by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Welterweight Jay Hieron doesn’t need church. He’s got Xtreme Couture.
The Long Island, N.Y. native is always there, in good times and bad. Come to the gym at any hour of the day, and chances are he’ll be there, bouncing around the ring, sparring with the multitude of fighters that drop by the MMA Mecca.
“I love this place, man,” he tells MMAWeekly.com. “This is my therapy, the gym. I could be having the worst day in the world, and coming in, leave all my stressing and feel better about anything that’s going on in my life. This is where I feel safe, this is where I feel the most relaxed out of anywhere. I’m married, and I love my wife, but even when we’re arguing, I come in the gym.”
He’s been there even more these days, as he’s set to face Jason High at Affliction’s “Day of Reckoning” on Saturday night. High is not exactly a newcomer – he’s 6-0 in local competition and holds a TKO win over UFC vet Kevin Burns – but Hieron has limited tape to look at.
All the more reason to stay in the gym.
“Look at my resume man, I don’t take anybody lightly, says Hierson. “I could be fighting my last fight, if that’s the case.”
High is a southpaw, a commodity in high demand at Xtreme Couture. Hieron has clocked hours with Vitor Belfort, who fights Matt Lindland on “Reckoning,” and wants to make sure there are no surprises on Saturday night. Things can go wrong fast if he’s not used to the backwards attack of a lefty.
“Especially if they’re pretty good at what they do,” Hieron says, pointing to middleweight god Anderson Silva as an example. “They’re good at keeping their lead foot outside yours, they’re good with their straight left, so it’s definitely that thing where you’ve got to see it in front of you, and train as much as possible.”
And it’s a blessing to be back in the ring in the first place. Hieron’s 2008 was filled with stutter-steps, as he defended his International Fight League welterweight belt, only to see the company go out of business a few months later. Then there was Affliction’s first date for “Day of Reckoning,” postponed due to sagging ticket sales. Hieron and many of the fighters of Xtreme Couture picked up work at the Superfights MMA card last October, but he’s been itching to get back to regular competition.
“My career’s always been ups and downs,” he says. “I made it to the top with the IFL, I defended the title, and then they go out of business. I wasn’t even surprised, because that’s my life, all boiled up together. I’ve always got to climb back up the ladder. I’m used to it. I’m just happy to be fighting.”
Though he’s not looking too far ahead, Hieron wants to fight name opponents in the near future.
“After this, let’s start getting these top ten guys that aren’t signed,” says Hieron. “I feel great at this point in my career, I feel like I’m at my peak and I want to fight all the best guys I can.”
But even if 2009 holds more ups and downs, Hieron has one place to come where things make sense.
“I start hitting that heavy bag until I feel good,” he says. “That’s all I can do.”