Jay Hieron: "Being A MMA Fighter Living In Vegas And Not Fighting In The UFC Sucked"
After a 4-0 start to his professional career, Hieron made the jump to the UFC in 2004, facing Georges St-Pierre in his first Octagon appearance. The Las Vegas native suffered a lopsided technical knockout loss to the then-unknown St-Pierre and was subsequently released from the UFC.
Three consecutive wins over the following year would bring Hieron back to the UFC, however, "Thoroughbred" ended up suffered a third-round cut at the hands of Jonathan Goulet, forcing cageside doctors to call a halt to the bout. Hieron was once again cut by the UFC.
“I’ve never had anything handed to me, and I’m glad it went this way," continued Hieron. "It’s been a long time coming but, okay, this is the way it happened. I’m mentally tougher than I would be if I was in the UFC all along. I’ve dealt with things a lot of fighters have never had to deal with. I always believed I belonged in the UFC, that was I as good as the guys in the UFC.
“It is tough, living in Vegas, living in the UFC’s home town, and seeing all these big cards all the time. I have cornered on big UFC shows and wondered when I would be back. I had people ask me if I was an amateur fighter, because why wasn’t I in the UFC? I’ve had great runs, beaten top guys, but it just wasn’t my time. Either I was signed or I was injured, it just never worked out for me to come back to the UFC, but I never got deterred. I had to take a different route and, now I am here, I appreciate it all so much.
“I feel haven’t achieved what I was supposed to achieve yet. Now I can. Now I am in the UFC, in a huge fight, I am so mentally strong. Some guys get everything quick and maybe they don’t appreciate what they had. But I will appreciate this. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The Xtreme Couture representative then found a home in the now-defunct International Fight League where he would spend the next two years. During his tenure under the IFL banner, Hieron racked up a 7-2 record, including a unanimous decision win over world-ranked welterweight Jake Ellenberger.
Fast forward to 2012, Hieron has since gone on an 11-1 run, competing for the likes of Strikeforce and Bellator in the process. Ellenberger, meanwhile, was slated to take on Josh Koscheck in the co-main event of UFC 151 on September 1. Koscheck, however, was forced to withdraw from the bout due to an injury, prompting the UFC to bring Hieron back in his place.
“I couldn’t ask for a better comeback fight," said Hieron. "I beat him before, and I will beat him again. I fought him back in 2006 and he was a hot prospect, he didn’t know he could lose and I beat him on points. I know he’s super-tough, and a much different fighter with a ton of experience, but I know I can beat him again. I know him very, very well.
“I beat him in our fight and then I cornered Mike Pyle and Martin Kampmann against him. Jake’s last loss was to Martin and we spent a lot of time breaking down Jake’s style so Martin could take advantage of his weaknesses. I feel I know what Jake brings to the Octagon as well as anyone. I’ve fought him and I’ve cornered against him twice. Now, he’s a tough contender, I know. But whenever he thinks of his first loss, he thinks of losing to me and that will be in his mind. He knows I can beat him because I’ve done it before. I taught him how to lose."
UFC 151 takes place on September 1 at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center and is headlined by a light heavyweight title clash between reigning champion Jon Jones and ex-PRIDE and Strikeforce titleholder Dan Henderson. In the co-main event, Jay Hieron returns to the Octagon to take on world-ranked welterweight Jake Ellenberger in a rematch six-years in the making.