By Jason Kelly twitter.com/jaykaymma
Bellator 35 takes place this Saturday in California, and welterweight Jay “The Thoroughbred” Hieron is ecstatic to make his debut under the Bellator banner, and show them what he can do.
“I’m definitely excited,” Hieron said to MMA DieHards in an interview. “I think Bellator is going to come and in the future (there) will be big things for them. They got the MTV2 deal, which is huge, we’re in over 80 million homes, I’m ready and it’s a great time for me to be a part of it.”
Hieron has been in the upper echelon of welterweights for quite some time, and when he was with Strikeforce, there were talks of a title shot. Hieron unquestionably deserved an opportunity to challenge for the strap. He has won seven consecutive fights, over guys like Joe Riggs and Jason High, plus “The Thoroughbred” comes in to finish fights. The proof is in his 19-4 record that consists of six (T)KO’s and five submission wins.
Once Hieron became a free agent and Strikeforce did not make a push to re-sign him and grant a title shot to the Xtreme Couture fighter, he moved on to greener pastures.
“I sat so long because I was under contract,” Hieron stated. “My fight contract was up, but they had a clause on me. (Strikeforce) had a deal on the table for me, but we were going in different directions. I signed for a title fight, it didn’t happen, long story short, I’m signed with Bellator now, and I’m excited.”
Considering the tear Hieron is currently on, it was no surprise when every major MMA promotion pursued the standout welterweight, and even though the UFC was looking at him, it was Bellator that enticed him the most.
“I come from a tournament style background,” Hieron admitted. “I was a part of that IFL Grand Prix, I won that, so I kind of like that tournament format. You win, you move forward. That’s the kind of style I like, so that was a big selling point, also the MTV2 (deal) is great. I think these guys are going about promoting the organization in a good way.”
Hieron also commends Bellator President and CEO Bjorn Rebney for creating their own identity, and not trying to be the UFC.
“They’re not trying to compete with the UFC,” said Hieron. “If you try to compete with the UFC, those are the big dogs, they crush you. You definitely have to do it in small doses and build your brand first before you try to come out and go head-to-head with them. They definitely the pioneers, they the best, they did what they had to do to get where they’re at. If you going to follow a regiment, you got to follow it that way. I think Bjorn is a real sharp guy, and he’s doing it that way. Small baby steps to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
Given that this is Hieron’s first fight under the Bellator banner, the difference in promotions does not standout as of yet, but he is happy with what he has noticed thus far.
“This is my first fight so I can’t say much, but I can see that (Rebney) is sharp,” Hieron said. “He’s building his brand, and it’s something I’m happy to be a part of right now. In the future we’ll see, but for right now, I’m happy.”
Happiness might have been what kept Hieron positive when his original opponent for Bellator 35 was injured in training. Hieron was forced to change up his training camp when Anthony Lapsley stepped in for the injured Steve Carl less than a month before the scheduled fight.
“What was good was that Steve Carl likes to switch stances a lot, so I was pretty much training for a right-hand and a left-handed guy,” Hieron admitted. “I switched over to a straight south paw because that’s what Anthony is. He’s a tough guy, he’s no pushover, (and) he comes to fight. I’m ready for whomever really, I’m in tremendous shape and I’m counting down the days. I’m getting my weight down and getting ready to go out and put on a show.”
Training at Xtreme Couture covers everything Hieron could possibly need, and the superstar welterweight considers himself extremely fortunate to have the ability to train alongside Randy Couture, Ron Frazier, Vitor Belfort and a laundry list of former champions and top level fighters with a plethora of experience.
“I did my full camp at XC,” Hieron informed DieHards. “That’s my home, that’s where I train, I’ve been at that place since day one, and that’s where I’m most comfortable. If I need a different type of look, if I’m fighting somebody and we don’t have that style in the gym, then I bring somebody in. I don’t have to go anywhere, god bless. A lot of guys have to travel, (but) I have my great gym in my backyard.”
Hieron is in shape and ready to fight. He is focused on the fight that lies before him, and not distracted by outside interferences such as impressing his new bosses.
“I don’t feed into stuff like that,” Hieron explained. “I’m going to go out and do my job, I’m prepared 100 percent, and I’m going to go out and do me. I try not to put any extra pressure on me, even though there’s always pressure, but the little extra stuff, I try not to pay attention to. I train my mind just as much as my body, and I’m going to go out there on fight night, and do what I do.”
Hieron brings star power to Bellator. He is a fantastic fighter to watch, plus there’s a certain swagger about “The Thoroughbred” that makes him unique. Hieron is a great asset to any MMA organization. He wins fights in an exciting fashion, he’s marketable, and he’s an all-around great guy.
Those are the traits a fighter can bring to a promotion and help inflate the brand, and Hieron possesses all of them.