It might sound like a cliché, but Ian Heinisch’s life truly reads like a movie script. If he were to sell his life story to a major movie studio, you might see it in your local movie theater next summer as told by Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann.
Or maybe Heinisch’s story could be told by Ted Demme. Demme directed the 2001 crime drama Blow, starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. It turns out that film, which chronicled the rise and fall of notorious drug smuggler George Jung, would help shape the path of Heinisch’s life.
“This started happening when I was young, and I was a big partier,” Heinisch told Combat Press. “The movie Blow really intrigued me, and I got a good connection and the people I hung out with influenced me a lot with all the money they were making. Who wants to work?”
Heinisch’s connection led him into the world of drug smuggling, which was making him up to $10,000 per week at his peak. When he went on vacation overseas and plied his trades there, Heinisch could easily make up to $40,000. Did it ever cross his mind that what he was doing was wrong?
“Yeah, when I got caught,” Heinisch said.
He spent time in prison in both Spain and the United States for smuggling drugs. If you ask him, it was always just a matter of time before he was caught.
“It seemed like it was way too easy,” Heinisch said. “You think about living the gangster lifestyle with all that power, and the myth. It’s just that, in the end, you’ve been caught or you’re just going to get caught. It was fun for a while, but you pay for it with years off your life.”
Heinisch spent two years and four months in a Spanish prison, which appeared to be luxury accommodations compared to the prisons in the United States.
“They let us train in there, and I learned Spanish, and they let you wear your street clothes,” Heinisch said. “They’re about rehabilitating you there. It’s not a business like it is in the U.S. I learned how to blend in any situation and how to defuse situations. I had a lot of close calls in there. I found God and found myself through being alone with my thoughts and some books. At the time, I thought it was the worst, but now I think it’s the best thing to have happened to me.”
Heinisch grew up wrestling in his native Colorado and won two state titles in high school. He competed in wrestling at North Idaho College before his abrupt left turn and new career path. Fresh out of prison and with a new lease on life, Heinisch decided to return to his roots.
“I always knew I would be a fighter,” he said. “But after I finished partying and cleared my head, I knew I had to actually do it. I have a burning fire in my chest, and for me it’s either succeed or die.”
Heinisch trains at Factory X Muay Thai in Colorado. He began his MMA career as an amateur in 2014. Heinisch has yet to taste defeat in nine career fights. He competed extensively in Sparta Combat League and once for the former World Series of Fighting. Heinisch then signed with the Legacy Fighting Alliance and won his promotional debut in April by choking out his opponent halfway through the first round.
“My goal is to get to the UFC, and LFA puts more people there than anyone,” Heinisch said. “But Sparta Combat League treated me well, and I still have so much more to improve on. MMA is a constantly evolving sport, and I’m constantly learning and being a student. It’s so much fun. Right now I’m working on my jiu-jitsu transitions, and my journey will really begin once I get in the UFC.”
While Hollywood may have influenced Heinisch’s career before fighting, he looks to a more familiar source for his current occupation: former boxing great Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
“He did time in prison, and I watched footage of him training in there,” Heinisch said. “It really spoke to me, and with my fighting style, I just take guys down and beat them up. So the nickname ‘Hurricane’ was given to me by the fans.”
Heinisch’s next fight for LFA takes place on Friday, Sept. 8, in his home state against fellow undefeated fighter Markus Perez. Heinisch views this fight as another step in his journey and inevitable future in the world’s biggest MMA promotion.
“He’s just another body in my way,” Heinisch said. “I’m not cutting any corners, and I see holes in his game, but I’m going to focus on myself.
“I see my hand being raised after getting a finish.”