Jake Heun on fighting for World Series of Fighting: “I”m a prizefighter and green money spends everywhere”
Before World Series of Fighting light heavyweight Jake Heun and I even get on the phone, I can tell it’s going to be a fun interview. I send him a message on Facebook about a week before our scheduled interview to touch base, exchange numbers and establish preliminary guidelines.
“Is there anything in particular you’d like to focus on?” I ask him. It’s a question I sometimes like to ask because it puts them at ease, sets up a good jumping-off point for when we talk and, in usually very few words, conveys a lot about the person’s mindset going into the interview.
He responds immediately, “Just me beating this dude’s ass.”
To the point. I like that.
Next month, Jake “The Honey Bear” Heun will enter his fourth year competing professionally in mixed martial arts. Born and raised in Palmer, Alaska, a small farming town 42 miles northeast of Anchorage, Heun excelled in sports at an early age—most notably football and wrestling. His adolescent years coincided with the UFC’s mainstream traction on the back of its reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. The young athlete took notice and hoped to one day compete himself.
After high school, he attended City College of San Francisco, where he earned an associate degree and was subsequently recruited as a running back, linebacker and rush end by University of Hawaii. His football career seemingly winding down due to a set of injuries, a chance encounter with TUF Season 1 alum Chris “The Crippler” Leben changed the course of his life forever.
“I met Leben, we became buddies and I just sort of started training at his place,” recalls Heun. “It was always something I wanted to do. When I stopped playing football, it just kind of clicked.”
The two lived together, training at Leben’s gym, and partied during their off time. Heun took his first and only amateur fight in Honolulu, knocking out his opponent in just 46 seconds. He turned pro less than a year later. But the party atmosphere of “The Aloha State” was steadily eroding his focus. By early 2012, his pro record sat at a pedestrian 2-2. He decided it was time for a change.
“There’s definitely something about being in a fight camp and waking up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday feeling good,” he says. “That’s one of the big things I picked up when I left Hawaii. When I was training out there, we would work hard, but we would party hard too. That was a big part of my leaving Hawaii. Leben and I lived together for about six months, so yeah… It was an interesting party. I learned a lot from him.”
Following an extended stay in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he trained under former Miletich Fighting Systems mainstay Jeremy Horn, Heun unsuccessfully vied twice for entry into the TUF house (losing both times by first round armbar) and relocated to South Florida to train at the renowned American Top Team gym, where he’s been for the last two years training alongside his roommate Shawn Jordan, Steve Mocco and the rest of the considerable ATT roster. Recently, he put in some work with Roy Nelson, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Glover Teixeira.
“The biggest thing in my fights that I’ve lost is that I’ve been beating the hell out of the dude and then got myself into a bad position and got caught in a submission, so I’ve been really putting a lot of time into shoring up my grappling game,” he says. “I’ve been working a lot with [ATT head coach Ricardo] Liborio and Shawn, learn some lessons with them and work on that. Also, when I was back in Austin, I started doing gi jiu-jitsu with Tim Kennedy a lot out there. That dude’s a monster on the ground, doing a lot of gi stuff also. He’s an animal. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in Metamoris. He’s supposed to be taking a Metamoris fight coming up soon. It’ll be pretty cool to watch.”
Though he’s currently signed to a multi-fight deal with WSOF, Heun was permitted to compete outside of the organization in the headlining bout at Absolute Fighting Championship 23, a resurrected promotion with close affiliation to ATT, and hopes to make his Legacy kickboxing debut later this year. How is it, I ask, that he’s able to pursue these other avenues when it seems like, every month, fighters such as Jakob Volkmann, Josh Burkman, Cody Bollinger, Steve Carl, John Gunderson and Alida Gray have taken to social media to complain about WSOF executive vice president/matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz and president Ray Sefo’s handling of its fighters? The secret, he explains, is in the delivery.
“I think it’s all about how you deal with people,” he says. “I mean, there’s a time and a place to get on frickin’ Twitter and start blowing stuff up, but I think you’ve got to exhaust your other options first before you start being an asshole. I mean, I could be wrong and those guys’ situations could have been different from mine, but [Abdel-Aziz and Sefo] were pretty amicable to letting me take a fight outside of the organization. They wanted to approve the opponent and everything, which is understandable, but other than that they were cool.”
His upcoming opponent at WSOF 19: Gaethje vs. Palomino, Teddy Holder, is a tough customer. As I start discussing Holder with him, running down his 8-1 record—six knockouts, two submissions; his lone loss coming by way of first-round armbar back in 2009—I say something to the effect of, “He’s never seen a scorecard in professional competition.”
“Or a second round,” Heun interjects. “I like fighting guys that I don’t have to worry about them trying to lay on top of me and do that kind of stuff. I’ve watched some of his fights and I think he’s a big fish in a small pond. He’s never really fought outside of the regional shows down there. You know, he’s big and strong—he’s all yoked up and everything—and he throws big hooks. He’s clearly got some power in his hands—I saw him knock a dude out, which is fairly impressive—but I’m just… This guy has never fought anybody anywhere near my level of athleticism or speed. I’m glad he’s going to want to stand in front of me and I’m going to take him apart, make it a bloody mess and then I’m going to bang my shin off of his head and finish him.”
There’s one question that seems to get thrown at any fighter not currently under Zuffa LLC employ. It’s a question I personally loathe, because it seems like it’s only thrown out there to see how artfully the interviewee in question can dodge it:
“So, uhh… do you want to get into the UFC?”
It’s beyond rhetorical and it’s downright insulting. As our conversation turns to his future plans, I mention this and he agrees that, yes, it’s a dumb question. Of course he’d like to eventually get into the UFC.
“At the end of the day, green money spends everywhere,” he says. “If World Series wants to keep me around and pay me comparable money to what the UFC wants to—hell, Bellator’s throwing around that Viacom money now… At the end of the day, yes, I want to get [into the UFC] and fight there, especially after what happened to me on The Ultimate Fighter. Fuck yeah, I want to get in there and beat some dudes’ asses. But at the end of the day, green money spends everywhere and if I can have a better deal doing some other things for a while, I’m absolutely going to do that.
“I’m a prizefighter. I’m not doing this to tell people when I go out to the bar or talking to someone that I fight in the UFC. No. I’m good at fighting and I’m doing it to make money. World Series has been treating me good, you know. I’d like to fight more often: Ali… click, click. But if they want to keep me around and pay me good money, hell yeah I’ll stick around.”
Jake Heun faces Teddy Holder at WSOF 19: Gaethje vs. Palomino on March 28, 2015 at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, AZ. Follow him on Twitter HERE and on Facebook HERE. For more information, click HERE.
- Absolute Fighting Championship
- Ali Abdel-Aziz
- Alida Gray
- American Top Team
- Antonio Silva
- Bigfoot Silva
- Chris Leben
- Cody Bollinger
- Glover Teixeira
- Jesse Scheckner
- John Gunderson
- Josh Burkman
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Ray Sefo
- Roy Nelson
- Steve Carl
- The Ultimate Fighter
- World Series of Fighting