For Jay Hieron, 2011 was a year in which success was measured more by the things he was able to accomplish, not by what he wasn’t.
“I came back from a lot of adversity in my life and did pretty well getting back on my feet and getting my career back in line,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “It was a pretty productive year for me.
“I became more well-rounded as a fighter and I got to show that. Some guys don’t utilize (time off); they don’t go about it the right way. They don’t try to sharpen up their skills or get better as a complete athlete. That’s one thing I live by, and I did that and came back strong.”
After winning Bellator’s Season Four welterweight tournament in May, Hieron was given a chance to face welterweight champion Ben Askren in October, falling just shy of claiming the title in a split-decision loss.
It’s a loss that Hieron doesn’t agree with.
“I still believe I won that fight,” he said. “Of course, the decision didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but I feel I performed great. I think right now I’m the Bellator champion. He knows it, I know it, and everyone who watched the fight knows it.”
Still under contract to the promotion, Hieron would love to face Askren again, but he doesn’t feel he should have to toe the same line he did last year to get another title shot.
“Bellator goes by the tournament format, and I’m not doing the tournament again,” he said. “I feel I won the tournament and I feel I’m the Bellator champion and won the title; why would I go back and do the tournament again to claim what’s mine already?
“I like Bellator as an organization. I like how you earn your shot there, but I earned my shot and won it.”
With Bellator’s next season starting in early March, Hieron was asked when he thinks he’ll return to action.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I let my manager handle that. He’s talking to Bellator right now. It will definitely be sometime this year; probably April, May-ish sometime.”
When Hieron does finally return, he intends to be even better than he was before.
“Of course, there’s always another level,” he said. “Once you think you have it figured out, your days are numbered. I want to get to the top just like every other man, and I work towards that every day.
“Everything happens for a reason. I just try to stay positive and know there’s a plan for me and keep moving forward. I’m in the gym, training and keeping my body healthy. Once they call, I’ll be ready to go. It’s going to be a big year. I’m going to get back in there and show people what I can do.”