Jiri Prochazka knew his chances of becoming the UFC light heavyweight champion were dwindling before going into the deciding fifth round of his UFC 275 fight against Glover Teixeira.
After 20 minutes back and forth, Prochazka was finished below on two of the three judges’ scorecards when the last frame started. The 29-year-old felt the urgency of the moment.
“I knew it was like 50-50 and I realized I had to do something more to finish it [Teixeira], but my left hand was literally broken,” Prochazka said on Wednesday’s MMA Hour. “And me [didn’t know] how I could finish him in stand up, there was no way because he was so tough and every time I tried to close the distance he tried to wrestle me to the ground. So in the last lap, before the last lap, I just said, ‘Whatever opportunity gives me to finish it, I’ll take it. It doesn’t matter which one.’
“There was a rear naked choke at the end and that’s what I used.”
Prochazka eventually snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by becoming the first man to subdue Teixeira with a clutch rear naked choke with just 28 seconds left on the clock.
It was a stunning ending to a stunning fight, and even more impressive considering Prochazka was caught just seconds before his explosion in the end-of-fight sequence in the last place he wanted to be – trapped under Teixeira’s mount.
“It was a bit of a tough moment,” Prochazka said of his fifth-round struggles. “I was trying to just move on, move on, move on and move on and something is going to come, something would come. I believed in that. I believed in that and then it came.
“I felt that [it was deflating for Teixeira when I escaped], and I tried to do that to be in the dominant position. I gave my all in those last few seconds.”
Prochazka’s last-minute assist capped a war of attrition with Teixeira that was already widely hailed as one of the greatest light heavyweight fights in UFC history.
But despite the huge amount of praise Prochazka has been showered with in the days since, the UFC’s new 205-pounder has been nothing but critical of his performance. The Czech native called the show “terrible” in his post-fight press conference and reiterated that sentiment to MMA Fighting on Wednesday’s show.
“I’m disappointed because I didn’t show what I said before the fight, like total dominance and I didn’t feel like I wanted to feel in the fight,” Prochazka said.
“I changed my attitude a bit before the fight and that wasn’t a good idea and I know what I have to do for next time. But the belt is there and I’m glad about it. That’s good enough.”
Prochazka declined to reveal details of his attitude change, simply stating that the issues are affecting his personal life and he plans to change his approach for his next fight.
Anyhow, Prochazka was still having fun in a way only he could.
The new champion is one of the most unpredictable and dynamic UFC titleholders in recent memory and it showed in unique ways during the fight, such as when Prochazka repeatedly lightly tapped Teixeira on the side of his body with a tapping motion while the Brazilian attacked from the front in the lead position . Even referee Marc Goddard got a kick out of it, although he also warned Prochazka he was playing “a risky game”.
“I did that because I was trying to push him, to make him want to give me more, give me more, show me more,” Prochazka said, laughing. “Because I tried to make him do it [make] an action, and I’m waiting for that action to do something [techniques] reverse it. And that’s why I did it. Not for tapping, just for strategy, but it was very dangerous. Now I realized that.
“Maybe [I’ll do it again]but not in the same [way], as with the same trains. Not by knocking.”
Regardless, Prochazka now has the world at his fingertips.
He’s the new king of the UFC light heavyweight division, he has multiple options ahead of him for his first title defense and was greeted with a huge championship parade in the Czech Republic on Monday attended by thousands of his compatriots and compatriots. It was a lot to process, but Prochazka knows he has to keep his feet on the ground.
“It’s like the most beautiful dream,” said Prochazka. “[But] I think I have to keep my feet on the ground because it’s not about the belt, it’s not about all those nice things. It’s about the work. It’s about the work, it’s about my performance – and my performance wasn’t what I wanted to show. That’s why I’m a bit disappointed.
“Everyone says, ‘That was amazing. Amazing war.’ Yes I know. It’s good to show the world a war. But it’s not the mastery of the warrior, is it?” Prochazka continued.
“This is not martial arts mastery, because this is just a hard war. And you have to show more to be smarter in a fight, not like that.”