(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)
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.