Jiri Prochazka knew his chances to be UFC light heavyweight champion were slipping away heading into the pivotal fifth round of his UFC 275 bout against Glover Teixeira.
After 20 minutes of back-and-forth action, Prochazka was down on two of the three judges’ scorecards as the final frame began. The 29-year-old felt the urgency of the moment.
“I knew that it was like 50-50, and I realized that I had to do something more to end [Teixeira], but my left hand was literally broken,” Prochazka said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “And I [didn’t know] how to end him in the stand-up, there was no way because he was so tough, and every time when I when I tried to short the distance, he tried to wrestle me into the ground. So for the last round, before the last round, I just said, ‘Whatever gives me some opportunity to end him, I will use it. It doesn’t doesn’t matter which one.’
” In the end there was a rear-naked stop, so I used that .”
Prochazka ultimately snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by becoming the first man to ever submit Teixeira with a clutch rear-naked choke with just 28 seconds left on the clock.
It was an amazing finish to a spectacular fight. Even more remarkable was the fact Prochazka got caught under Teixeira’s mount, in the exact last place that he would want to be before his fight-ending explosion.
” It was difficult at times,” Prochazka recalls of the struggles he faced in round 5. I tried to keep going and just keep going. It would happen. I believed in that. It happened because I believed that.
“I felt that [it was deflating for Teixeira when I escaped], and I tried to do that like that, to be in the dominant position. Those last seconds, I gave in there everything.”
Prochazka’s last-second submission capped off a war of attrition with Teixeira that has already been widely hailed as one of the greatest light heavyweight bouts in UFC history.
Yet despite the high praise that’s been showered upon Prochazka in the days since, the UFC’s new 205-pound has been nothing but critical of his performance. In his post-fight press conference the Czech Republic native said that Prochazka’s performance was “horrible”. He reiterated this sentiment to MMA Fighting Wednesday.
“I’m disappointed by it because I didn’t show what I said before the fight, like a total dominance, and I didn’t feel like I wanted to feel in the fight,” Prochazka said.
” I had a change of heart before the fight. It was not a wise decision. Now, I’m ready for next time. But the belt is here and I’m glad for that. That’s good enough.”
Prochazka declined to reveal any details of his attitude change, simply stating that the issues dealt with his personal life and he plans to change his approach for his next fight.
In any case, Prochazka had great fun and did the best job he could.
The new champion is among the most dynamic and unpredictable UFC titleholders. That was evident in the way Prochazka patted Teixeira repeatedly on his side in a tap motion, while Teixeira attacked from the top. Even referee Marc Goddard got a kick out of that one, though he also warned Prochazka that he was playing “a risky game.”
“I did that because I tried to push him, like to push him to give me more, give me more, show me more,” Prochazka said, laughing. “Because I tried to make him [make] some action, and I wait for that action to do some [techniques] to reverse it. And that’s why I do I did that. It wasn’t for taping, it was a strategy but very dangerous. Now I realized that.
“Maybe [I’ll do it again], but not in the same [way], like with the same moves. Not with tapping.”
Regardless, Prochazka now has the world at his fingertips.
He is the UFC’s new light heavyweight champion. He has many options for his first title defense and was welcomed back to the Czech Republic Monday with a huge championship parade that was attended by thousands. Prochazka is aware that it’s been difficult to digest all of this, and that he must stay grounded.
“It’s like the most beautiful dream,” Prochazka said. “[But] I think I have to still be on the ground, because it’s not about the belt, it’s not about all these beautiful things. It’s about the work. It’s about the work, it’s about my performance — and my performance was not how I wanted to show. So that’s why I’m a little bit disappointed.
“Everybody’s saying, ‘That was amazing. It was an amazing war. It is good to display a war for the rest of the world. But it’s not the mastery of the warrior, yeah?” Prochazka continued.
“This is not the mastery of the martial arts, because this is just a tough war. And you have to show more to be smarter in a fight, not like that.”