Friday, February 20, 2009

Jay Hieron: “The sky is the limit”

Originally posted on

Success in Mixed Martial Arts is typically measured by a fighter’s ratio of wins to losses, as well as the level of competition faced, and takes into account championship gold the individual has racked up along the way. With a professional record of 17-4 and the IFL’s final welterweight title-holder, it is fairly safe to say Jay Hieron has had a successful MMA careeer thus far.

However, truth be told, Hieron’s success in the sport goes far beyond his accomplishments inside the ring, as he’s overcome a number of battles in his personal life and ultimately emerged victorious in each (as indicated by both his status as a top 170-pound Mixed Martial Artist and as a hard-working, intelligent, considerate human being). From growing up in a rough section of Long Island to a solid collegiate wrestling career cut short by a mistake to an arrest for drug trafficking to Phil Baroni’s assistance on the path towards enlightenment to being an original member of one of the elite training facilities in the world to his involvement in a battle so bloody the UFC refused to air it, Hieron has lived a fascinating, thought-provoking life and opens up candidly about his experiences therein, plus much more, in the following exclusive 5 Oz. of Pain interview…

Conlan: I’d like to wind the clock back a bit before getting into current affairs or even looking forward to what the future holds. You first started boxing and wrestling in your early teens, in some ways taking your first steps on the career path you eventually chose to walk down. What originally sparked your interest in those particular sports? Did you ever think you would make a living incorporating either skill-set?

Jay Hieron: Nah, I mean…you know…that’s what still amazes me…I always liked boxing, wrestling at the time was like WWF stuff, but I always liked a contact sport, a one-on-one type of combative sport. I never thought about pursuing it. I was a kid that didn’t grow until later on in my life so I was always small or my age.
The reason I’m a boxer is that I started getting picked on, so one of my sister’s boyfriends at the time was boxing and took me to the boxing gym…that was right around the age of about thirteen…and when I was going into high school…you know, I’m not from the best place in the world…my high school was a little rough…so I that’s why I wanted to start defending myself. I couldn’t make it to the boxing gym was too far away, I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t depend on my sister’s boyfriend to take me all the time. They had wrestling at my high school so I ended up joining wrestling and I fell in love with the sport.

Conlan: At one point in high school you quit wrestling. What influenced that decision? How much of your present success do you credit to your high school coaches’ persistence about getting you back onto the mat during your senior year?

Hieron: Yeah, I mean…I was a young kid, I got my first car - it was like in eleventh grade - and, ya know, I was kind of over being in wrestling and sweating. Pretty much, I’m a strong-minded person so I just put…I was just like, “Man, I’m done with this, I just want to have fun right now.”

Definitely I owe a lot to my coaches. They were like father figures to me. They tried to pursue me every day…they would sneak around and see when I would be gettin’ out of class and act like they were walking - just run into me down the hallway. That was my coach Russ Celland. My other head coach was Terry Haise. He was more tough love. But you know, I owe a lot to those guys…I mean, if I didn’t wrestle my senior year I don’t think I would be in this position I’m in now, because I don’t think I would have went to college for wrestling.

So…definitely I owe a lot to those guys, and it’s one of those things where they give me guidance and they were definitely like father figures to me.

Conlan: Just prior to the start of your senior season in college you tested positive for marijuana use and ended up serving a season-long suspension as a result. What was your immediate reaction to the school’s decision to keep you out of competition? Did you feel at that point you were completely done with wrestling?

Hieron: Like I said before, I’m no angel - I’ve been through a lot of stuff, ups and downs in my life - and that’s something I did to myself, and it was one of those things where at that point in my life I was doing…you know, smoking herb and it came and backfired on me.

When I tested positive for it, I didn’t blame nobody. I blamed myself. But also, I was just like, “Wrestling took me as far as it could anyways.” I mean, there (were) no professional sports like now there is with Mixed Martial Arts, but back then it wasn’t like you could make a living off of MMA because it was still new. So, I really didn’t pay attention to it really. I was pretty much like, “I’m done anyways with the sport. It took me as far as I can go and now it’s time to make money.” And that’s when I put my full focus on trying to make money.

Conlan: When you left Hofstra you were only a semester or so away from graduating. Is that a decision you ever look back on and regret? Have you ever considered going back to school and finishing your degree?

Hieron: Well, yeah, of course I regret that decision. I mean, I’m kind of a bull-headed guy. Like I said, wrestling for me was taken away and I just supressed all those feelings I had for competition and stuff like that. I dropped out…I just left the school. You know, of course I do.

One day, I mean when I have time…my full focus right now is on my career…one day, I’m only fifteen credits away from my Bachelor’s Degree so that’s definitely something I would like to accomplish and finish, but it would have to be the right time, and right now all my time is in the Gym and trying to get my technique and skills better to be the best fighter I can be.

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