Haste may make waste, but it doesn’t always seem like that in foresight.
After every contract is awarded through Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, every winner is, or at least should be, urgently awaiting their first UFC fight, because, technically, they haven’t even fought in the big show yet. There is a level of excitement and anticipation to keep the momentum going, and this sometimes gets in the way of destiny.
After earning a UFC contract during the second season of the Contender Series in August, Ian Heinisch was ready to fight pretty much immediately. He started making offers, ideally, for last week’s UFC Denver card — which would be a dream of an Octagon debut for the Colorado native. However, things didn’t come together.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Heinisch told Combat Press. “I was training to fight on the Denver card, and I’ve literally been non-stop training since the Contender Series — which is great, because I’ve improved in many areas — but I got to the point that I was very frustrated. I got turned down by three separate guys for the Denver card. We thought it was the elevation, but it turned out that the same people were turning me down for the Argentina card as well — Charles Byrd, Kevin Holland — these guys did not want to fight.
“You know what, though? God had a plan for me, and all of a sudden, I got this amazing opportunity to skip all these guys and fight on a main card for my debut against the number-16 or number-17 ranked guy in the world. I’m very excited for that and I’m glad I held out.”
On Saturday night, as part of a UFC Fight Night 140 main card that airs live on Fox Sports 1, Heinisch replaces the injured Tom Breese on roughly a week’s notice to fight Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira in a middleweight battle.
“It’s a great match-up for me,” said the anxious Coloradan. “It’s similar striking as my last opponent, Justin Sumter. [Ferreira]’s tall, he’s long, he’s southpaw, he throws that rear-side kick, that cross. I feel like Cezar has way better jiu-jitsu, but I feel like his bottom-game jiu-jitsu is not very strong, and his top-game jiu-jitsu is very strong. He has to take me down to use his effective jiu-jitsu, so it’s going to be a tough night for him trying to get me to the ground like that. If he does, it’s going to be hard to hold me there. I think it’s a great match-up for me. I’m excited to show the world what I’m all about.”
So, what is Heinisch all about? He spent time in a Spanish prison for international drug smuggling. That’s one thing. He was a stud wrestler in high school. That’s another thing. Oh yeah, he’s also a dominant middleweight Legacy Fighting Alliance champion with only one loss to a guy that immediately went to the UFC. He has three knockout wins in a row, which now makes him just as much a knockout artist as he is a wrestling-oriented fighter.
“It just shows my improvements,” Heinisch admitted. “I’ve fallen in love with striking. I love striking now. I kind of have to circle back around to my wrestling, because I started to get away from it so much that I wasn’t using it at all. The whole MMA sport and the game is becoming a complete fighter. So, you have to double down on your weaknesses and continue to work on your strengths as well and then blend it all together. I’m a very hard match-up for anyone now that I’m a complete fighter.”
Even with all his past transgressions, Heinisch still managed to recover nicely. He has a whole new future in front of him.
“This is my God-given destiny on this Earth,” said Heinisch. “I use MMA as a platform. I want to inspire, and I want to show people that you can hit rock bottom, you can be 26 years old and just getting out of prison with nothing, and within four years, I’m in the UFC with this great opportunity next Saturday, I have the opportunity to completely change my life, and I want that to be an inspiration to anyone struggling.”