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 Aleksandar Rakic of Austria arrives prior to the UFC 300 press conference at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Aleksandar Rakic: UFC’s ‘Rocket’ Man Is Ready To Relaunch

After Recovering From A Serious Knee Injury, Austria’s Light Heavyweight Contender Is Ready to Bounce Back With A Bang

Aleksandar Rakic has had to bide his time and keep a lid on his competitive urges. But now, after more than two years on the sidelines, “Rocket” is back, and looking to make a big statement against a former champion.

Rakic faces former undisputed light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka at UFC 300 in a mouthwatering clash that could potentially determine the next man to challenge for the title later this year.

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So often for injured fighters, minutes can feel like hours, and weeks can feel like months as they painstakingly follow their post-surgery regimens in a bid to return to the Octagon at 100 percent. But, for Rakic, the lengthy absence has flown by.

“It’s almost two years not fighting in the UFC but, to be honest, it doesn't feel like two years. It feels like just a couple of months,” he told UFC.com in Las Vegas.

Aleksandar Rakic of Austria kicks Jan Blachowicz of Poland in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Aleksandar Rakic of Austria kicks Jan Blachowicz of Poland in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“But what a great comeback to have on UFC 300.”

That comeback comes against Prochazka, whose unique fighting style and penchant for back-and-forth wars makes his matchups must-see TV. As well as the tricky stylistic test the Czech fighter poses, the matchup also serves as a battle for European bragging rights, with two of the promotion’s top European fighters going head-to-head at T-Mobile Arena this weekend.

“He is a very unorthodox fighter, and he is ranked number two – he was a champion,” he said.

“We live not so far away from each other in Europe, so this is the battle of the Europeans. Me and Jiri had some back and forward beef on Twitter, but yeah, we will finish this on Saturday night.”

Despite their social media skirmishes since their fight was booked, Rakic said that he’s keeping his mindset in the right place to ensure he isn’t taken out of his gameplan on fight night.

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"No, I'm not gonna go into the fight with emotions,” he stated.

“My strategy is clear, to be focused and to do what I've been doing the last weeks in a camp. And if I do that, I will be victorious.”

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Rakic’s return from a torn ACL in his right knee has been a long and laborious one. But he’s reached the point where the injury isn’t just a thing of the past, it’s not even a factor in his mind heading into the matchup.

“The recovery was pretty good,” he said.

“I got the surgery a couple of days after the fight with Jan, so I was immediately recovering. Every recovery is hard. It's a rollercoaster, going up and down. But, at the end of the day, I took a lot of time to get healed and I trust the knee, 100 percent.

Aleksandar Rakic of Austria kicks Jimi Manuwa
Aleksandar Rakic of Austria kicks Jimi Manuwa of England in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Ericsson Globe on June 1, 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

"The biggest achievement (in my recovery) is to not think about it and to 100 percent trust that knee. This is what I have, and this will not be a big deal in the fight.”

Prior to his injury TKO loss to Blachowicz in May 2022, Rakic’s only pro defeats came in his professional debut, and via split decision to former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. His powerful kickboxing-led style has seen him claim nine knockouts from his 14 career wins, with eight finishes (seven KOs, one submission) coming in the opening round.

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Rakic was on the cusp of a title shot at 205 pounds when injury struck against Blachowicz, but now, at the age of 32 and having lost two of years of his fighting prime, “Rocket” is ready to relaunch his career and make a beeline towards the 205-pound strap.

“Of course, in the beginning it was hard,” he admitted.

“But then, later on, it just motivates me and puts more oil into the fire and just made me work better, smarter, harder for the comeback, and to show the whole world that you’re going to expect a different Aleksandar Rakic than two years ago.”

Rise of Aleksandar Rakić
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Rise of Aleksandar Rakić
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Rakic said that a big performance over Prochazka could potentially thrust him straight into title contention, but he is staying fully focused on the challenge in front of him, with the Czech set to offer a tricky stylistic and mental test for the rangy Austrian on fight night.

“Yeah, it was very challenging for us to find sparring partners who move like him, but I think we did the best out of it,” he admitted.

“We just need to be focused all the time and not get emotional, because he loves that. And don't fall into his rhythm of fighting in the chaos. So (I need to) just do my thing and, if I do this, then I will be victorious.”

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As for how he envisions victory, Rakic admitted that he has “some scenarios” mapped out in his head. But his focus isn’t on how he’ll get the win, but just ensuring he gets it, by any means necessary.

Aleksandar Rakic of Austria reacts after his decision victory over Thiago Santos of Brazil in their light heavyweight fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Aleksandar Rakic of Austria reacts after his decision victory over Thiago Santos of Brazil in their light heavyweight fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“The most important thing is to get the victory on Saturday, and if the finish happens, it happens,” he said.

“So I will not predict anything. I just want to say that I'm ready for everything – for a knockout, for a submission, or for 15 minutes putting pressure on him and putting hell on him.”

How To Watch And Stream UFC 300 In Your Country

If he can do that, Rakic could end the night as the next man in line for a shot at the gold. It would also silence the doubters who have questioned whether he’ll be the same fighter in his return following his lengthy layoff.

“Just to prove them wrong, who those don't believe in me,” he said.

“And just let the people know and the world know that I'm still here, and that I am a potential title contender in the future.”

UFC 300: Pereira vs Hill took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 13, 2024. See the final Prelim and Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass