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 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 choke, and so I used that.”
Prochazka ultimately snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by becoming the first man to ever submit Teixeira with a rear-naked choke clutch with just 28 seconds left on the clock.
It was a stunning finish to a stunning fight, and even more impressive considering the fact that Prochazka was caught in the last place he’d want to be just seconds before his explosion into the fight-ending sequence — trapped underneath Teixeira’s mount.
“That was a little bit of a hard moment,” Prochazka said of his struggles in the fifth round. “I tried to just keep going, keep going, keep going, and keep going, and something will 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 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. The Czech Republic native called the showing “horrible” in his post-fight press conference, and he continued to reiterate that sentiment to MMA Fighting on Wednesday’s show.
“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 little bit changed my attitude before the fight, and that was not a good idea, and I know what to do for the 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.
Either way, Prochazka still had fun in ways only he could.
The new champion is one of the most unpredictable and dynamic UFC titleholders in recent memory, and that showed in unique ways during the fight, such as when Prochazka repeatedly patted Teixeira lightly on the side of his body in a tapping motion while the Brazilian attacked from top position. 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. Not for tapping, just for a strategy, but it was 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’s the new king of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, he has several options in front of him for his first title defense, and he was welcomed home Monday in the Czech Republic with a massive championship parade attended by thousands of his countrymen and countrywomen. It’s been a lot to take in, but Prochazka knows he needs to 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. Amazing war.’ Yeah, I know. It’s good to show a war to 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.”