The vacant title is for grabs after Hill suffered a torn Achilles tendon in a pickup basketball game in July, which forced him to undergo surgery. Hill ultimately relinquished the title while recovering — the same move Prochazka made after he won the belt and then needed shoulder surgery.
While it was tough to give up a title he’d just won six months earlier, Hill knew it was the right thing to do, especially with Prochazka ready to return.
“Originally when it happened, that was my first thought [to hold onto the title], but the thing is they had a deal already in place with Jiri,” Hall said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Jiri didn’t just vacate his title. He wasn’t just being a samurai and vacating his title. It was heavily suggested [he should vacate]. There was a deal made where he would fight for it upon his return.
“So whenever you get me and then I get hurt, we were supposed to fight, and I have the belt, and he’s promised a title fight. It was just kind of right to do the same thing.”
After relinquishing the title, Hill underwent surgery on his torn Achilles with famed physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache performing the surgery.
ElAttrache is widely considered one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the world, and he’s performed operations on a number of top athletes including UFC superstar Conor McGregor as well as Georges St-Pierre and Francis Ngannou. As far as Achilles’ injuries, ElAttrache also just recently performed surgery on New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers after the suffered the same fate as Hill in his first game of the NFL season.
To some surprise, Rodgers not only got back to his feet quickly after ElAttrache repaired his torn Achilles, but the four-time NFL MVP also teased he could potentially return to the field before the end of the 2023 season.
Hill says his torn Achilles’ tendon happened under different circumstances than Rodgers, but they both may get to resume their careers sooner than expected.
“I had tendinosis in the tendon where it was damaged over a long period of time, and that damage ultimately led to the tear,” Hill said of his injury. “As opposed to maybe you’re cramping, or it might be weakened one day, and then you make the motion at the wrong time and it pops. You come back a little bit quicker than that as opposed to then the tendinosis with the tendon blood flow being weak to it over time. Some of the tissue in the tendon dying and things like that.
“I think also with [Aaron Rodgers], there was a big 300-pound lineman on his back twisting with that motion, with that pivot. So I think that had a lot to do with it, too. There’s different levels to the tear with that, as well.”
Tendinosis is the “degeneration of the tendon’s collagen in response to chronic overuse,” which can eventually play a part a serious injury like the one Hill suffered.
That being said, Hill still remains on schedule to get cleared so he can get back to full MMA training in early 2024. He’s already plotting his eventual return to the UFC.
“Looking at hopefully six months from the surgery [to get back to training],” Hill said. “Not bad. I plan on making my return in the second quarter of the year.
“Recovery process has been good. It’s been a lot quicker actually than I thought it would be. I’ve been making good strides. I’ve been walking now for a while. I’m getting back to my normal footwear and things. Just taking it slow. We were taking it slow, but now, it’s a little bit more aggressive. Looking to hopefully hit that six-month mark to be back and looking toward getting booked.”
As far as what awaits his return, Hill doesn’t care much about who holds the title as long as he has the chance to become champion again. He may have given up the belt so the division could move forward, but the UFC has promised he will still be treated like a champion when he returns.
“I was guaranteed when I come back, I will be given the title fight,” Hill said. “[I will receive] the same champion purse and pay-per-view points.”