How a Czech football hooligan became a UFC champion, via Japan

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Jiri Prochazka was a football hooligan in his native Czech Republic until martial arts and an ancient Japanese text inspired him to turn from street fighting to cage fighting — and become a UFC world champion.

“The Book of Five Rings” was written in 1645 by the master Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, and when Prochazka was handed a copy about eight years ago he finally found the focus to “become a warrior” after a wildly misspent youth.

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

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

– Spartan surroundings –

His spartan surroundings, Prochazka explained, are so he can be alone with his training. The cottage has electricity but no running water, forcing Prochazka to take daily trips to a well.

“You have to find the way that is best for you and this is what’s best for me,” said Prochazka, whose hair is styled in the “chonmage” top-knot favoured by Japan’s ancient Samurai warriors.

– ‘Never stop learning’ –

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

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

Prochazka’s talent led him to Japan with the Rizin Fighting Federation where he was advised by a coach to read Musashi and the history of the ways of the Samurai.

Two straight knockout wins gave him the chance to face the 42-year-old Teixeira for the world title at UFC 275 in Singapore and Prochazka grabbed it. 

“I am still going forward,” said Prochazka. 

str/dh

Originally published as How a Czech football hooligan became a UFC champion, via Japan


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