by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Over the first two IFL seasons the Los Angeles Anacondas were very much the bridesmaid and never the bride, to use an old expression.
Being eliminated in the semi-finals of the World Team Tournament twice in a row put a chip on the shoulder of the team and their head coach, Bas Rutten. So when it came time for the 2007 season to get underway the Anacondas had only one thing on their minds, total victory.
A big part of whether or not the Anacondas would be successful hinged on a slight line-up change. Mike Pyle would exit the time, allowing Benji “Razor” Radach to join the team at middleweight, leaving Jay Hieron to remain at welterweight full time.
The move has paid huge dividends for the team.
Going undefeated in two season clashes this year, including handing the two-time defending League Champion Quad Cities Silverbacks their first ever loss, both Benji and Jay have shined, becoming two of the league’s premier fighters.
For Hieron in particular, this season has helped wipe away memories of a rollercoaster 2006 campaign; and with a firmer foundation for training at the Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas, he’s begun to fulfill the promise he’s hinted at throughout his career.
“I’m feeling great about our season,” said Jay to MMAWeekly recently after a training session at Xtreme Couture. “Right now we’re 2-0, and the last fight we had, we had a shut-out. We’re ranked first, which is good; myself I feel like everything’s coming together. I feel good and I’m ready to go and ready to fight right now.”
And fight Hieron will, as he and the rest of the Anacondas square off against the surging Seattle Tiger Sharks on June 1st in Everett, Washington in both teams’ final regular season match-up.
Even though the Anacondas have won in convincing fashion this season and have all but assured themselves a spot in this year’s four-team World Team Tournament bracket, Jay knows they can’t let up against Tiger Sharks.
“No, we’d be idiots to do that,” exclaimed Hieron at the thought of taking the Tiger Sharks lightly. “You know, even though we’re 2-0, ranked first – we’re not even thinking about that.”
Jay continued, “This is the longest we’ve trained together as a team. We came out six weeks to train together, fully, every single guy on the team. So, this is the best shape of everybody I’ve seen; and everybody’s looking good, ready to go, no injuries, so it’s going to be fun.”
Regardless of how serious a threat the Anacondas feel the Tiger Sharks are, Hieron reiterated that this match-up is an opportunity to put an exclamation point on the 2007 regular season and send a message to teams for the upcoming WTT.
“Hell yeah, definitely,” emphatically stated Jay about wanting to make a statement this coming Friday. “We’re looking to get out there and showcase our skills and show everybody why we’re ranked first.”
Individually Hieron is scheduled to face Brad Blackburn, who at times has looked good and bad throughout his three seasons as the Tiger Sharks’ welterweight. Much like the overall team battle however, Jay is not taking Blackburn lightly at all.
“Definitely people say he’s a hot and cold fighter, but I’ve prepared for him like [he’s hot],” said Hieron. “He’s a great fighter in my book, so that’s how I’m going about it. For a guy if it’s not his day, he’s still fighting and can still pull it out with one punch or something; so I’m not underestimating anybody.”
“I did that already in my career, I underestimated and went into a fight looking past the guy, and it bit me in the ass, so I don’t do that anymore. You learn from your mistakes, so I’m going in there like he’s on his top A-game, and I’m coming to take him out,” added Jay.
With Hieron having gone undefeated so far this year, he becomes a prime candidate for the proposed individual Grand Prix at the end of the IFL season.
But as Jay points out, his focus is firmly at the task at hand.
“Yeah, of course I’m looking into it, but I’ve got a lot of fights before that,” commented Hieron with a slight chuckle. “It would be ignorant for me to look towards that when I’ve got guys that are just as hungry to get me before that.”
Jay further stated, “When the times come for the Grand Prix, I’ll be ready, but until then the Grand Prix is not on my mind – my next fight is. Brad Blackburn, that’s what I’m thinking about.”
Riding a winning streak and becoming one of the league’s premier fighters may well and good for most people, but as Hieron reiterated, there’s a lot more he wants to accomplish, making him a very dangerous opponent for anyone that’s placed in front of him.
“I’m still hungry,” said Jay. “I’m eating soup with a fork, that’s my motto. I’m staying hungry and am never satisfied. I’ve got to keep it all in perspective, keep moving forward and trying to fulfill my goals one step at a time.”
So come Friday, June 1st in Everett, Washington, Jay Hieron and the L.A. Anacondas step into the home turf of the Seattle Tiger Sharks looking to make statements all the way around, making it an evening that MMA fans shouldn’t miss.
“All the fans, thanks for your support, and check me out fighting on June 1st with my team,” closed out Hieron. “Thanks to my team, the Anacondas; my coach, Shawn Tompkins; Team Tompkins from Canada and their whole crew; my gym, Xtreme Couture; everybody in my camp, all of them; Randy Couture and Kimmy Couture.”