NEW YORK – Jiri Prochazka is of sound mind, body and soul as he nears his return to the octagon from the longest layoff of his career.
After suffering a serious shoulder injury in October 2022 that required surgery and forced him to vacate the light heavyweight title, Prochazka (29-3-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) took a long and difficult road to get back to 100 percent. He’s finally here, however, and will get the chance to regain the belt he never lost when he takes on Alex Pereira (8-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 295 pay-per-view main event at Madison Square Garden. Prelims air on ESPNews and stream on ESPN+.
Prochazka is soaking it all in now that he’s back on a big fight-week stage, and he has no doubt this is where he belongs.
“For me this week, laser focus – it’s about laser focus for the performance on the event night,” Prochazka told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC 295 media day. “It’s not just about me; it’s just about my opponent, too. Which performance and how good the performance of my opponent will be, that will be mine. Every time I adjust, and I am better every time than my opponents, trying to be in every moment. I like to have a good opponent because my opponent’s performance pushes my performance.”
When Prochazka sustained his injury, Pereira wasn’t part of the 205-pound division as he was busy fighting for titles at middleweight. Once he moved up a division and beat Jan Blachowicz in August, however, he became a clear candidate to fight for the title Jamahal Hill was forced to vacate due to an injury of his own.
Prochazka and Pereira are two unique characters, and now they will clash inside the cage.
“I see it warrior against the warrior,” Prochazka said. “I don’t want to speak about my samurai character or something like that, but it’s truth. I was inspired my years by Bushido and this type of focus for a fight and everything what you’re doing with your life, do it with all you focus, give all your heart to your performance. That’s why we are warriors, because we go there and there is nothing like it.”
The past 13 months have been a difficult experience for Prochazka, but he thinks it’s forced him to evolve both physically and mentally. Now Prochazka thinks he’s at his best form, and he hopes for that to reflect with his effort on fight night.
“If I can say it now, I think that Pereira’s style in standup is much sharper than Jamahal Hill’s style,” Prochazka said. “I just respect that everything has to go on. I realized that I’m not afraid, that when I put the belt out to other guys, that I will not win that again after my recovery. That’s my belief, that I will take the belt again, and that’s it.
“The belt from last year I have on my room. I still see myself like a champion. But I need to remind to all the people that I really am, because I need to keep it in the present.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 295.