Ian Heinisch (Phil Lambert/Combat Press)

UFC 245’s Ian Heinisch: Capping Off a Huge 2019

2019. It has certainly been a year to remember. There were wild blizzards and hurricanes, the grounding of an entire fleet of airliners, foreign conflicts, the sentencing of one of the biggest drug kingpins in history, and the possible impeachment of the leader of the free world. Let’s not forget the “Baby Shark” craze, either. It’s been quite the year.

It’s been a big year for Colorado native Ian Heinisch, too. The full-time mixed martial artist has been climbing the ranks of the UFC. Following a win over Antonio Carlos Junior and a subsequent loss to Derek Brunson, he sits in the No. 10 spot in the official UFC rankings for the middleweight division. Heinisch’s big year hasn’t just been centered on happenings inside the cage, though.

“I got engaged in July in Mexico,” Heinisch told Combat Press. “We got married July 15 at the courthouse, because we were closing on a house and didn’t want to move in together until we were married. We will have a wedding sometime next year.”


Heinisch’s fight with Junior took place on May 18. The Brunson fight came on August 17. It was a busy summer for the 31-year-old former state-champion wrestler. He proposed to his girlfriend Joni while they were scuba diving in Mexico. She accepted. They got married and bought a house all during his fight camp.

As if that isn’t enough, Heinisch is also working on a potential movie deal. That’s a lot on the plate for a guy who has fought seven times in just two years.

Heinisch’s last fight was not an ideal way to finish out a busy summer. It was only the second loss of his 15-fight pro career. After three rounds, the judges handed the win to Brunson, and rightfully so. However, Heinisch was not exactly operating at 100 percent.

“It was a huge stage — a huge pay-per-view — and it was just a lot of nerves,” Heinisch said. “Honestly, he was the better fighter that night. That week, I had a virus and was sick. I went in there without a deep gas tank, and I tried to finish him with everything. It didn’t work out. I definitely gassed out more than I ever have.”

Going into the fight, Heinisch was scheduled to meet with some Hollywood people about sharing his well-known story of international drug smuggling and eventual prison sentences both domestic and foreign. It’s a turnaround story unlike any other, and it will certainly make for a great movie. He proceeded with the meeting, but nothing has been finalized.

“After my fight with Brunson, we went up to West Hollywood, and we talked with some producers,” Heinisch explained. “We have some people very interested right now, but with Hollywood, you have to be really careful with what you do. You don’t want to just sign your life rights away and lose your story.”

Heinisch was coming off two fights in three months. This might seem like the proper time for some rest and relaxation, but the UFC was ready to get him right back into action.

“I took about two weeks off, but I got that quick-turnaround fight with Brad Tavares and jumped right back in camp for Singapore,” Heinisch stated. “Unfortunately, about two weeks into that training camp, I had a really hard accidental headbutt, and I tried to spar, but I had a bad concussion. I had to pull out of that fight and give myself some time to heal.”

It was a huge disappointment for Heinisch. Tavares could have served as another top-10 opponent for him just two months after the loss to Brunson. However, the injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The same day he had to pull out of the fight, another big opportunity came along to fight Omari Akhmedov at UFC 245 in Las Vegas. The pay-per-view show is one of the biggest cards in history. As an added bonus, Tavares lost his rescheduled fight against Edmen Shahbazyan last month, so Heinisch now sits two spots above him in the rankings.

Akhmedov will be another tough opponent, though. He currently holds International Master of Sport rankings in combat sambo and hand-to-hand combat. Akhmedov has finished 12 opponents in the course of picking up 19 total wins. In the UFC, he is on a 4-0-1 run in his last five fights. He has earned two “Fight of the Night” bonuses as well.

“I don’t really know too much [about him], and I want to keep it that way,” said Heinisch. “I just want to put my game on him. He’s probably going to try to wrestle. I’m just going to put my game on him, and whatever he does, I’m just going to react from there. I just have a different mindset going into this fight.

“I don’t care who they put in front of me. I saw what I did to Brunson in the first round when I was feeling good. I obviously wasn’t feeling good after that. I just feel like I’m on the level, and this guy’s not on my level. I’ll win this fight anywhere it goes.”

The UFC 245 card is one of the best in the company’s history. In addition to three title fights to cap off the card, the other main-card bouts and the preliminary fights are all stacked with big names.

“They just kept adding people — Mike Perry, Matt Brown,” said Heinisch. “I think Robbie Lawler was on it, but he’s not now. There are all of these people, like Urijah Faber, who I looked up to. Seeing all these people on this card, I felt honored to be added to a card like this. It’s so much bigger than the card in Singapore, and, with a lot more viewers, it’s going to be good for me to put on a good show.”

UFC 245 will be one more big event to cap off a very memorable 2019 for Heinisch. A win would only make it that much sweeter. His goal for next year is to keep moving toward a title shot, but he is not looking past Akhmedov. After the holiday season, it will be right back to business. Heinisch is looking forward to making even bigger waves and better memories in 2020.