Ian Heinisch (Phil Lambert/Combat Press)

Contender Series’ Ian Heinisch: Core Focus

Athletes, especially the dedicated ones, lead hectic lives. Sports, in general, tend to operate in cycles. They have some sort of uptime and downtime. Some athletes simply follow this ebb and flow. Others are constantly training, even in the off-season. Regardless of the style of training, it is of utmost importance to create downtime to recharge the proverbial batteries.

Ian “Hurricane” Heinisch lives a life that very much represents his moniker. The pro fighter is constantly hustling, both inside and outside of the gym. He is not married, does not have kids, and has no job outside of fighting. So, there’s really no reason to slow the storm in between camps. He eats, sleeps and trains. That’s almost the whole story.

“I’ve been doing yoga for eight or nine years,” Heinisch told Combat Press. “It started with my dad downtown at Core Power, when it was pretty new. It’s just part of my workout routine. It helps me with flexibility, balance [and] breathing, and it helps me clear my mind and slow down a little bit from the chaotic training schedule.”


Heinisch trains at Factory X Muay Thai and Landow Performance, which are both in the Denver area. There is plenty of media out there that highlights his big team, his coaches, and how hard he trains every day. However, the one less-documented aspect of his total training experience is his yoga practice, which still takes place at Core Power. Not only does it help the Colorado native stay grounded, but it helps train what is arguably the most important part of the body.

“I like to do the Vinyasa flow,” Heinisch said. “I don’t like to just hold it. That can be kind of tedious and boring. We do a lot of flow and a lot of core in the yoga I do. Core is very important.”

Core is what connects the upper and lower body. It is also the source of breathing, and breath is life.

Heinisch has had an interesting life. The 29-year-old’s odyssey has been peppered with movie-worthy stories, including his stint as an international drug trafficker. However, Heinisch lives a much different existence today. After making his amateur MMA debut in 2014, he went on a three-year winning streak across his combined professional and amateur careers, racking up 11 wins, including eight at the pro level.

The former high school wrestling standout came into the game with a deep grappling core, and he has been working diligently on improving every aspect of his game. Heinisch has been so successful in his career that he has been on the brink of a UFC offer for a couple of years now. However, he had some setbacks due to his pre-MMA history and his first career loss to Markus Perez.

In his ninth pro fight, the Coloradan was headlining Legacy Fighting Alliance 22 with the intention of taking out Perez and capturing the promotion’s vacant middleweight strap — a title reign in the LFA has proven to be an almost guaranteed ticket into the big show. However, the Brazilian was able to submit Heinisch in the first round and subsequently took a short-notice UFC fight.

In January, Heinisch scored a big knockout of Daniel Madrid at LFA 31. He returned in May to pick up the title at LFA 39, where he knocked out Gabriel Checco in the first round. With the LFA strap in hand, he was expecting a call for either a short-notice fight or a straight-up contract with the UFC. Instead, he received a different offer: a fight on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series on July 31.

“They ran it by me, and, honestly, I didn’t really want to think about that, because I figured, with my performance and my record, I was going to get a short-notice [fight] for the UFC,” Heinisch said. “I was shocked when it didn’t happen. Unfortunately — well, I guess fortunately for other people, but unfortunately for me — no one got hurt and pulled out, but I’m excited for this opportunity. It’s a great one.”

In some ways, getting a concentrated audience with the UFC president in the front row is not a bad thing. Heinisch will showcase his skills opposite Justin Sumter. At the pro level, Sumter is 6-1 over two years, but as an amateur he was 13-4-1 and made his debut in 2011. Between his pro and amateur careers, Sumter has only been to a decision three times.

“I just know he’s a taller southpaw,” Heinisch said. “He’s pretty green, and he’s got some holes in his game. I’m expecting a great fight, and I’m hoping for a similar finish to my last one.”

The timing couldn’t be better for this opportunity. In November, the UFC will hold its 25th-anniversary card in Heinisch’s hometown of Denver, which is where the promotion also held its very first event. Heinisch hopes for a big win, a quick turnaround and a spot on the Denver show. However, Sumter is the first order of business. Heinisch has been specifically preparing for a southpaw striker, and there is no shortage of high-level strikers at Factory X.

“I’ve been working with Anthony Smith, Adam Stroup and Gilbert Smith, but the last two weeks, I’ve been working with Chris Camozzi,” Heinisch said. “We do one round of kickboxing — as he gets ready for his fight in GLORY on August 10 — and we do one round of MMA.”

With his eyes on the prize and a healthy fight camp on his side, Heinisch will be ready to put on a show. In fact, his fight camp has been almost too long.

“I just broke it up with a week in the mountains and a week in New York,” Heinisch said. “I did train a little bit out there. I was there for a wedding and family-reunion type stuff. [In the mountains], I went camping for four days and then I went to the Hanuman Yoga Festival up in Boulder, [Colo.].

“It’s been good though, man. I’m just a student of the game, enjoying the process. I’m just getting better, you know? Every time I fight, I want people to see a new aspect of my game.”

Heinisch has a lot going on, but he always has time for yoga as a way to stay grounded. He even made time for a festival during his camp. However, camp is over. Now, it’s time to shine. On Tuesday night, he will finally have his chance to perform directly in front of the boss and live on UFC Fight Pass. Finally, he will know his future with the promotion.

“It’s going to be fun [and] exciting, with pure domination [and] with some new tricks that I believe I have that people haven’t seen before,” said Heinisch, “and with me getting my hand raised and getting a UFC contract.”

Heinisch would like to thank his team at Factory X Muay Thai and Landow Performance, as well as his family, friends, fans and sponsors: Illegal Pete’s, Receptra Naturals, Elder Auto, Northern Climate Control, Denver Sports Recovery, Rad Roller, In the Cut, Denver Distillery, Jesse James Accounting, Relief Massage, Jamie Atlas Personal Training and Recovery, Pizzeria Colore and his manager, Jim Walter. Follow Heinisch on Twitter: @ianheinischmma and Instagram: @ianheinischmma