Jay Hieron was getting ready to call it a night when his phone rang about a month ago. It was his manager calling with an opportunity of a lifetime.
Hieron will return to the UFC for the first time since 2005 when he meets Jake Ellenberger in the co-main event of UFC 151: Jones vs. Henderson on September 1. Hieron (23-5) is taking the place of Josh Koscheck, who was forced out with an injury.
“I knew something was up because (my manager) was calling so late,” Hieron said. “He said, ‘You ready for this?’ I said, ‘I’m born ready.’ But I wasn’t ready for him to say I got a fight as the co-main event on the same UFC show headlined by Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson.”
Hieron trains out of Las Vegas at the Xtreme Couture gym, making it even harder to be so close to the UFC, yet so far away. During his seven years outside the promotion, Hieron lost just three times and defeated the likes of Jason High, Brent Weedman and Rick Hawn.
“It’s tough living in Vegas, living in the UFC’s hometown, and seeing all these big cards all the time,” Hieron said. “I had people ask me if I was an amateur fighter because I wasn’t in the UFC. It just never worked out for me to come back to the UFC, but I never got deterred. I had to take a different route and now I am here; I appreciate it all so much.”
Along with those signature victories, Hieron also handed Ellenberger his first professional loss back in 2006 during an IFL event.
“I couldn’t ask for a better comeback fight,” Hieron said. “I beat him before, and I will beat him again. I know he’s super tough, and a much different fighter with a ton of experience, but I know I can beat him again.”