UFC Star Jiří Procházka: We're Aiming for the World Championship (Interview)
What is darkness therapy, what does he spend his rewards on and what's his stance on Youtubers in martial arts? Colleagues from the Czech editorial office of Refresher have talked to Jiří Procházka.
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He came, he knocked out, he conquered. Twice already. The best Czech fighter Jiří "Denisa" Procházka continued his first impressive victory in the UFC at the beginning of May with another majestic knockout, which quickly made its way around the world. He's sent the American Dominick Reyes to the ground with a spinning elbow knockout and became the third fighter in the history of the organization to end a match with this technique. As a result, he earned two financial bonuses totaling 100 thousand dollars.
Now the Czech MMA number one after two scalps in the UFC has got a chance to become a champion of light heavyweight (up to 93 kilograms). In his next battle, he should face the winner of the title duel Blachowicz vs. Teixeira. In the latest interview, we've talked about this match and more with the Hostěradice born and raised fighter.
First of all, congrats on the latest win! It was a huge success, was the celebration just as huge?Thanks for the congratulations. I am planning to celebrate in the upcoming weeks, so for now we're waiting with great anticipation. (laughs)
Multiple big UFC stars have commented on your performance, including Cormier, Cejudo, commentator Joe Rogan and many others. Makhmud Muradov called it an advertisement for MMA. Was there a particular reaction that really pleased you?
Our biggest Czech icon, Jaromír Jágr, spoke on it, so I was really happy about that. But the approval from my loved ones and the team means the most to me. These are the people with whom I have the strongest bond and they know the most about me.
What is the most important experience or lesson you gained from that match?
The greatest experience was probably that it's impossible to play with only one weapon that I was betting on. And also that I know where I'm going, and it's only a matter of time before I fully awaken all my abilities and take the world championship. It also showed me feedback on what I'm doing and what I'm working on.
Do you already know how you'll use the bonuses you received? Will you do something fun with it or rather invest it into further preparation?
I would like to enjoy it, but there is not much time for that now. At the moment, I am completing my bachelor's thesis and final exams at Masaryk University at the Faculty of Sports Studies. Therefore, I currently have to devote my time to school and then, of course, to the next match. But I would definitely like to go somewhere, rest and take a breather.
A few weeks ago, you've thanked the fans on Instagram and wrote that you were going to shut yourself in the dark for a few days. I know you've practiced this before. Can you tell us more about that? How does it work in practice and how long did you last in the dark?
It's darkness therapy. I've learned about it from an acquaintance who owns the server Darkness Cures and arranges stays in dark caravans. Once a day someone brings you food for the whole day and you just sit there, meditate, exercise and so on, but you are still in that same room in the dark. Of course, we also always have the freedom to turn the light on and go outside. It attracts people who want to settle in meditation, develop, improve and deepen different visions. I did it because I needed to sort things out in my head.
How many days did you spend there?
I was there for three days.
And how do you feel after three daysin the dark? Is it a big shock to come back to the light?
When you come out after three days, you feels as if you were born again. Fresh to the world. Everything is new to you. Colors, sounds, tastes, smells. After the work you did there and the things you've figured out, you can move on with a clean slate.
Next time you'll be competing with the winner of the duel Blachowicz vs. Teixeira. There's even talk that you might be a substitute for that match. Is there anyone from this pair who you and your team prefers somewhat more?
Let the better one win, I'll go with it. I have no preference. The favorite is, of course, Jan Blachowicz, but it doesn't matter. We'll see who comes a winner out of that match.
According to some speculations, there may still be a fight with Rakić before the title fight. Is it real, or are the speculations not based on the truth?
I can say that they're not based on the truth for me. Alexandar (Rakić, editor's note) mentioned some challenges and hinted in various ways, but my team and I agreed that if I was offered the opportunity to go into the title match, it should not be refused. It would be daring to decline the title fight and accept the challenge from someone else.
One of your coaches, Martin Karaivanov, told us in an interview that Matěj Peňáz imitated Reyes' style during your training. Will you now also have someone imitating Blachowicz or Teixeira?
Since they both have classic style, that is, they are right-handed and have their left hand in front, anybody will be able to imitate that for me. Our boys are able to adapt well to what is necessary and what's required of me, so I think that there will be no shortage of sparring partners.
How long did it take coaches to get used to your style with hands down? Has there ever been an argument over it?
It took a long time and there were plenty of arguments. We had to find a compromise in that, because both extremes were kinda off. So now I have guard with my hands halfway, not all the way down, not all the way up.
As far as I know, you did all the preparation here in the Czech Republic. Do you plan to continue to do so now, or will you go to a camp once the measures get more relaxed and traveling abroad will be easier?
I would definitely like to travel somewhere to gain new experience. To toughen up a bit more again, try something new, take a breather and come back again. You don't have to take these things too far. Rather, we'll go out for new experiences, pair up with new people, but otherwise I'll keep doing my own thing.
Did you already choose where you'd possibly go?
And do you plan to stick with the samurai "antenna", or will you replace it with another combat hairstyle?
I've already lost a bit of it, but I still have a small antenna there. (Laughter) I would like to continue to cultivate this hairstyle, because I started something new with it. A new mindstate that it symbolizes for me, so I'd like to stick with it for now.
We've mentioned your colleague Matěj Peňáz, who is now waiting for another match in Oktagon and has a starting career in MMA. Do you think one day we can expect to see him in the UFC in a few years? Did you perhaps talk about it together?
I think he'll get there. Undoubtedly, he is a great talent, started fighting sports at an early age, for which he can be grateful today. He definitely has what it takes to get into the UFC.
Is there anyone else in the Czech scene who you think could make it into the UFC?
It's hard to say, it's all about how the individual sorts it out in his head. We have a lot of names that are interesting, popping and going hard, but the point is not to settle for less. He must have the biggest goals for himself. The boys have to be clear on that in their minds. If they don't have this question answered, then they may get lost in it.
You've wrestled in Rizin for several years. Can you tell if Japanese fans are specific in a way, compared to Czech fans for example?
They are much more educated in martial arts, they understand what is happening there and they do not react to everything. Of course, it's martial arts, it's a spectator sport, so people all over the world want to see the show. We are definitely similar in something. But there is not such great desire for megalomaniac things like in America, where they are only impressed by unconventional blows. Different region, different morality.
Did you feel the absence of fans in the UFC? You went from extreme to extreme. Full arenas and giant shows in Japan, and then UFC in an empty hall without people. How did you find fighting in these circumstances? That's right, and I have to say, I'm looking forward to seeing the people there so that they can see what we're doing in the rawest form. The absence is enormous there. It's not important to me personally, but it's a big plus when the people are there, because you know they're looking and you want to do a good performance in front of them.
After the last match, your social networks exploded, and you gained hundreds of thousands of fans on Instagram. Have there been any offers for larger, more interesting collaborations?
Yes. But we sort it out with the team and find out what is most interesting for us.
And how do you spend your time now since your return to the Czech Republic? Are you enjoying some time off?
I have a slightly looser routine now, on top of that I have to study, but I'm happy to train every day. Either I go to the gym or I just train myself. This time is a blessing for me.
And may I ask, what field do you study?I am studying Special Education for Security Forces at the Faculty of Sports Studies, Masaryk University in Brno.
Does this mean that you would like to pursue this field sometime in the future, for example after your career?
Probably not. This field is interesting in terms of the fact that martial arts or body biomechanics are discussed there, which is very interesting for me as a student of my own body.
Do you already know when your school will end and when you will start preparing for the next match?
The preparation runs non-stop. The only question is when the pace will start to pick up, and that will be decided according to when the date of the match is announced. The timing is then determined accordingly.
YouTubers Jake and Logan Paul have been resonating a lot with the world of martial arts lately. What's your opinion on it? Are they worthy of the attention they get?
They deserve that attention. If MMA is to become a globally recognized sport and martial art, then it's necessary to make a fuss around some matches.
Will you watch Logan's boxing match with Mayweather, which will take place in June? What chance do you think Logan has to demonstrate something in the ring with Floyd?
If the match happens, I'll gladly watch. But I think it's a one-sided game.
You have said many times how the Book of Five Rings has affected you. How many times have you read it?
I don't know, but I still read it.
Are you reading other books now that might shape you again in some way?
Yes. I am reading a book on the technique of vipassana meditation. It's a Buddhist style of meditation from one great man, and it's really interesting. Just because it's simple and insanely powerful at the same time. It aims straight towards the essence from the very beginning.
Are you ever gonna write a book about your martial arts philosophy? If it was translated into English, it could be a bestseller. Maybe it would have such powerful effect on someone as the Book of Five Rings had on you.
My philosophy consists of a composition of other philosophies, so I would rather summarize various passages there and group some of my own thoughts on the matter. But there's still time. I write it down in my notes, but now is not the time for me to be writing my own book.
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