by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
2005 was a year that Heath Herring would rather forget. After successful runs in years previous in Pride, Herring signed with rival K-1 and appeared to be ready to be one of the promotion’s premier heavyweights. However in his first bout for the promotion everything would change.
Matched up against Sam Greco in March, Herring would suffer the first every injury of his career and be forced to sit on the sidelines for what would eventually become nine months. If that wasn’t bad enough, upon his return this past New Year’s Eve at K-1′s Premium Dynamite show Herring would be part of one of the most bizarre moments in MMA history.
Prior to the beginning of his bout with Yoshihiro Nakao, the Japanese fighter ended up kissing Herring on the lips, prompting Herring to respond with a sharp right hand to Yoshihiro’s jaw, knocking him out.
Initially ruled a disqualification for Herring, the fight was later overturned and ruled a no contest, leading to Heath’s triumphant return to action over fellow vet Garry Goodridge at Hero’s earlier this month. Shortly after arriving home in Las Vegas, Herring spoke to MMA Weekly to discuss the win, the injury he sustained in the fight, and what the future holds for The Texas Crazy Horse.
MMA Weekly: First off Heath, how does it feel to get your first win for K-1?
Heath Herring: Finally, third time’s the charm. Actually it was good, I was glad to get back in the ring. The only thing is, right away, the very first takedown when Garry was in side control and tried to put me in a can opener and I tried to kick out I actually separated my left side of my ribs. So 30 seconds into the fight I’d already separated my ribs and I’m sitting there going, “I have the worst luck of anybody in Japan this last year.” So it was really difficult. That’s why the fight didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to go. I had to kind of push through that. Our gameplan was actually to knock Garry out, I was supposed to punch with him and when I finally did that you saw what the result was.
MMA Weekly: So where are you at with the injury right now?
Heath Herring: Actually I’ve been going every day to therapy since I’ve been back. I have one of those little electronic stimulators that the therapist gave me, so I’ve been doing that every day. I’ve been icing it every day also so it’s getting better. I felt my ribs slip over each other the way I was bent up and when I turned I felt my bottom rib slip over my top rib and how severe it was I don’t know. It didn’t feel good in the fight but I was able to fight through it. I’m going to take a couple weeks off of training and do therapy every day and hopefully it will heal up pretty quick.
MMA Weekly: What matters the most is that you got back on the winning track after having a disappointing 2005.
Heath Herring: Absolutely, they always say a win’s a win and a knockout’s great. It wasn’t like it was a lucky shot, I set it up right, but I didn’t like the fact that I was taking sloppy shots and wasn’t able to execute on the ground like I normally do. I wasn’t able to punch from the top that I’d like to or pass his guard because I felt a little immobile in my midsection. As far as standing up and knocking him out, that’s what we wanted to do, but I didn’t like the fact that the rest of the fight was sloppy looking.
MMA Weekly: This latest Hero’s was held at the world famous Budokan. What was it like fighting in a more intimate venue like that?
Heath Herring: Actually it’s the smallest arena I’ve ever fought in, in Japan. I think it was 8,000-9,000 people, which in America that sounds like a big arena, but actually for Japan it’s half the size of what I normally fight in, so it was a change. To be honest I really have been doing this so long that I really didn’t think about it. I was just excited to go to the Budokan because I’ve always heard about it and I’ve never had the opportunity to go see it. It’s actually on the old grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, so all the grounds for the palace were right there so that’s kind of cool getting to go there.
MMA Weekly: Shortly before you headed to Japan K-1 changed the ruling in your Nakao fight from a disqualification to a no contest. Were you happy they overturned the DQ?
Heath Herring: To be honest it really didn’t change a lot for me. I guess as far as it officially not being a loss that made it a little bit easier to swallow, but things didn’t go exactly the way I wanted them to. Also like when I tore my ACL out with Sam Greco they also said that was a loss too. So if you want to consider it a loss where a guy doesn’t even touch you and your knee rips out, whatever.
My record is important to me but it’s not flawless, so I can name three or four fights off the top of my head that actually I don’t feel I lost but they’re considered losses. So as far as it not being ruled a loss anymore, that’s not the most important thing to me, actually that’s probably the best thing that came out of all that [laughs].
MMA Weekly: Would you like to get an opportunity to fight Nakao again and have the fight happen like it’s supposed to?
Heath Herring: Actually it was supposed to have happened this last time. I thought it was a little bit premature, I think that K-1 would have wanted to hype it up a little bit, but they actually tried to get me and him to fight again. Supposedly the doctor wouldn’t give him a medical release because of his neck from the last fight. I don’t know if that’s true or not, I don’t know the whole story, everything in Japan you only hear what they want you to hear. So I don’t know if or when that fight is going to happen. As far as would I accept that fight if it were offered to me, absolutely, in a heartbeat.
MMA Weekly: Do you harbor any ill will towards Nakao?
Heath Herring: There’s not really any personal feelings, I kind of got my point across that night I think [laughs]. I mean you go and do that and I did what I’m going to do. As far as me I don’t have any feelings left over from that. I took care of it when it happened and that’s the way I’d like to do things.
MMA Weekly: Last year K-1 crowned a Middleweight Grand Prix Champion (Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto), would you like to see them maybe have a Heavyweight Grand Prix and compete for a title?
Heath Herring: As far as just getting a belt, I’ve won belts in different organizations, so that’s not like my single goal in life. Right now there’s actually some decent heavyweight competition in K-1. You’ve got (Bob) Sapp, who’s always a threat, you’ve got (Jarome) LeBanner who is entering more into MMA, and you’ve got Peter Aerts who is also doing MMA. So you’ve got a few world class fighters that I have a possibility to fight. Like always I accept the fights that come to me and I take the fights that are offered to me. So as far as K-1 setting up a big tournament for heavyweights, if they do it, I’ll be in it absolutely, but is that my single thought or main fuel for training and fighting, no.
MMA Weekly: What kind of goals do you have for your immediate future and the remainder of the year?
Heath Herring: Right now for the immediate future the main goal is of course to get back in the ring and fight, which I did, and win, like I felt I did convincingly. I’ve been training on getting better with my stand-up and my ground and that’s my main goal right now, to progress in my fighting ability. There’s also been some talk of me coming over to the States and I’d really, really like to try to push that as much as I can. If I can get to come back and fight over here in the States again that’d be great, especially not having to fly 12 hours all the time [laughs]. But right now everything’s still just talk so we’ll see what happens.
MMA Weekly: Let’s hope that happens and we get a chance to see you in person over here. Thanks for your time as always Heath, is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Heath Herring: Yeah I’d like to say to the fans, I’m trying to get back in there and I appreciate all the support. I’ve gotten a lot of good emails, positive emails, and I know a lot of people have been emailing the UFC and trying to get me in there and I appreciate it. Keep doing it, because the fans are going to get what they want and if the fans have shown interest in a particular fighter or match, the organizations are pretty good about making that happen. So what it comes down to is that if they want to see me fight here in the States again, they’ve got to make themselves heard.