As injured as his shoulder was, Jiri Prochazka did not want to withdraw from his UFC 282 title fight against Glover Teixeira.
“That was a very hard thing for me,” Prochazka said on Monday The MMA Hour. “I don’t want to talk about a lot. But after a talk with the UFC, with the directors of UFC, I had to let the show go on, and I respected it.
“For me, I want to stay the champion. It doesn’t matter if I’m injured. But if it’s the best for the light heavyweight division right now, to make it better, for me, it doesn’t matter. My way is to be the best fighter in the world, not just in the light heavyweight division. So that’s why I vacated the title and wait for my moment to be in full power, and take it back.”
Prochazka’s move set in motion a fight between Magomed Ankalaev and ex-champ Jan Blachowicz for the vacant title. After a split draw in the new UFC 282 headliner, the belt remains vacant, and ex-champ Glover Teixeira and Jamahal Hill will fight for it at UFC 283.
Some might see vindication for Prochazka in the way things worked out. That’s not a victory lap the former champ wants to take.
“What do I have to say to that? Everybody knows, and I don’t want to say everything is playing for me, like everything’s showing that I’m the champion,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about that, because I released the title, and I am focused on the next steps and taking the title back. Doesn’t matter.”
UFC President Dana White has called Prochazka a “stud” for vacating the belt despite a burning desire to fight with a mangled shoulder. It’s something that hasn’t been snuffed out in the now-former champ.
“[I was] still thinking about that I had to go to the fight, because I believe that I can solve it — I can solve the fight [despite my injury],” Prochazka said. “I can finish it in the first or second round. To not be there longer than is necessary. But everybody knows the story about TJ Dillashaw [at UFC 280]. So I want to be professional, and I want to be humble to my team around me, to the UFC, and to my opponent.”
Dillashaw, of course, drew the UFC’s ire when he fought bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling at UFC 280 with a badly damaged shoulder. He didn’t disclose his injury beforehand and was stopped in the second round.
Had that situation not taken place, Prochazka isn’t sure he would have withdrawn from the fight. But, he added, “I don’t want to think about that. It’s behind me, and I said many times, I had to go to that fight with Glover, because I still believe I had to win.”
Prochazka’s shoulder already wasn’t 100 percent, as he found out after a full diagnosis of his shoulder. His fate was sealed during a regular sparring session for the Dec. 10 pay-per-view event, leading to an injury White called the worst-ever of its type.
“Everything was light, nobody did something wrong, but I made a mistake,” Prochazka said. “I let the guy take my back. He did a suplex right on my shoulder. That was that.”
Ironically, Prochazka was in the gym with one of the men who would replace him at UFC 282. At that point, Ankalaev was training for a co-feature with Blachowicz. Prochazka said it was Ankalaev’s teammate who attempted to re-set his shoulder.
“The shoulder was out, and one guy, he put me that shoulder back — one of the Russian guys from Ankalaev’s team,” Prochazka said. “And after that, we went to the hospital.”
White pinned responsibility for Prochazka’s injury on the person who played doctor, saying the move “ripped the shit out of it and destroyed” it. He chastised fighters for trying gym fixes and urged them to go straight to the hospital when injured.
The former champ is not interested in assigning blame.
“Nobody did something wrong — it was just my mistake,” he said. “I wasn’t focused, so it was my fault.”
So extensive is Prochazka’s injury that the ex-champ struggles to recall all of his medical terminology. But he’s sure it’s not entirely new.
“My last fight, I felt like the right shoulder, I had a lot of pain with that, and I think there was something broken before that, so that’s why I think we just finished with that shoulder what was started,” he said. “This time, I will use it to be stronger.”
There are divergent diagnoses on the timeline for Prochazka’s return. The ex-champ said he’ll be out no longer than six months while noting that others have urged a longer layoff of eight to nine months. Whatever initial healing needs to be done, more time will be added to get back in shape, and then there is training for the next fight.
At this point, Prochazka can only make a prediction about when he’ll compete again.
“A lot of people are saying it’s necessary to keep it eight, nine months, but I know my body, and I believe I can fix it in three or four months to the full power,” he said. “There is nothing in my life … where something is not possible. If I take it like a target, I will work on it 24 hours, day and night. Doesn’t matter.
“I believe there is in mankind, a power that we can use, with all the humility and all the power, just believe it. I will be back as soon as possible, stronger than ever.”