After suffering a shoulder injury, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jiří Procházka has pulled out of his main event title fight against Glover Teixeira and subsequently chosen to relinquish his belt.
The headlining fight of the last pay-per-view card of the year is off, and has been replaced with the co-main event fight between Jan Błachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev, now for that newly vacated light heavyweight championship on December 10th.
In a surprising turn of events, Procházka has reportedly suffered a major shoulder injury that would have him sidelined for upwards of a year, and in-turn, chose to let go of his belt so the division wouldn’t be forced to wait on him. Along with greats Dominick Cruz and Georges St-Pierre, Procházka becomes just the third UFC champion to relinquish their belt due to injury.
Procházka and Teixeira were set to face off for an immediate rematch of their instant classic at UFC 275, where Jiri stole the belt from the 43-year old Brazilian with less than a minute left in the bout in a fight of the year contender. This would have been Jiri’s first title defense at 205 lbs, but from the looks of it, the belt is quickly changing hands again.
UFC President Dana White said Procházka tried to go on with the fight with practically just one arm intact, but after the disaster that was the Sterling vs. Dillashaw fight fresh in the memories of management, Jiri’s idea was shut down.
“This is the worst shoulder injury the doctors have ever seen in UFC history,” Dana White said.
The UFC offered former champion Glover Teixeira the short-notice replacement of Magomed Ankalaev, but with a two-week turnaround for a different stylistic matchup, Teixeira asked for more time to prepare. With the card not having a backup title fight besides the light heavyweight one in the wings, the UFC was forced to move past Teixeira.
“They really messed up that day,” said Teixeira. “I spent with a camp and now they took me away from the title fight. I agreed to fight both guys, the only thing I asked was more time to fight Ankalaev.”
With that, the UFC loses out on a banger of a title fight, and a significantly weaker card to close out the year. The lightweight matchup between Paddy Pimblett and Jared Gordon has been upgraded to the co-main event for the night, and the card will be the second-to-last card the promotion has to offer in a 5 week span.
Of the two outcomes of the new main event, Jan Błachowicz can regain the strap he lost to the aforementioned Teixeira and join Randy Couture and Jon Jones as the only multiple-time light heavyweight champions in UFC history or a new era of the division can begin with the perfectionist Magomed Aklalaev finally taking over. Although snubbed now, Glover Teixeira has first dibs on the next shot at the title, which aligns with the timeline that Jiri probably won’t be seen for about a year.
All respect to Jiri Procházka who took the bushido route and made things more difficult for himself by having to regain the title instead of making the contenders wait around for him. It’s going to be a sad period without him, but hopefully this injury doesn’t turn him into one of the sport’s biggest “what-ifs.”