Fresh off of his IFL Welterweight Championship victory over Delson Heleno, "The Thoroughbred" Jay Hieron sits down with MMARising.com for an exclusive interview on fighting, training and what he feels are the keys to success in mixed martial arts.
Jay has a professional record of 14-4, and has competed in numerous top promotions and against many of the best welterweights in the world during his career. In the International Fight League, Jay is a member of the Los Angeles Anacondas, which found great success in 2007.
To listen to the audio recording of this interview with Daniel Regan and Jay Hieron, please click here.
Daniel: Beginning with the basics, Jay, where were you born?
Jay: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Freeport, Long Island.
Daniel: And where do you currently reside?
Jay: Las Vegas, Nevada.
Daniel: Can you tell the readers of MMARising.com what team and fight camp you're part of?
Jay: Xtreme Couture fight team and camp in Las Vegas.
Daniel: Now, we definitely want to talk about the IFL Welterweight title fight you just had, and that wonderful victory. Congratulations on that. I was definitely impressed.
Jay: Thanks, man. I appreciate it. It's a dream come true.
Daniel: What did your camp look like leading up to your last fight?
Jay: It looked great. Things could not have gone any better. I came into the fight with no injuries, mentally and physically 100%, so I was ready going in.
Daniel: It definitely showed. Did you have any concerns coming into this fight at all?
Jay: Well, I knew I had a tough fight ahead of me, but I like the tough fights. It was for the World Welterweight title in the IFL, and I wanted to fight the toughest guy in the IFL. On paper, he was the 2:1 favourite, so he was the one favoured in the fight. Those are the kinds of guys I like to fight. I rise to those occasions. I've got to say thanks to all of those guys around me, who fight on all of the top shows, because they're all mentally strong.
Daniel: Your victory over Delson had an unfortunate ending, when he suffered an injury and couldn't continue. However, he did look tentative to stand and strike with you before the injury. Any thoughts on a rematch when he's healed up, or any other comments on the fight?
Jay: I was so focused on that night that even if he had gotten back up and answered the bell, I would have knocked him down again. I truly believe that. I have no problems facing him again. Whoever the IFL puts in front of me, I'm going to train just as hard for. I'm going to train harder now because I've got to defend my belt. I feel that a true champion gets right back in there and defends the belt. I'm already getting ready for the next one.
Daniel: In the fight, were you upset at all at the way the crowd was reacting during some parts? It seemed that every time there was a break in the action, even if just for a moment, the crowd would get upset, even though you were constantly trying to engage.
Jay: Nah, I'm a professional. I really didn't even hear the crowd until after the fight, when I saw it on tape. The only thing I hear when I'm in the fight is my corner; the guys who are screaming to me every day, screaming combinations in the days of training leading up to the fight. That's just part of the game, and some fans just don't understand that you've got tactics, you know?
Daniel: Absolutely. For 2008, what challengers are you looking at? Has the IFL announced any opponents for you?
Jay: I believe I'm fighting on April 4th in New Jersey. I don't know for sure who my opponent will be yet, but it should be on April 4th.
Daniel: I might attend that show, myself, so good luck to you there.
Jay: The East Coast crowd is harder to please than anyone. They love action, but I'm from the East Coast and I love fighting over there. I feel that I'm an exciting fighter, but I'm also a smart fighter, so I'm not just going to go out there and start swinging with someone for no reason, either.
Daniel: Now, you're a veteran of many MMA promotions in North America, including the UFC. Besides the team-format competitions, what do you feel sets the IFL apart from other promotions? What have your experiences with the IFL been like, compared to other promotions you've fought for?
Jay: My experience with the IFL has been great. I've fought for a number of top organisations, and the IFL has always treated me right and treated me like a professional. I've been with them since they had nothing, and now they're growing into a big organisation. I'm just happy to be a part of it.
Daniel: So, where do you see yourself a year from now? Do you see a lengthy future with the IFL, or a return to the UFC or elsewhere? Are you content defending your title for now?
Jay: Right now, I'm just looking for my next fight and trying to stay healthy. When it comes down to that road, I'll think more about that, but I don't like to look past opponents. I'm just trying to stay as healthy as I can so that I can prolong my career. If I start trying to think a year down the line, that's too far in the fight game. You've got to worry about where you are right now, and take care of your body and your mind.
Daniel: The fight game is definitely very gruelling.
Jay: What I always say is that you've got to have balance. When I first started in this, it was 365 days a year of fighting, training and thinking about fighting. I got burnt out. After my fights, I try to take off a bit of time - not a lot of time where I get out of shape - to rest my body and my mind, and just relax and not think about fighting. Then, when I come back to training, I have fun with it. I train to learn. With the IFL Grand Prix, it's a little harder because I fought in November and then again on December 29th. Right now, I'm only training once per day, but then I'll pick it back up when I'm about eight weeks out from my next fight.
Daniel: Definitely. That's one thing that a lot of fighters should take notice of. They tend to wear themselves out. On the topic of training, what is a typical day of training for you when you're leading up to a fight?
Jay: I have a six-day training regimen, twice per day. It depends, but sometimes I'll train sparring three times per week, which is either with small gloves or large ones. When I train with the smaller gloves, it's generally wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling. With the large gloves, it's more striking, but I always try to make it like MMA. Even when I have the large gloves on, I'm trying to take guys down. I make it as realistic as possible so that, when I get into the fight, I have more of a flow. I also have days where I'll focus just on wrestling, or just on Jiu-Jitsu, but I always end by finding a way to put it all together. We're still all learning, and it's a young sport, so you've got to change with it.
Daniel: Definitely. The point you made about mixing up your training; rather than separating your stand-up and your ground game, you mix it all into one. That's a really good point that I don't think a lot of people follow these days.
Jay: Yeah, and if you're slacking in one area, you have to pay attention to that, too, but you've got to try to put it all together. For me, I feel good about seven or eight weeks out from a fight, and that's when I start picking my training camp up. I'm definitely getting pushed then, so it's more about fighting for me. Right now is the time where I'll maybe try to learn some more Jiu-Jitsu and stuff like that.
Daniel: Do you weight train or strength train?
Jay: Yes, sir. We have a great strength and conditioning guy at Xtreme Couture. I do that three times per week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. You've also got to break up your day, so if I have a hard sparring day in the afternoon, I'll just do something light or technical in the morning. That way, I have energy for my afternoon practice, because that's the hard one that I need all of my energy for. If my strength and conditioning is really hard on a Tuesday morning, I'll do something technical after that. You've got to listen to your body in this game, too. If you're hurting, maybe you need a workout or an entire day off. There's a thin line between training hard and overtraining.
Daniel: For amateur fighters reading on MMARising.com, what are some examples of exercises that you'll run through?
Jay: We do a lot of circuit training. What our strength and conditioning guy has us do, and what I feel definitely took my cardio to the next level, is some weights and then some cardio in between. We use a treadmill, do some sprints, stairs and a bike routine, and then we go right back to band push-ups and band bench presses. It's all explosive training, and then we go right back to the cardio again.
Daniel: Away from the topic of training, if you could change anything in your fighting career, what would it be and why?
Jay: I wouldn't change anything, man. With all of the wins and losses, I just stuck with it. I've had a lot of ups and downs in this game, and I think the downs were what kept me motivated. I feel that, more than your wins, you see a man's character by his losses. I'm proud of what I did, and I've still got a lot more to go. I feel that I'm still young in this game, and I want to accomplish a lot more. I'm nowhere near ready to sit back and think about what I've done yet.
Daniel: That's a great mentality. Now, you're known as a very well-rounded fighter, with numerous victories by both submission and TKO. Do you feel that this gives you an advantage over more one-dimensional fighters, or does it depend on the style they use when they fight?
Jay: I definitely feel that if you're training for a guy who is pretty good everywhere, it's a harder guy to fight and a harder guy to train for. I want to keep my opponent guessing in every fight. In every fight, I look a little different. It depends on who I'm fighting. I could take a guy down and ground and pound him, or I could keep the fight standing and knock him out. Or, I could submit him on the ground. That's the type of fighter that I am, and that's how I train. I try to train everything equally, and I put it all together equally, too. Like I said, I never stop learning and I try to soak up everything like a sponge. If you really want to be a great fighter, I think that's the mentality to have.
Daniel: Do you have any advice for younger fighters who are looking to break into the IFL or other, smaller MMA promotions?
Jay: Hard work pays off, man. Even on those bad days where you don't feel like doing anything, and you think that it'll never happen, just keep working hard and don't listen to what people say about how you'll never make it. Get positive people around you, get good people around you and work hard. It will pay off.
Daniel: Anybody you would like to thank?
Jay: Yeah, Xtreme Couture, Marc Ecko, my sponsors and my training camp.
Daniel: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview with MMARising.com.