he will be the victor, the winner, because he is more more tactical. I see him as a better technical fighter.
So you’re actually quite young, but you’re very experienced, and have a lot of skill. You’ve said that you live by the warrior code, what is the most important thing that keeps your mind sharp and focused?
Being in the present. That’s all. To keep my mind in the present, and keep that in my mind. Not so much thinking, more doing. Everything’s ready and prepared, so I’m just enjoying the time.
Watch UFC Fight Night - Reyes vs Prochazka this Sunday, May 2, 2021 LIVE from 7.30 am IST only on Sony Ten 2 channels