Even after being out of MMA for a year, when Jay Hieron made his return this past Saturday at Bellator 35, he felt like he had never left.
“It felt great,” exclaimed Hieron. “I went through a rough year last year, but I got back in there and felt like I hadn’t lost a step, it was just right back to business.”
While Hieron feels like he hadn’t missed a beat, he told MMAWeekly.com that the time off wasn’t easy.
“I’m human,” he said. “I got down for a bit because when you can’t really make a living from your job doing something you love and it’s taken away from you and you’re not working, it’s rough.
“I had a lot of emotion, but throughout the whole time I stayed in the gym and kept working hard and stayed positive knowing it would turn around.”
Unable to get in the cage, Hieron spent the time working on his game.
“That’s definitely one thing I can say is that in the time off I had a chance to step back and push the reset button on everything and get all my skills sharper,” he stated.
“When you’re training for a fight you really don’t have a chance to learn new techniques and try new things because you’re always on that grind.”
While Hieron was successful against Anthony Lapsley, defeating him via rear naked choke halfway through the first round, the fight is not without dispute.
“A lot of people are saying it was a controversial stoppage, but it is what it is,” commented Hieron. “Regardless, another 30 seconds, another minute, he would have been out of there.
“He would have been unconscious for sure. It was getting tighter and I’m a fighter, not a ref, but from my standpoint, he was going out.”
Considered one of the top welterweights in the world prior to his year off, many feel this season’s welterweight tournament is Hieron’s to win or lose, but he doesn’t see it that way.
“That’s not me saying that, that’s the media and everybody else’s predictions,” he stated. “I don’t pay attention to that or listen to that. I’m just another guy in the tournament trying to make my mark, trying to move forward and basically just fight one fight at a time.
“I’m not looking past anybody. My next fight is Brent Weedman and that’s all I’m looking forward to right now.”
Hieron’s outlook is nothing new to him, as it’s the one he’s had his entire career, top ranking or not.
“I’m a guy who doesn’t look too far past my next fight,” he said. “That’s how you slip on banana peels. I’m definitely focused and I’m one fight at a time.
“People keep asking about (Ben) Askren and all these other guys that are in it; they’re not even on my radar right now. I’ve got one guy on my radar and that’s Brent.”
Having continued where he left off, it could very well be Hieron’s time again to shine in 2011.
“I’d like to get a shout-out for my team Xtreme Couture and all my sponsors,” he concluded. “All my fans, follow me on Twitter @jayhieron. I appreciate you guys supporting me.
“I was off the radar for a minute, and this is a nice little way to return. MTV2 and Bellator’s a great showcase for my talent. It’s time to let everybody know that I’m back.”