Hollywood, Calif. – Strikeforce lightweight Conor Heun meditates in his Hollywood loft, singing praises of a greater good. His roommates, all MMA fighters and trainers, watch from across the living quarter as Heun finds peace and calm burning incense and lifting his hands towards the ceiling.
To call him spiritual is an understatement.
Heun fights because he feels he was given this gift from a higher power – whoever that might be – and harnesses that gift to support himself in these tough economic times. And though he gets paid to do it now, fighting was once just a reaction of being an admitted hothead as a youth up through his early adulthood.
His father, Jim Heun, a retired educator and the fighter’s high school wrestling coach at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colo., told his son he believed he got into too many fights as a kid.
“My dad was pissed at me,” he said to MMAWeekly.com. “He (told me), ‘you go out dressed like Eminem, that’s what’s going to happen to you!'”
For a long time, Heun’s father felt he was the one going out and causing all these fights. That’s safe to assume, seeing as he was part of around 165 brawls in the streets of Boulder, and claims to have won every single one of them.
Although he weighed 112 pounds his senior year of high school, Heun said his mouth made up for whatever his stature lacked.
“I used to get into a ton of fights and had a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I was always really small, probably the smallest kid at the party and a big mouth.”
It didn’t matter who was trying to test the young Heun. From bouncers to lacrosse players, the wrestler stepped up and fought whatever competition was trying to get in his face. Little did his competition know Heun could grapple with the best of them.
They surely learned the hard way.
“I fought a lacrosse player once,” he recalled. “I took him down, took his back, and sunk a choke, but I didn’t have the hooks in. He pulled me over the top – and lit me up a couple times before I spun around – got his back again and finally choked him out.”
Mom and dad weren’t happy with Heun’s choice to never back down from a fight. They knew he got into a lot of altercations, but he still tried to hide the fact that he did, or at least minimize the truth.
Black eyes? No problem. His parents wouldn’t find out if he stayed at a buddy’s place while the eyes healed.
“I had to camp out at a friend’s house for a couple of days until my face looked better because I couldn’t go home looking like that,” he said while chuckling at the memory of avoiding his parents.
Heun’s father was especially critical of his son’s dealings in the streets, but a night out with his son quickly gave him the realization that it’s not always his son starting the fights.
A member of Heun’s entourage found himself on the wrong side of the bar when trying to get the attention of the bartender. Security swiftly tackled the patron, swarming in on the group as the younger and elder Huen tried to keep peace.
That’s where things went wrong for the 60-something-year-old, gray-haired Jim Heun.
“A bouncer came up from behind my dad and just cold cocked him,” recounted Conor, detailing the night he and his father had a unique bonding experience.
Heun’s instincts had him do whatever he could to get this bouncer off his father. The first object he could get his hands on was a cash register that sat next to him at the corner of the bar. This resulted in two things: the bouncer getting off Heun’s father and bar customers flocking for the loose cash from the register.
“I smashed it on him, and it just blew up!” Heun said while waving his hands in the air to illustrate the register’s money floating in the air. “Everybody was getting after it.”
Once the guys with pool sticks started swinging them around as weapons, the Huen’s knew it was time to get out of harm’s way. They ran through the back door to the alley.
Now outside and away from the bar brawl, the Huen’s checked to see if everyone in their party was okay. No broken jaws, luckily.
What Heun’s father said following the brawl stood out most to the fighter that evening. He claimed he had good news and bad news. The good news came first.
“That’s the most fun I’ve had in 35 years!” his father declared.
“Okay, what’s the bad news?” the younger Heun asked.
“I think I just (expletive) myself,” answered Heun’s father.
It was at that point that Heun’s dad realized sometimes the fights just happen.
Now a professional mixed martial artist, Heun prepares to battle Ryan Couture at Saturday night’s Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey in Columbus, Ohio.
His father is now his biggest fan. Dad is no longer so critical of young Conor getting into fights.