Archive for the ‘Life & Times of Jay Hieron’ Category

Life & Times of Jay Hieron Volume 5

Posted: August 6, 2008 by Xtreme Couture MMA in Jay Hieron, Life & Times of Jay Hieron

(Photo: l-r Nassau Community College Wrestling Coach Paul Schmidt, Freeport HS Wrestling Coaches Terry Haies and Chris Edmond, former Freeport HS Wrestler Eduardo Ramirez, Jay and Freeport HS Wrestling Coach Russ Cellan.  Taken after Jay’s IFL Title defense against Mark Miller April 4, 2008 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey)

In case you missed any of the first 4 Volumes you can check them out here. Volume 5 picks up in the Summer of 2007.

I was doing great in the IFL. I was winning fights and finishing them. I felt my game was coming into its own. My training camp for the Brad Blackburn fight was going great. I felt healthy. Trained a couple weeks in Temecula, CA at Dan Henderson’s camp. Dan’s one of the toughest guy’s I’ve trained with.

The fight didn’t go how I expected. I got caught behind the ear and that was it. Ref stopped it, TKO. It was a good shot. Anybody gets hits there, that’s it. I had to go back to the drawing board. Every time you lose, you need to take a couple days then get back on it. I went away to California for a week with my wife. My wife and I were going through some personal issues anyway at that time. She was upset I was spending so much time on training and being away and she was out here in Vegas working, away from her family back in New York. We were both stressing each other out. Stuff was built up for awhile. I put blame on myself because I was trying to focus 100% on my career. To be great at something you need to make sacrifices. So we took a break. I moved out of my house and was staying on one of my friend’s couches. There’s more to the story but I’m not going to go into detail.

At this point I’m stressing the situation. Thinking, where’s my career? I was doing that after the loss, plus the situation with my old lady. I got back in the gym and starting hitting the bag like I always do when I’m stressed. Training is my therapy and it’s what makes me feel good when things are going bad.

I immediately started training for my next fight. With the IFL we were constantly fighting with the team concept and the Team Grand Prix coming up, and then the individual Grand Prix. I was getting ready for Rory Markham in the Semi-Finals of the team tournament. In training camp I broke a rib. So I had to pull out of that fight and I did a lot of thinking and soul searching. I was hurting emotionally and physically. When you got a rib injury it is constant pain, breathing, coughing, laughing.

Days would pass and I’m just sitting on the couch. Weeks were passing. I just started trying to make myself feel better. I told myself, life isn’t that bad. Just because you lose a fight it isn’t the end of the world. I’ve just got to get back at it. And I love my wife to death. I believe if two people love each other God will make them find each other. I had to stop stressing. My whole motto is to keep going forward. As soon as I healed up as much as I could and felt better I got right back in the gym.

I talked to Randy and a couple of close friends and that’s when I started doing my mental training. Visualization, positive self-talk, I even spoke with a sports psychologist. I felt even before all my problems started, that I wasn’t letting the real Jay Hieron out in my fights. I’d always go into fights stressing about stuff. I wanted to let that guard down. When I first started the mental training it was very hard for me. I had to train it like I was training for a fight. When I would visualize, so many other thoughts would creep into my mind and I would have trouble focusing. I spoke to randy and he said “that’s normal”, that even when he does it other thoughts come into his mind and you have to focus on what you are visualizing. I kept at it and kept working on it. It made me a stronger person and made me feel better about myself. It let me stop stressing and be happy.
I started to feel better with my body. My rib healed up fine and I went into camp with my new mental skills. My next fight was the opening round of the Individual Grand Prix.

I almost missed the Grand Prix! The IFL wanted to sign all the guys who were in the tournament to new contracts that lasted two years. I wasn’t having it. They said we couldn’t fight in the Grand Prix without signing the contract. Monte Cox, my manager, got involved and was going back and forth with them. He represented three guys in the Grand Prix; me, Mike Whitehead and Ben Rothwell. Monte was telling the IFL that none of us were going to fight and that it was a garbage contract. Rothwell ended up leaving outright. He got more money to go somewhere else and Whitehead went to the Philippines to fight. When this whole thing was going on, one of these guys who worked for the IFL came by the gym and said he wanted to talk to me. He said, “Let’s go out to my car so we can talk.” We go to his car and he told me I had to sign the contract right then. I told him my manager had to look it over first. He said if I didn’t sign it right there I would be released. I’m not just a stupid fighter. I’m not going to sign something I don’t understand. I told him to shove it up his ass. I called Monte and told him what went down. He was real upset. So we started looking for other offers out there. Stuff was coming in. People were offering me pretty good money, but also I knew I could win the Grand Prix. It was always a dream of mine to be a champ. I’m not just in it for the money. I knew at that point that I was two fights from being a champion. If I went to a new organization I would have to start from the bottom. The IFL ended up changing the whole contract around for me. We took out all the stipulations and the sneaky little Chinese wording at the bottom. I signed it and moved on to the Grand Prix.

My attitude was focused on feeling good, the visualization techniques really helped me.. My original opponent, Pat Healy got hurt three weeks out, they replaced him with Gideon Ray and he got hurt so they signed Donnie Liles to fight me the week of the fight. He said he’d take it but they’d have to let him weigh-in at 180 pounds because he was training for a fight the following week at 185 pounds. He weighed in at 180 and they docked his pay, but I had an opponent. Even with all the constant switching and uncertainty that came with it, I didn’t care I just wanted to fight. I was so focused on the fight that I didn’t mind the opponent changes. I was just happy to be healthy and fighting.

Liles was real strong in that fight. He came into the fight weighing at least 200 pounds. I fought him a couple months before that and guillotined him in the first round. I put him in the guillotine again and he wasn’t having it. He’d learned from the first one. It felt good to be out there and thinking positive thoughts during a hard fight. I felt good that fight. I wore him out with takedowns and striking and won the decision. He was a big guy, hard to finish.

Right after that one of my teammates from High School, Eduardo Ramirez, called me. He told me that Tommy English, the guy who took my spot on the wrestling team in 9th Grade, was locked up and wanted to call me or write me a letter. I said yeah. He wrote me and told me he was watching me on TV in jail and that my success fighting inspired him. He asked me a bunch of questions about fighting. He said he was real interested in training. His time was almost up and he was coming up for work release. He said he wanted to use fighting to make positive changes in his life like I had. I told him about getting in shape. I said, “Start out slow and build yourself up to get in better shape”. I told him to seek out a Muay Thai gym and a jiu jitsu gym and work on his fundamentals. He was in Philadelphia at the time, so I told him to ask around for a good place. He ended up really taking to it and he is fighting now amateur. He won his first amateur Muay Thai fight. I believe everything happens in circles and his story inspires me.

After the Donnie Liles fight I got a place with Mike Pyle. He had a problem with his girl.  He ended up breaking up with her right before the Jake Shields fight in Elite XC. The actual week of the fight. We ended up getting a place. It was perfect timing for both of us if you want to say that. Me and him click. There’s not too many guys I want to live with. I like living alone. Mike does his own thing and I do mine. He’s on the video games and I watch movies and we have our own space in the house.

I started getting ready for the Grand Prix Final against Delson Heleno. I train every fight like I’m training for the best guy in the world and I take nobody lightly. With Delson I knew it was going to be tough fight. He’s the best submission guy in the IFL with a great top game. For this fight I had a perfect game plan. I wanted to use my wrestling to stay on my feet so I could use my striking. I’d been wrestling since I was 14 and knew it would be an advantage for me. Camp went well. I got sick during the camp and had a chest cold for about four weeks. I was coughing up nasty phlegm. I pushed through it and felt good mentally. I felt nothing could stop me in that fight.

About 2 weeks before the fight I got a call from my sister telling me that my father had passed. My family asked if I was coming back and said they were doing the funeral right away. But that was my last hard week, I had to train. In a training camp you do a hard week two weeks from the fight then slow down and let your body heal the week of the fight. I was thinking about flying home for a day to say goodbye to my father. But that was my most important week so I couldn’t leave. I told my mom that I had to miss the funeral. My family is real supportive and understood. My mom was contemplating not telling me about his death anyway until after the fight. I felt like my father was watching over me and that I was doing what he would have wanted me to do. He would have told me to stay in there and train for the fight. I just used it as more motivation. I didn’t tell anybody at the gym what happened. I didn’t want anybody feeling bad for me. Everyone’s spirits were high. Everyone was happy. I didn’t want to think about his passing and start feeling down. So I used my mental skills to block that out. It sounds bad but I had to do it. It was a dream fight, for a world title.

My game plan was good, I was focused and felt great going into the fight. I was thinking positive and happy to be there. I was so zoned in, that the only voices I heard were my corner.  My whole family lives in New York and all went up to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut for the fight. I had over 100 friends and family there and didn’t hear them or anyone from the crowd. All I could hear were Shawn Tompkins, Randy and Mike Pyle the voices that were with me for 8 weeks of training camp. Everything was on that night. I took the center of the ring and started letting my combinations go. I stuffed his shot and made him pay every time he tried to get me down. I started landing and started getting closer and closer to landing that big shot. I was pecking away at him. He kicked me and I could see in his face that he was hurt. I jumped on him. Right hand, uppercut, knees and he dropped. I just unleashed on him from there. The ref came in to break it up and I started celebrating. I thought he had stopped the fight, but Randy told me that it was just the end of the round. I stopped celebrating and tried to get my heart rate down. It turned out that Delson couldn’t continue for round 2 and I was the champion. That was the best day for my fighting career.

After the fight I saw Coach Russ Cullen from High School, he was up at the fight in Connecticut. He told me to come by the school and stop by the gym. He said the wrestling team had a big match coming up and they’d be pumped up to see me.  I went up to Freeport High School with the IFL belt. Coach Russ was so proud of me. He was brining me around the whole school showing me and the belt off to everybody. It felt great. It felt like I had accomplished something. A lot of the kids had seen my fights and recognized me. Even one of the teacher’s Coach brought me to was a fan. She took pictures with me and told me that she watched all my fights.

I spent two weeks on Long Island with my family. We shared New Year’s together and I went to see my dad. I said goodbye at the gravesite. My sisters took me there and we reminisced about him. Its all good, he went to a better place. He went in his sleep.

When I got back to Vegas I went right into training, but not fight training right away. Somebody’s always got fights coming up, at that point it was Pyle and Tyson Griffin, so I helped them get ready.

I decided to make my divorce official. I went to my wife’s job to talk to her about it. She agreed we should talk about it, but not at her job. I’m a stubborn guy so when I put my mind somewhere I keep at it. I had decided we should get divorced, so I was trying to block the feelings I had for her and just talk about divorce. But it was hard to do. We had so much time together and I know how much she loves me and that she loves me for who I really am. She was there for me and believed in me when I had nothing. It’s hard to find true people when things are going well, because you don’t know if they’re fake or not. We ended up that conversation saying that we were going to go see a lawyer. I met up with her a couple more times to talk about divorce and we realized that we both still had feelings for each other. So we talked about it and thought we’d try to work things out slow instead of getting divorced right away. A relationship is like a job, you need to work at it. To have a successful relationship it takes a lot of work. I said let’s push the divorce back a little and try to give it another shot, try to work it out slow. She said OK.

I get notified that I’m fighting Mark Miller. I knew he’s a striker with heavy hands, a tough guy to finish, always in good shape. I don’t like to watch too much tape or worry too much about what my opponent is going to do, because my plan is to go out and impose my will. When I watch tape I look at what hand he uses, does he like to come out aggressive, little things. I’ll look at a little of his wresting or ground game and see what his habits are. I don’t think it’s good for you if you watch your opponent too much.

My training camp went well. No major injuries. I got a little sick which is normal for me once I get going hard. I had to bump things up because it was a 5 round title fight. All my shark tanks and conditioning had to be bumped up to five rounds. Going in I felt great, mentally and physically. It was the main event at the Meadowlands in Jersey which is close to my home. That’s great for me because I have a lot of friends and family who support my career and a lot of East Coast fans.

I came out and imposed my will on him right away. I thought it would be a longer fight than it was but it ended quick. I got him with my inside leg trip and pounded on him. I came out uninjured with another victory in front of all my friends and family and fans. It was a beautiful thing.

I came out for that fight wearing the logo for Double Sport, a short and rashguard company owned by a guy named Mario Mercado. He agreed to pay me $3,000 to wear the shorts for the fight plus $1,500 if I won by knock out or submission and $1,500 per month from April until August. I still haven’t seen a dime from it. The same thing happened with a company called Serious Pimp in the Grand Prix. Which is ridiculous because as hard as we work, these clowns should pay us. We get in there and put our health and reputation on the line every time we get out there. On top of that, I did my part. I wore the logos in a fight that was on TV and had pictures all over the internet and newspapers.

The Serious Pimp clown finally paid me in June. I agreed that he could pay me half the money. At that point I was like whatever, I’ll take anything I can get. The only thing I would put his logo on now is toilet paper so I can wipe my ass with it. Thanks to the Serious Pimp guy I learned from my mistakes. With Mario I did a contract. So he can play all the games he wants but at the end of the day he will pay.

I was hearing rumors for about the last year and a half I’d been with the IFL about how they were having financial problems and they were going to fold. To me, I was trying not to stress the situation because I didn’t have any control of it. I just went on with my business training for my next fight, which was supposed to be in August. They cancelled that show and said I could fight a single fight anywhere I wanted. That’s when I started thinking they might go under. It looked like I had a fight lined up for real good money and the IFL called up and said I couldn’t do it. Then in the end of July Monte called me and told me the IFL got sold to UFC. IFL fighters’ contracts are different from all other organization contracts because it was team based and had monthly salaries. A lot of guys from the IFL got released because they couldn’t go with that contract into UFC, then got resigned by UFC. I finally got released and I’m getting offers right now, waiting to get the best offer and see what makes the most sense for my career.

Life & Times of Jay Hieron Volume 4

Posted: May 1, 2008 by Xtreme Couture MMA in Life & Times of Jay Hieron

In case you missed the previous installations of the Life & Times of Jay Hieron, they can be found here.

After I lost to Goulet because of the cut in my forehead and got dropped from the UFC for a second time, I did a lot of soul searching. I knew that MMA was what I wanted to do and I believed that it was something I was good at and could become very good, and hopefully great at. But there was something missing. My ground was getting pretty good and I was confident with my striking, but I wasn’t able to transition well in fights between my standup and ground. I knew that’s what I had to focus on to become a complete fighter.

I met Mike Pyle when I was training for the Goulet fight, we were both training at John Lewis’ gym J-Sect. Mike had just gotten in town from Denmark. He had been over in Denmark teaching jiu jitsu and was fighting across Europe. I’d heard his name before and knew that he was a real good fighter. He’d fought guys like Rampage, Andrei Semenov and John Fitch. J-Sect was a real good gym that a lot of top guys used when they were in town. Tito was over there training for a fight, so was Ricco Rodriguez and Marvin Eastman. I only got to train there a few times before the Goulet fight, but I realized if I was going to get better, those were the kinds of guys I had to be training with.

I went back to J-Sect and started training with Mike. He introduced me to boxing coach Ron Frazier and I started training with them, Forrest Griffin and Alex Schoenauer. Then Randy came over and started training with us because he was getting ready for the van Ardsdale fight and we all started training together. We trained everything together at J-Sect. Before that I had been going to one gym for grappling and another for striking. With the new setup, I felt like I got better immediately. After a little while we moved our training sessions over to the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter gym. They had turned a warehouse into a super gym which they used for the set of the reality show. It was perfect.

I really loved training with Mike because every day with him is something new. He’s always making me laugh. He’s a classic clown. That helps get you through training everyday. If I come in and I’m sore or tired or having a bad day, he’s got jokes or he’s doing something crazy and it makes me laugh. That helps you get through training. There’s some days I don’t feel like being there. But it’s what I have to do. I have a felony, so to get a job here you have to have a Sheriff’s card. I got denied three times on that. So that would make me a deadbeat if I’m not fighting. They always tell people with felonies, “oh you can still have opportunities and what not”. But once you mark down on that job application that you’ve had a felony you’re done. No job. That’s why I’m in here hitting that bag hard everyday.

At first when we started working out together we were all helping Randy get ready for his fight. It was his camp, but Randy still took time out to explain things to us and teach us. That amazed me, and really defined who Randy was to me. Here’s a guy at the top of the sport, getting ready for a big fight and he’s helping the rest of us young guys out. He’s a class guy. I said, “this is where I need to be”. You’re only as good as your training partners, and my training partners at that time (and still to this day) are the best in the sport. You don’t want to be a big fish in a small pond because you don’t get any better that way.

Phil (Baroni) was training with us too, which I liked since Phil and I have always been tight and he got me into the sport. He was bouncing back and forth between Vegas and the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose for his 8 week camps. But we’d always keep in touch even when he was up there. In this business, you have to do what’s best for you. Phil felt going up there for a couple weeks at a time was best for him, but for me I wanted to stay full time with the guys in Vegas. I also felt I needed to get myself a manager. Phil had gotten Monte Cox’s number and he gave it to me. I called Monte up and he told me that he’d call me back. Like he had to do a background check on me or something. I guess everything checked out OK, because he called me back. Monte said we could work something out. I knew he had a lot of guys and I was thinking about whether or not I should go with him because he had so many guys. I knew I needed a guy who would push me and get me fights. I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle. I’d already had a bunch of long layoffs at that point in my career, and I wanted to be fighting every month if I could. He got me a fight in Kansas, and I won it in a minute.

Right around that time the IFL offered Randy a team. Randy couldn’t do it because he was with the UFC. But Bas had a team and was looking for guys, so Randy called Bas and recommended me. Bas offered me and Pyle spots on his team the LA Anacondas. He also put Alex Schoenauer on the team. Pyle and I both fight at 170lbs so we were going to share the spot. He’d fight one show, I’d fight one show. But then Mike decided to move up to 185lbs because he thought it would make the team stronger. He has a bigger frame than me so he figured it would be easier for him to put the weight on and he’d already fought at 185 a couple times in his career. It ended up though that the guys were too big for him. He wasn’t cutting any weight. He’d weigh in at 185 and fight at 185 or maybe 188 or something and the guys he’d be fighting would weigh 200 pounds by fight time. It turned on he couldn’t put on the weight like he thought he could. So Pyle left the IFL and went back to 170 pounds where he is doing real well for himself. Right now he is getting ready to go to Japan to fight for World Victory Road.

We had a lot of good times in the IFL, Pyle and I. At one of the events we were at, the commission guys were watching us wrap our hands and everyone just started farting. Mike has the worst farts ever. Anyone who knows him knows that that is true. He should be in the Guiness Book of World Records for stinkiest farts. I’d bet my next purse that no one has worse farts. Bas had a towel over his face the whole time. It stank in that locker room. It got so bad at one point the commission guys had to leave the room. We were wrapping our hands with nobody watching. We could have put brass knuckles in our gloves. Of course we didn’t, we just wrapped our hands up right and went out and did our business.

I won my first two fights in the IFL. I felt that I had a new home and the guys in management wanted to push me. They told me that they wanted to develop and promote me as a fighter. That’s huge in this business. A lot of times you are just used up and tossed aside like an animal. It felt good having the promoters investing in me. I started to have that in Hawaii before that show went out of business and I’d been looking for it ever since. I’ve been at every level of this game from the guy who couldn’t get a fight, to the guy nobody wanted to fight, hard luck in fights and now finally I had a home. The IFL was guaranteeing 3-4 fights per year. Before, guys who were above me didn’t want to fight me because I was a good fighter and if they lost, it would lower their stock. Guys below me didn’t want to fight me because I was tough; but, in the IFL that was no problem because the league just told everyone who they had to fight. I’ll fight anyone–so I like that.

In the IFL everything was starting to come together for me. Mike and I were going back and forth between Vegas and LA. Bas’ gym is just North of LA in a place called Thousand Oaks. The IFL really wanted to have all the teams working out for at least 5 weeks or so before fights. So Pyle and I would go to our team camps down there. Randy let us stay at his condo in Beverly Hills when we’d train at Bas’. He’s got a sick place out there. The only thing bad about LA was the traffic. We had to be at Bas’ gym at 9am which meant we had to leave Beverly Hills at 7:30am to get there. It would take us an hour to get back. We’d have time to grab a sandwich and rest a few minutes then drive back for the afternoon practice. Bas is a great coach. He taught me to punch real hard. He had me in dog shape. There’s this hill by Bas’ house that he’d have us run up and sprint down then hit mits. It was a great training exercise. I really enjoyed my time training with him.

When we weren’t with Bas we were back in Vegas. Gray Maynard came in around that point. I had first met Gray at Cobra Kai, Marc Laimon’s gym, a while back. When a good grappler or wrestler would come to the gym Marc would clear the mat and put him in there with another guy and let the whole class watch. Gray came in and was talking with Laimon and Marc was like, “clear the mat”. I didn’t know who Gray was and he didn’t know who I was. We were just grinding, going at it hard. We were both going for takedowns but nobody could get one. We were really going at it. I knew right away, “this guy is real good”. It went 15 minutes and nobody got a takedown. Afterwards we shook hands. Gray told me who he was and I told him who I was, and that I was a Junior College National Champion. He was Division I for all four years so he didn’t have any respect for me. He told me that. I told him that he better respect me because most of the good Junior College guys are as good or better than the D-1 guys, but it’s the grades that screwed them up. We traded numbers after that and said we’d stay in touch. Gray was working full time at that point and wasn’t really thinking about being a fighter.

One day I got a call from Gray and he asked if he could come down and train with Randy and I. He said he wanted to do this fighting thing. I said sure, come down. Gray came in the gym weighing 200 pounds of muscle. He was strong as an ox. He was lifting weights but wasn’t really doing his proper cardio. He was a big muslehead. No neck at all. But I knew right from the start that Gray was going to be good because he’s such a competitor. I was right and Gray is an absolute stud today. He’s another guy who never stops learning and is willing to listen to anyone and learn from them. Randy is the same way and so is basically everyone in the gym. It’s one of the best things about this team.

By the point Gray came along we were in the TUF gym mostly. Randy and Forrest both had the key to it, and UFC didn’t really do anything with it when they weren’t filming a show. So we turned it into our gym. It was a great time because we had a beautiful gym and a bunch of active guys. Randy, Forrest, Pyle, Schoenauer, myself and Gray. Around that time Tyson Griffin joined the crew. He came to Vegas with Dave Terrell from the Bay area. Dave and Tyson were both training for fights and Dave was about to fight and lose to Evan Tanner for the UFC Middleweight title. Tyson clicked with everyone right off the bat. He’s a hard worker and a laid back guy and that’s a natural fit. He went home to Cali, got his stuff and came back to Vegas. He’s been with us since. We trained in the TUF gym for about a year then moved over to Xyience when the new season started. The Xyience gym at that time was about 2,000 square feet or so they’re in a bigger spot now, but when we were there it was tiny. Like a shoebox. Especially with all those big dudes. But we got it done. That’s how we started the team that became Xtreme Couture. It didn’t matter where we were training as long as we were all together. Even though MMA is an individual sport when you are in the ring or the cage, we’re a real team. One day Randy announced that he was going to open up his own gym and call it Xtreme Couture. We moved over there and were training on concrete floors inside a warehouse that used to be a battery factory. It was a big open warehouse with nothing in it. No bags, nothing. But we were all looking at the bigger picture. We already had a bond and knew that the gym would be great when it was finished. First thing we got was a cage. Some guys would spar in the cage the other guys would be on the concrete floor wearing their gym shoes. It’s not fun getting kicked in the head by a guy with a pair of Asics Gel Nimbis. That’s what I was wearing when I was kicking guys in the head. Then we got mats, bags, a ring, everything. The Xtreme Couture gym is the best gym in the world now if you ask me. I was there when it was nothing and I’m still there.

I had a couple wins in the IFL and everything is going well. I started to stop stressing everything in my life and forgot about the politics of fighting– all that other stuff in fighting and outside of fighting that I can’t control. I just focused on my performance in the ring which is the one thing in my life that I can control. Especially with the addition of Shawn Tompkins to the camp. He’s a great trainer and a great motivator. He helped with my striking and helped me to believe in my striking. When I first met Shawn he was training Dan Henderson and living in Temecula, California. We were training there and at Bas’ in Hollywood sometimes. I’m a disciplined fighter. I like to get my routine and stick to it. I felt like I had a great team and a great camp in Vegas and didn’t like having to leave. That said, I learned a lot from Bas and Dan. Those guys are both great competitors. Dan is a real tough guy, and one of the hardest hitting guys I ever sparred with. Tompkins was running a great camp in Temecula with Dan. Dan has a real nice gym there and they had a real good regimen of what they were doing. The way Dan trains is similar to the way Randy trains. They do a lot of sparring and Dan taught me a lot of clinch work and takedowns. I look up to Randy, Dan and Matt Lindland and how they came from wrestling and adapted it to MMA and changed MMA. I’m honored that I have been able to train with them and learn from them.

In June of 2007 the IFL was holding a show in Vegas. So, Shawn Tompkins decided instead of doing the camp in Temecula then going to Vegas the week before, to just do the whole camp at Randy’s gym. Just like when Tyson came, Tompkins found that he fit right in and loved the place. So he too decided to stay and took the job as head trainer of the Xtreme Couture team. I feel blessed that he did that. I love training with him. In this game, if you think you know everything, your days are numbered. I’m like a sponge. I’ll try to learn from everyone. These days in MMA, the skill sets are getting so that guys are good at everything and it comes down to who is in the best shape. Since I started working with our Strength and Conditioning coach, Jake Bonacci he has gotten my game to the next level. I don’t worry about my shape anymore going into fights. I know I’m going to be in shape if I can survive Jake’s workouts. And if I can get through his workouts, I’ll get through any fight because they are that hard.

In the next installment, Jay suffers a setback against Brad Blackburn and the buildup to Jay’s title run.

Life & Times of Jay Hieron Vol. 3

Posted: February 21, 2008 by Xtreme Couture MMA in Jay Hieron, Life & Times of Jay Hieron, Phil Baroni

In case you’ve missed them, go read Vol 1 and Vol 2.

Guys were pulling out left and right after my first fight. A couple of times I had guys pull out on me the week of the fight. That’s real frustrating, but I just kept on training and training. I’d take fights whenever and wherever I got them. I fought on back-to-back weekends one time. I was coming out to Vegas to help Phil train each time he did a training camp. When I was helping him train for the second Evan Tanner fight Mayhem Miller got injured and had to pull out of his fight with George St-Pierre. Dana had seen me train with Phil at the UFC gym. Dana told Phil, “That kid’s good, we’d like to have him on the show.”

I’m a fighter. Any real fighter would jump at the chance to get in the UFC when the chance comes up. I didn’t care who it was, UFC was calling and I said let’s go for it. They signed me to a three fight contract. I wish I had a manager back then to tell me this isn’t a good career move. But I was well prepared physically for the fight and wanted it. The only problem was I didn’t have the experience for a fight like that. St-Pierre beat me and UFC sent me a letter saying my contract was terminated. They can end those deals whenever they want.

I went back home after the fight. Even though I lost to St-Pierrre I knew I was still good at MMA and had the chance to make it in the sport. I just had to get my skills up. After your first loss you see what kind of man you are. Are you man enough to come back form a loss? Those are the guys I look up to, the ones who come back from adversity in their lives, guys that come back from downfalls. I see myself as one of those guys and that’s why I look up to other people with a story like that. Randy Couture coming back after two losses to Chuck and he goes up to Heavyweight and puts Tim Sylvia down. Classic David vs Goliath. I had the best seats in the house for that one. I was in the corner. Vinny Pazienza is another one. He comes back from a broken neck after doctors told him he’d never fight again. He’s training weights with the halo on his neck, comes back and becomes a World Champion again.

I was at the point where I said OK what am I going to do now? Stay in New York? I had good trainers there but my training partners couldn’t push me. In Vegas there were great fighters to train with. So I had to make a decision. To be great at something in your life you have to sacrifice. I had to sacrifice moving across country away from all my family and friends. I had a bad experience when I went away to college for a few months. I didn’t really want to leave New York. But I knew I had to, to be successful in my career. I knew I could do well at this I just had to surround myself with great fighters. Las Vegas is the fight capital of the world. Boxing and MMA. At the time when I moved to Vegas (2004) it was the only place that had a bunch of MMA gyms. Now there are gyms back home but back then it was still under the radar.

Moving to Vegas wasn’t going to be easy since I was on probation. I told my Probation Officer about my plan. He knew I was doing well fighting and was proud of me. He had seen my fight on Pay Per View with St-Pierre. I told him moving to Vegas was how I was going to elevate my game. He told me it would be hard and probably impossible to do. See when you’re on probation and you want to move to another State you have to switch your probation to that State. Nevada is one of the toughest States to switch your probation to. I got my lawyer on it. He called Nevada and was told if I didn’t have family out here there is no way I could move to Vegas. I put the paperwork in anyway and did what I always do; I rolled the dice. I figured things would work out one way or the other if I stayed positive.

I packed all my stuff up in a couple suitcases and sent my cars (my wife’s car and my car) on a delivery truck and we flew. My wife didn’t want to go. I was telling her this is all I got. This is the only thing good I can look forward to and that competing in MMA makes me feel good about myself. I haven’t mentioned my wife yet, but I should. I met her in 1998 right after college. She stood by my side when I was going through everything with jail and my trial. And even though she didn’t want to leave her family and friends in New York she knew that I needed to leave to be successful at MMA and she supported me again. When we moved here we were broke. I sold some cars and just about everything I owned in New York before leaving so we’d have some money. I had enough to get us out to Vegas and enough to put down a few months rent on an apartment. But other than that we were broke. We didn’t even have a bedroom set at first. We were sleeping on a comforter.

My wife got a job bartending and was holding it down, paying our bills allowing me to get ready for my next fight. I was training every day. I’d go to Cobra Kai to do jiu jitsu with Mark Laimon then drive an hour to the other side of town to study striking with One Kick Nick.

For the first couple months I had to fly back home once a month to see my PO, because he didn’t know I moved. I’d walk in and act like I still lived there. That got old quick though, because the flights were getting expensive and my money was short. One day one of the Parole Officers from here (Las Vegas) came to my house and told me basically there was no way my request would go through. He was real honest with me. I never even thought about moving back to New York or giving up my training. I figured I’d just make sure to stay out of trouble and stay below the radar out here and keep flying back home once a month. My PO told me if I got into any trouble out of State that I’d definitely go to jail. I was on my best behavior.

It got too expensive to fly home every month so I stopped going home to see my PO. Instead I’d call him. But that got nerve-wracking so I stopped calling him. Which was backwards. I do stuff like that sometimes. I don’t know why. It didn’t make sense not to call him. He’d been helpful to me all along. 3 or 4 months went by without me calling. I finally went home to go see him and he was like, “where have you been?” I kept it real with him. I told him everything I was doing. He was real cool with it. He knew what I was trying to do and I’d been on probation for 2 years already and I hadn’t gotten into any trouble. He let me switch my probation to where I just had to turn in a sheet every month. I did that and was let off probation after 3 years.

At that point I’m training everyday and things are looking good in Vegas. I was waiting for fights. I still didn’t have a manager and was just fighting any fight I could get. If I could go back I’d had had a manager that knew the game. That’s how these guys build records like 10-0. They have good managers that look out for them and push them along at a good pace. I didn’t have a manager until after I fought Goulet.

I got offered a fight with Ron Jhun for Lockdown in Paradise a promotion in Hawaii. It was for their title. I went down there and beat Ron Jhun in the first round. I cut him with an elbow. I was thinking I got a good thing here with this show, they flew me down to Hawaii and I’m the champ. I don’t know exactly what happened but the promoters had a falling out and the show went away. No more title, no more flights to Hawaii. So I’m back to waiting for fights again.

WEC called up and offered a fight against Adam Lynn in California. First round, I’m doing well, I’m beating him up. I drop him. I’m in control of the fight. Towards the end of the round he hits me with a hook. The bell goes off and I go back to my corner. I can’t see anything out of my right eye. I thought there was some Vaseline on my eye. I told Mark Laimon to wipe my eyeball. That’s all I could think about. I kept telling him wipe my eyeball and get the Vaseline off it while he was trying to give me advice. Mark said to me, “can you see out of your left eye” I said yeah he said “ use that one”. It was the best advice he could give me. My equilibrium was off and I had trouble seeing, but I managed to pull out the decision.


(Jay going to work on Adam Lynn, courtesy of Sherdog.com)

The next day my eye was a mess. I still couldn’t see. I went back to Vegas and saw my eye doctor. He told me that I tore my eyeball and that I might never fight again. He said my eye was paralyzed. What happened was my iris got scratched and was stuck open. I went to get a second opinion from Dr. Tsui. He does eye exams for most UFC guys. He said he’d seen this happen before and that I would be OK. The eye is an organ and he said we’d just have to let it heal on its own. I was so relieved. It took a couple of months but my eye went back to normal.

My stomach dropped after the first doctor told me I might not be able to fight again. Your career can end at any moment in this sport. I don’t take anything for granted. That’s why I’m in the gym everyday. You never know when it could be all over. You also have to have fun with it.

While the eye was healing I was still in the gym training everyday. I just wasn’t sparring so I wouldn’t get hit in the eye. Once my eye healed.

My first fight back was against Pat Healey. I ended up beating Pat Healey by decision. But I felt like my game wasn’t flowing because I was training separately with different coaches that don’t know the other one was teaching me. The trainers were great. But I was training the two key aspects of the game separately and I felt like there wasn’t a connection between my grappling and striking. I didn’t know what to do about that. But I knew that it was a problem going forward.

Back in those days I was making small money. A couple grand here and there. For the Lynn fight I got $500 to fight and $500 for the win. If Lynn had beat me I’d have gone home with $500 and a torn eye. As it was I almost had my career finished for a grand. Back then you were doing it because you loved it, more than to make money. Back then there was no money. Even UFC was barely paying its top guys. And the small shows where I was fighting, you got nothing. For Jhun I made $1,500 + $1,500 and for Healey $1,000 + $1,000.

Luckily, my wife had a good job bartending. Most jobs in Vegas get good money off tips. She was paying the rent and got us some furniture. I was using my fight money for gas to drive back and forth to the gym. I just believed if you put in enough hard work it would pay off one day. I didn’t know when or how but I just believed if I kept doing my best things would turn out OK. I tried not to think about the negative stuff and just move forward. It’s a dirty business. We get treated like cocks. You get used up until you’re done then you get thrown away. You win a couple fights and you’re on top. You lose once and everyone writes you off. You have to be mentally strong and not pay attention to all the people with shit to say. I read the press a little bit but not the underground where jokers have their say.

The UFC asked me if I wanted another fight. It was on the first Ultimate Fight Night special on Spike TV. I jumped on the opportunity. That’s what I’d been working my way through the small shows for, to get another crack at the big time. The fight was against Jonathan Goulet. I thought to myself that realistically I’m more skilled than him and I will win this fight. I was taking him down at will. Beating him every round. He caught me with a knee in my forehead and cut the vein that runs down the middle of it. I was squirting blood. Literally it was shooting out of my forehead. I was covered in blood. He was covered in blood. It looked like a horror movie. All I could see was red. My mentality changed, I was trying to get the fight over as soon as possible so I can win before the doctor stops it. I’m going for all types of submissions but I’m slipping off of him because of all the blood. I didn’t want to be on my feet because I couldn’t see. So I kept using my wrestling to get the fight to the ground. The doctor ended up stopping it in the third round and calling it for Goulet.

It was the bloodiest fight in UFC history and still is. Dana said it was a great fight but too bad it would never make TV because it was so bloody. This was when UFC was new to TV. It was right after the first season of The Ultimate Fighter and was the first Fight Night live on Spike. They were trying to make it look like a sport, not a barbaric event. So they didn’t want to let a blood and guts fight get on the air.

After the fight Joe Silva told me to win some fights and they’d bring me back. I said, “OK”. At that point either I was talking for myself or Phil Baroni was. We’re fighters, we shouldn’t be dealing directly with promoters. I should have had a manager talking for me. If I had a manager at the time I probably would have been brought right back. Instead, I was back to the drawing board.

In the next installment Jay gets a manager, finds a way to fix the problems of not having a flow to his game and enters the IFL. Stay tuned.

Life & Times of Jay Hieron Vol. 2

Posted: January 24, 2008 by Xtreme Couture MMA in Jay Hieron, Life & Times of Jay Hieron, Uncategorized

In the last installment of The Life & Times of Jay Hieron we learned how Jay got started in wrestling and left off when he went to school in Iowa with the plan of doing a year at Junior College then transferring to Iowa University. Volume 2 picks up at that point. Though it is a redemptive story, please be advised this edition contains mature subject matter, including drug use and distribution.

Iowa wasn’t for me. It was just cornfields. That’s a big change coming from New York. It was a real culture shock. I left Iowa after my first semester and enrolled at Nassau Community College. I felt Nassau was good for me because I was back home. Back to where I know.

I had some great wrestling coaches at Nassau, Coach Henkie and Paul Schmidt. They had wanted me to go there coming out of High School and were glad to have me.

During the season I was working hard and doing well for myself. I was keeping my grades up so I could stay on the team. My first year I finished 3rd in the country at 150-lbs for Junior College. Not bad, but I felt I could do better.

Even though wrestling was going well for me, I was getting into problems in the off season. I was getting into shit whenever wrestling didn’t occupy my time. I was hanging out in the streets all night on Pearsall Avenue back in Freeport. Getting into fights, smoking weed, just basically up to no good. I was driving back and forth to Brooklyn, 3, 4 times a day buying weed. I would buy it, sell most of it and smoke the rest.

After Freshman year at Nassau I felt that I should have won JuCo at 150-lbs. I told myself I’m winning it this year. I was going to practice more often and taking it more serious. I was working like a man possessed. Sophomore year (1997) I won JuCo at 158lbs. I graduated from Nassau which is a 2-year school.

Hofstra University was right up the block. They had a new wrestling coach Tom Ryan. I wanted to stay local because I had had the bad experience of going away. Hofstra offered me a sponsorship. Done deal. I did well for myself going there. Junior year of college, which was my first year at Hofstra, I went to Nationals and lost to the guy who won it by a couple points.

Senior year I was ranked #3 in the country at 158lbs going into the season. I knew this was my season. I was going to go out and win the NCAA D-I championship. I could feel it. My workouts were incredible. My determination was incredible. There would be no stopping me.

Hofstra started a new rule my senior year. The school said if you failed any drug tests you’re out for the season. I ended up failing a drug test for smoking weed a couple weeks before the start of the season. It blew my mind. This was my last year or wrestling. I was trying to do everything I could to see if I could get back on the team and get my suspension cut to a half season. Hofstra wasn’t having any of it.

I was bitter even though it was my fault for smoking the weed. I felt the coaching staff and Athletic Director could have gone to bat for me. There were football players who got popped for smoking weed and doing steroids and they were all back before the end of their seasons. I felt like I didn’t get support from the AD because I was a wrestler. I really resented them and the school, even though like I said I knew it was my fault for doing drugs.

I was having mixed emotions. I thought this was supposed to be my year. I was focused on winning the D-I Nationals. Every time in my life I had put all the BS aside and focused on Wrestling I had won. Now because of my suspension I wasn’t going to have that chance. I started to feel like I had spent half my life wrestling and had nothing to show for it. And I starting thinking why did I even bother to get started with wrestling in the first place. It can only take you so far. I should have gotten into Football or another sport.

Coach Ryan told me that even though I couldn’t wrestle, I could keep going to school on my scholarship. I only had a 15 credits needed to graduate, but I wasn’t really interested in that. I was really depressed. I suppressed all of my competitive drive. I took all of my wrestling gear and threw it out. I decided it was time to start making money.

I was done making sacrifices for wrestling and all I could think about was making money. That’s when I really started selling drugs. I had been messing around picking up some weed from Brooklyn but now I was serious. I put all my attention and effort into selling drugs. I was moving weed and coke from Brooklyn around Freeport and the surrounding towns. I made a lot of money. Fast. I had a Mercedes Benz, a BMW, a quad 4-wheeler, a jetski and two motorcycles a Honda CVR 900 and a Yamaha R-1. I used to tear it up on those bikes. I was riding with the Exit 21 Fubu riders. I got one going 180mph on straightaway by Jones Beach.

I was running two lives at that point. I had an apartment in Baldwin, the town next to Freeport, where I’d spend a lot of my time and that I used for business. I kept my cars and bikes there. I was also living with my family. I kept a room at my mom’s house. I had a little crap beater car I’d drive when I was going to my mother’s house. I told them that I was selling cars. And I was. I wasn’t stupid, I knew I always had to keep a legit job so that my family wouldn’t worry about me and I’d have some income to show the government. I’d buy old cars at auction or out of the newspaper, fix them up and resell them. I’d put the cars by the train station with a sign on them or at the gas station. I was making some money off that too. Sometimes I’d make double on the cars. I was putting money in mutual funds and saving a good portion of what I earned. A couple of people smartened me up to the game when I first got started. They told me that I had to set money aside in case I ever needed it. Luckily I listened to them. I’d like to thank those guys but I can’t say who they are.

When I wasn’t at my mother’s house I was driving the Benz or the beamer. The Benz had a hollowed out area where the airbag was supposed to be that I used as a stash box when I’d pick up in Brooklyn. A friend of mine made it for me. Cost me $2,500. Those rides from Brooklyn back to Long Island were terrifying. Butterflies in my stomach the whole way. It was scarier than getting ready for a fight. A lot scarier. I knew that if I got pulled over or in an accident, that was it. Jail time.

Even though I was making money selling drugs, and I liked the money, I didn’t like what I was doing. I never felt good about it. I had fake feelings. I liked the money but I didn’t like myself at that point.

By 2000 I had dealt for a couple years and started to think that I needed to do something else. I was looking to get out of the business. I was thinking about going in half on a body shop with a friend or maybe opening up a car lot. My plan was to make as much as I could off selling drugs then legitimize my money by opening up a legal business. But the trick is, once you start making fast money its hard to leave. I was partying, spending money, buying bottles in the clubs and having a good time. It’s hard just stop that.

Right around that time a couple guys I knew got arrested. Then this one kid who was a customer got arrested. I thought he was setting me up because he was calling me all the time after he got arrested. I told him to leave me alone. But it was too late. He’d already set me up. He was just trying to set me up some more.

One day the cops stopped by my mom’s house when I wasn’t home. My brother called me up and told me, the cops are here, they have something on you and that I had to call them or turn myself in. I was driving in my car at the time and got a crazy feeling. I was in shock. I pulled over to think. I saw my whole life flashing before my eyes. When I came back to my senses I called my lawyer. I had a good lawyer who had represented me after I got in a couple of street fights in high school. He told me to relax, that he’d call the cops and find out what’s going on. He called me back and said they had me on an A-2 felony. I said what’s that? He told me the worst is an A-1 felony. I had an A-2 which carried 3-years to life. Mandatory 3 years with life parole. It was around the holidays when all this was going down. I didn’t want to turn myself in right there. I told him I wasn’t turning myself in before Thanksgiving.

It turns out that saving money to start a legal business was the smartest thing I ever did. Because of that I was able to afford a lawyer. A lot of guys in the business don’t save any money and they can’t afford good lawyers when they get in trouble. I ended up having to pay my guy up front and it just about wiped me out financially.

After Thanksgiving I turned myself in. The police wanted me to talk but I couldn’t do that. Because where I’m from they don’t do that. Actually I can’t say that because a lot of guys do talk. But I didn’t. I kept saying talk to my lawyer. That obviously didn’t get us anywhere and I was sent to Nassau County jail. They’re supposed to give you an orange jumpsuit and a mattress when you show up. All I got was the jumpsuit my first night. I ended up sleeping on a metal bed with no mattress. It was freezing. It was grimey. There was literally shit on the wall. Some guy had taken a dump and wiped it on the wall with his hand. I was like, “this isn’t for me”.

I was in there a month and a half before my mother bailed me out. She put up her house. Thank God for mom. I came home and my court proceeding started. I was out of jail but I was broke. I was trying to sell everything I had because I knew I was done in the business. A lot of people get popped and they keep going. But once was enough for me. I had wanted out anyway. Now I’m stressing because I know I might be doing some hard time. It was the lowest point of my life.

About a year or so before that all started I had helped my buddy Phil Baroni train for an MMA fight. Phil and I went way back to when we were kids. He grew up in Massapequa, which is a couple towns further out from Freeport on Long Island. We were both on the All County team in high school and went to a lot of the same tournaments in the off-season. Then we went to Nassau and Hofstra together. Phil was hilarious and we were always getting into trouble with each other over the years. He was a real good friend. After college he was doing Toughman and amateur boxing competitions. He was always trying to get me into them but they weren’t really for me, but I’d help him get ready.

While I was out of jail I went to the gym that Phil trained at. It’s called Bellmore Kickboxing Academy. I went in there because I wanted to sweat and train and take my frustration out on a bag or something. I had so much frustration and anger built up that I wanted to release. I joined the gym and started doing my own thing. I was getting ready for prison at this point. I didn’t know what was going to happen. The best way I knew to get rid of stress was to work on the bags. Get that release. Everyday I was going in there, sweating and hitting the bag even though I didn’t know what I was doing technique-wise, it was working. It made me feel better. One day I asked the guy there, Keith Trimble, if he could train me. I didn’t have any money. He remembered me from coming in with Baroni. He said yeah. I was coming in and training in Boxing and Kickboxing. It was addictive. I would go in and hit mitts and hit the bag. Every day I was feeling better and better. Phil was training for his fights there too.

Next I started getting into watching MMA. I was watching a lot of UFC and PRIDE. Phil had a box of tapes he left in the gym of all types of fights, Shooto, Pancrase, old boxing fights, Muay Thai you name it. They had a room there with a couch, a TV and VCR. The guys at Bellmore still laugh about it. They said all I would do all day is watch tapes and then try out combinations on the bag. It was addictive, I fell in love with the sport. I fell in love with the competition. I also started feeling a little bit better about myself.

Now during this whole time at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy, I was going through my court proceedings. At that point I’d been training with Keith for over a year while my lawyer was working on my case and everything. Phil asked me to go out to Vegas with him for one of his fights and I saw all of the big name guys in the sport training. When I went back home I said, this is what I want to do. Before that I was using the sport to relieve stress and I liked it but I fell in love on that trip and decided that MMA is what I wanted to do with my life. I woke up at 6am every day and did my road work. I did 3-6 miles. I’d do pads with Keith after my run. I found a jiu jitsu gym in Lynbrook a couple towns away. It was Rodrigo Gracie’s school. I enrolled there and started working on my ground game.

The court case was coming up and my lawyer was telling me it could go either way. Because it was my first case I could get up to 5 years of probation and avoid prison. My charge was automatically going to get knocked down to a B felony because I pleaded guilty. We were trying to get it knocked down to a C, which doesn’t have a mandatory jail sentence. A “B” comes with a mandatory 6 months sentence. It was up to the judge. On the last day of court I was prepared to go to prison. I had on 2 pairs of drawers and 2 pairs of socks. I had gotten a bunch of letters from my wrestling coaches, judging my character saying I could change. Basically the letters all said that I was a good guy and not a hardened criminal. My lawyer turned in the letters. I waited for the verdict. My future was up to the judge and God blessed me that day. The judge ended up giving me 5 years of probation and no time behind bars.

That day I started training harder because I realized I had things to lose in life. I did a nosedive into the game after that. It became my life. I instantly tried to get a fight. After a couple months of training I did get a fight. It was in a high school gym in Bayonne, New Jersey for Reality Fighting. July 19, 2003 against a guy named Keith Plate. Phil Baroni and Keith Trimble cornered me. Phil told me, “chin down, hands up and let ‘em fly.” That’s our advice. He always says that to me and I always say that to him, to this day. I came out and threw a combo. He grabbed me. I took him down and ground and pounded him. It was a blur for me because it was my first fight. I fought that fight strictly on emotions.

That first fight was on a Saturday. Monday I was back in the gym. I felt like I had a second chance at doing something with myself and making something with my life. I felt like I’m not going to waste this chance I got. I still feel that way.

I had suppressed the feelings of competition and wrestling after my drug test at Hofstra. But all those feelings and the competitor in me came out again when I got into MMA. I was hungry for competition. I knew there was a little bit of money in the sport. But I wasn’t even really thinking about that. I knew I could be good at it. And I wanted to be good at it.

I was trying to get fights after the first one. But things kept happening. I had guys pulling out on right and me left. Three times I had fights and the guy dropped out the day before. You deal with that in the small shows. I just kept training. First and foremost I love to train. It made me feel good about myself. I knew that if I kept focused and kept training the fights would come. And they did.

Stay tuned for Volume 3…

The Life and Times of Jay Hieron, Volume 1

Posted: December 27, 2007 by Xtreme Couture MMA in Jay Hieron, Life & Times of Jay Hieron

This is the first installation in what will be a series of weekly (time permitting) entries on the life of Jay Hieron, as told by Jay. There is likely a lot you don’t know about Jay. For one he was involved in the bloodiest fight in UFC history. A fight UFC has kept the public, outside of the fans in attendance at the Hard Rock to watch UFN 1, from seeing. Jay dominated that fight but lost due to a cut. You also probably don’t know that Jay is one of the most intriguing and cerebral athletes in the fight game today. Check out The Life and Times of Jay Hieron and learn about this incredible young man.

Jay Hieron isn’t his real name, but it is what everyone calls him. If you’re writing him a check make it out to James Hieronymous. Jay changed Hieronymous to Hieron for fighting purposes since he got tired of people mispronouncing his surname as “hairy mouse”. That mistake was made a lot during his High School and college wrestling careers. But ask Jay and he’ll tell you, “I love the name Hieronymous. I’m proud of my last name and my mother. I just don’t want to hear ring announcers saying here comes the hairy mouse.”

Jay’s mother is Theo Hieronymous. She and her then husband John adopted Jay when he was a baby. Jay’s mother was a young woman from Coney Island in Brooklyn. She had some issues and wasn’t ready to raise a child. So Jay became a part of the seven child Hieronymous family, joining an adopted brother and two sisters to go with the three children Theo and John had together.

The Hieronymous’ lived in Freeport a town on Long Island’s South Shore not far from the Queens border. Freeport is what is politely called a town in transition. It has a beautiful harbor area called the Nautical Mile where families sit on piers and enjoy local clams and lobsters in the summer. But Freeport is best known as a rough and tumble town where drugs, crime, shootings and stabbings cause the working class to never get too comfortable. It was in the rough edged Northern part of Freeport that borders on the shady sections of Baldwin and Roosevelt that Jay was raised.

John and Theo Hieronymous divorced when Jay was 10 and he went to live with Theo, his mother, two of his sisters and one of his brothers. Jay was a small kid in bad neighborhood. That made him a target for the larger, ill tempered bullies of which there are plenty in Freeport.

“The neighborhood tough kids used to give me a real hard time,” reminisces Jay, “I didn’t grow up in the best area and I was getting chased home every day. I’d run to the 7-11 and call my sisters who were older to come pick me up. They still make fun of me about that. They’re always teasing me about how I’m a pro fighter and I used to call them everyday to come save my ass. So when I was 13 I started going to the PAL (Police Athletic League) boxing gym in Westbury. I loved boxing. My sister’s boyfriend used to take me up there. But Westbury is about a 25 minute drive from Freeport and I didn’t have a car so it got to be hard getting me up there and I stopped going when nobody could take me. I was scared going into high school because Freeport High School is a real tough place. I decided to go out for the wrestling team to learn how to defend myself.”

That’s how a 91 pound 14-year-old named James Hieronymous got started on the road to becoming one of the top Welterweight fighters in Mixed Martial Arts. He took an instant love to the sport of wrestling and showed that he had a natural ability at it.

“I was good at wrestling right off the bat. I made varsity Freshman year. It felt great to find something I was really good at. I gave everything I had to learning the sport and getting my body in shape. Mid season this new kid named Tom English came out of nowhere and joined the team. The kid mopped me. He put me in a pretzel and stuck me for a pin. He was too strong. He had grown man strength and I was just a kid. Tom English crushed my feelings and took my spot on the team. But they kept me on varsity as an alternate. But losing to Tom just made me more determined to become great at wrestling. I stayed after practice every day to learn moves from my coaches Russ Celland and Terry Haise. It paid off. Sophomore year I was Nassau County champ at 91-lbs and runner up at State. Junior year I moved up to 105-lbs and was Nassau County champ. But I was cutting too much weight and didn’t place in the States.”

That summer Jay got his license and things changed.

“I got a car right before the start of senior year. It was a $200 orange piece of shit. But it was my freedom. I could go wherever and do whatever I wanted now. I quit wrestling. I thought wrestling was gay. I looked ugly in the singlet. I didn’t want any girls coming to check me out when I was wearing it. I looked like a beanpole in that thing, it was embarrassing. Cutting weight was having an effect on me. I didn’t want to cut weight anymore. I don’t think kids in High School should be cutting so much weight, its bad for you. I shot up in height after high school and I think I stunted my growth some from all the weight cutting. I also felt like I had sacrificed three years for wrestling and now I wanted time to myself. After the High School season I did three years of Freestyle season with coach Haise. I was wrestling all year round. Now I had my car and I was hanging out with girls. Coach got mad when I quit. He wouldn’t talk to me. he’s stubborn like I am and was furious that I was giving up so easy.

“I was also hanging out with the guys who weren’t doing so good. I was smoking some weed a little bit and getting in trouble. My coach really didn’t like that. Russ Cellan the assistant coach was always trying to get me back into wrestling practice. He’d hunt me down. I was leaving school five minutes before the bell everyday just to avoid him. But Russ was crafty. Halfway through the season he caught me in the hallway. He said ‘man just come down we just want to talk with you.’ I said, ‘Ok, whatever’. I had it in my mind that there was nothing this guy could say to get me back in. I was riding around in my little orange car having too much fun. But I owed it to him to listen. When I went back to talk with him and coach Haise wrestling practice was in full swing. I had a lot of old feelings come back to me. I could smell the sweat and the intensity in the room. I saw guys I used to beat up on getting shaper. I missed it. I talked with coach Haies and coach Cellan. They told me I was throwing away my senior year and pretty much any shot I had of wrestling in college. At that point I wasn’t even thinking of college. It wasn’t something that I was interested in. They put a lot of things in perspective for me. I figured why not give it a shot. I came back with a fury. I damn near ripped guys’ heads off. Sometimes it takes that for me. To have something taken away to make me realize how much I love it. I loved wrestling. I won County for the third straight year, this time at 126-lbs. Something that is very hard to do in Nassau County because there are a lot of great wrestlers there. I finished as runner up in States losing to Terry Showalter in double overtime. Terry went on to be an All American D-1 wrestler.

“My coaches then focused on how to get me into college. Terry Haise knew I was getting into trouble with the crew I ran with. He told me the best thing to do was to go away to school and put those bad influences behind me. We all sat down to figure out how to do that. Back then Iowa was the best wrestling school in the country. But I didn’t have good grades. The plan was for me to go to junior college in Iowa then transfer to Iowa State.

“I was an 18-year-old on the bus for 15 hours going to Iowa. I had never lived out of New York or been anywhere for longer than 3 days. The only times I ever went away was to go to wrestling tournaments. I got to Iowa and was homesick from day one.  It wasn’t me down there at all. I ended up just passing the days training. I wasn’t into it at all. I didn’t even have the drive to really wrestle. When the semester ended I decided that I had it and went home. Coach Haise didn’t agree. But I switched to Nassau Community College.”

To be continued. Our next installment will take a look a Jay’s college wrestling career where he teamed up with Phil Baroni and Jason Townsend.