Jiri Prochazka is coming to reclaim the light heavyweight title.
At UFC 283, Jamahal Hill won the vacant light heavyweight title with a dominating display against former champion Glover Teixeira at UFC 283. Shortly after the fight, Prochazka, who vacated the title in November after suffering a shoulder injury, sent a warning to the new champion, saying, “Congratulation. I’m coming.” And apparently Prochazka is coming sooner than most expected.
Speaking on The MMA Hour, Prochazka revealed that his shoulder recovery is going better than expected and that he hopes to be able to return to action this summer.
“Everything is going a great way,” Prochazka said on Monday’s show. “Next week I’m going to Las Vegas to continue in rehabilitation and all these processes to be quick, to [have] the fastest way back possible. I don’t want to be [too] fast for the shoulder, but it’s getting much better than everybody expects, so I’m happy for that.
“I think I can be back in July or August, something like that. Six or seven months, something like that. Because I don’t want the fastest way back just to fight. I know this is not the best attitude. I want to be sure that my body works for 200 percent, and I think it can be in summer of this year. Just let me work on that and I will be back as soon as possible.”
Part of Prochazka’s desire to return quickly, aside from reclaiming the title, is an interest in facing Hill. In a division where many of the top contenders are in their late 30s, Hill is one of the few younger fighters at the top of the division, and after the best performance of his career, Prochazka says the prospect of facing Hill has him excited about training.
“I was a little bit surprised by Glover Teixeira’s performance, his energy and his speed,” Prochazka said. “He was so slow. He was a little bit slow. Amazing work from Jamahal, he did everything right. So congratulations to him and I’m looking forward for him.
“I thought [Teixeira] had big chance to win, especially in Rio with the home crowd. Everything worked in this event for him, so I’m a little bit surprised by that, but that’s good. A good step for light heavyweight, and I’m happy for that. I’m happy for this result because Jamahal Hill is a young guy, he’s dangerous, and I like to [have] before me somebody like him, who [will] challenge me. I’m looking forward to starting training.”
Prochazka’s timeline to return creates an interesting question for Hill and the UFC: What comes next?
UFC president Dana White has said Prochazka will get an opportunity to challenge for the title once he’s healthy, but it’s unclear whether the promotion will choose to wait for Hill’s first title defense or give another light heavyweight the opportunity first. Prochazka would prefer the former, but if it’s to be the latter, he believes Anthony Smith, who was supposed to fight Hill before Hill was called up to the vacant title fight on short notice, would deserve the next shot.
“On the next Jamahal Hill fight, I don’t know if he wants to wait for me until this summer,” Prochazka said. “If he wants to, it will be the best, because I’m sharpening my weapons for him. If he wants to fight in some near future, it doesn’t matter for me. Like I said, I want to see the light heavyweight division is moving, because there are good guys and see the Jamahal Hill win as a great move. I’m very happy for that and I’m looking forward for him.
“I think, it’s just my opinion, but they had a fight, they spoke about that fight, Anthony Smith and Jamahal Hill. I think he deserves a fight with Jamahal because they gave him a special step up, so why not to Smith? That’s just my opinion.”
But regardless of who ends up being the official champion by the time he finally gets the opportunity to reclaim his title, Prochazka believes the outcome will be the same, because though he may not have the belt, he’s still the best in the world.
“I don’t want to speak about me because I want to be focused to be healthy, to be ready to fight,” Prochazka said. “On paper, right now, it’s Jamahal. On paper. But I’m still here, and I’m working on that to be back to being, on the paper, the best. But normally, I’m taking myself to be the best light heavyweight of the world. That’s my opinion.”