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How a Czech football hooligan became UFC champion via Japan

#Czech #football #hooligan #UFC #champion #Japan

Jiri Prochazka was a football hooligan in his native Czech Republic until martial arts and an ancient Japanese text inspired him to transition from street fighting to cage fighting – and become the UFC World Champion.

“The Book of Five Rings” was written in 1645 by the master Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, and when Prochazka was presented with a copy some eight years ago, he finally found focus on “becoming a warrior” after a wildly wasted youth.

“You have to look inside yourself and stick to the rules – be honest, be brave, stay calm in difficult situations,” says 29-year-old Prochazka about what he learned from the book and from the book “Bushido”- Samurai discipline code it promotes.

Prochazka became the first Czech UFC world champion after a thrilling back-and-forth bout with Brazilian light heavyweight Glover Teixeira that went deep into the fifth and final round in Singapore in June.

A battered Prochazka appeared close to losing to Teixeira but somehow used his reserves of strength to apply a chokehold and force the Brazilian veteran to submit.

“Some people say my style is unpredictable,” Prochazka told AFP.

“But I don’t do unpredictable things. I’m calm and just look for space to attack – where is my opponent’s weak spot – and I attack.”

– Spartan environment –

Prochazka spoke via video call from a remote cabin in a forest retreat 30 minutes’ drive from his birthplace in the southern Czech city of Brno.

His spartan environment, Prochazka explained, is such that he can be alone with his training. The house has electricity but no running water, forcing Prochazka to make daily trips to a well.

Prochazka pointed his phone out of the hut to show the dojo, or fighting ring, which he carved out of the forest floor, and the frames for the fitness equipment, which he made out of local woods.

“You have to find the path that’s best for you, and that’s best for me,” said Prochazka, whose hair is styled in the “chonmage” topknot favored by Japan’s ancient samurai warriors.

“I meditate and I exercise and I live the life I want to live.”

– ‘Never stop learning’ –

The sense of calm and purposefulness was not always with Prochazka.

As a teenager, he joined the local Ultras – football hooligan gangs – supporting FC Zbrojovka Brno and fought in more than 100 street battles with rival fans.

“That was part of my life and without it I wouldn’t be the way I am today,” Prochazka said of his youth. “I had to be this guy to be the guy I am now.”

At 17, Prochazka discovered Muay Thai kickboxing at a local gym and that he could fight legally.

After winning a national title at 19, he turned to MMA as the sport gained popularity around the world.

Prochazka’s talent took him to Japan with the Rizin Fighting Federation, where a trainer advised him to read Musashi and the History of the Ways of the Samurai.

Prochazka started winning in Japan and his life turned around. A Rizin MMA title was followed by a 2020 call from the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Back-to-back wins gave him a chance to face 42-year-old Teixeira for the world title at UFC 275 in Singapore, and Prochazka snagged him.

Back at his cabin, Prochazka recovering from a broken ankle he sustained against Teixeira, Prochazka plotted the next phase of his career and a possible rematch with the Brazilian and.

“I keep going forward,” said Prochazka.

“In our lives, we all have to struggle in different ways at some point. So I’m still learning and I think we should never stop learning.”

Social Tags:
#Czech #football #hooligan #UFC #champion #Japan

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