It is easy, almost lazy, for people to say that professional fighters are a “rare breed.” Outside of their willingness to risk life and limb for what is mostly a very low-paying sport, fighters are mostly just normal people. Many have college degrees. Not all are lifelong athletes. Most of them have regular jobs and families. Hobbies amongst fighters include the basics — hiking, video games, playing with kids, making music — but occasionally, one may encounter a less common hobby, like gardening. Enter Jason High.
Real fight fans know High as the decade-long veteran fighter with the 20-5 record and finishes over the majority of his opponents. Some more mainstream fans know him as the guy who was booted from the UFC for an unfortunate incident which he still regrets to this day. Very few people know him as a green thumb.
High is an amazing fighter with a storied career. Ever since a two-fight losing streak earlier in his career — his only losing streak ever, by the way — he has gone on an 11-2 run, including three wins by knockout and three by submission. When he’s not training and preparing for his next battle, High is vegetable gardening back at his home in Kansas City, Mo.
“I’ve got sweet potato, kale, broccoli and some herbs,” High told Combat Press. “I’m just trying to do my own thing. [I’m] trying to grow some stuff myself, instead of trying to get it all at the supermarket. I started last summer. When I Iived in California, I had a couple tomato plants, but it wasn’t much. After I moved back home, I dug up some of the grass and made an official garden spot last summer. I had a pretty good haul. This summer’s been alright. I’m waiting on some sweet potatoes, because they come in during the fall. I’m going to have a bunch, so I think I’m going to have some to put away.”
A lot of fighters eat in cycles. They’ll chow down on wings and drink beer out of camp, but go on difficult weight-cutting diets during camp. High has opted for a healthier route. He tries to do things right all the time. It takes a great deal of stress out of training camps. His garden is a reflection of this approach.
“I keep it really healthy,” said the lightweight fighter. “It doesn’t change much, really, when I get into fight camp. I try to eat a lot of vegetables. I try not to eat a bunch of meat. If I do get meat, I try to know where it comes from. I try to keep it healthy all year round. It’s much easier that way.”
High is currently in camp for his next outing, which comes on Friday night when he battles fellow veteran João Zeferino in a bid to get the next shot at the World Series of Fighting lightweight title. WSOF 33 takes place at Municipal Auditorium, in Kansas City, and the two men will fight just prior to the co-main event.
High and his business partner, fellow fighter L.C. Davis, own American Top Team HD in Kansas City. This is where they do most of their training, but they usually spend some time down at the ATT headquarters in Coconut Creek, Fla., too. The Florida gym serves as home for a decent chunk of their fight camps. High spent about two weeks in Florida in September, but he came home for the last two weeks of this camp. While he was away, his garden was well cared for.
“My girl Ann waters it and takes care of it,” said High. “I Facetime with her, so I could see what’s going on back there.”
High’s time in Florida coincided with Dustin Poirier’s preparation for his headlining battle at UFC Fight Night 94, so the training was ramped up at ATT. High was able to really get dialed in on Zeferino’s style.
“We focused on a lot of what he likes to do,” High explained. “He likes the leg locks, so we’re focusing on that kind of thing — a lot of defense, knowing positions, stuff like that. Really, we’re just getting in shape and trying to be better than we were last time.”
While it was good for High to string together a couple wins in a row, he is always looking to improve. Just like a gardener, he is looking to reap a little bit more out of his harvest — better quality, better results, a bigger bounty. A win over Zeferino should produce a very nice yield.
“When I win this fight, I think we’ll be talking about fighting the champ,” High said. “The last fight was supposed to be a No. 1 contender fight. It was all ready to go, but I didn’t want to sit and wait for Justin [Gaethje, WSOF lightweight champ] to fight. And WSOF, Ray [Sefo, company president], called me and said they were coming to Kansas City, and I’m not really going to sit out when they come to my hometown. I’m down to fight.”
Just like any good gardener, High most certainly checked in on his plants as soon as he got back from Florida, but the veggies will always take a backseat to his primary focus. Just like a garden, High’s fighting career will move onto the next cycle in achieving the ultimate yield, which, in this case, would be the WSOF gold. October is the harvest month, and High will be looking to harvest a big win over Zeferino on Friday night.
“I’m not looking past this fight. My 35th birthday is October 12th, but I haven’t planned anything past this fight.”