Underground, in a basement gym in the desert, Jay Hieron’s UFC career began.
Hieron was helping Massapequa’s Phil Baroni train for an upcoming bout when he caught the eye of Dana White in that gym inside of the UFC’s old headquarters on Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas in 2004.
Hieron, from Freeport, was just barely into his career as a mixed martial arts fighter, one that eventually would take him to multiple countries and the world’s biggest fight promotions.
“I didn’t even have a manager then, that’s how green I was,” Hieron said recently while back on Long Island at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy, where he first started training in MMA.
Still, one year and four fights into his professional career in a relatively new sport, there Hieron was — on UFC president White’s short list of who to call when he needed a fighter quickly.
“I was 4-0, I’m pretty green and took a short-notice fight versus a guy you might have heard of — Georges St-Pierre,” Hieron said. “It didn’t go my way, but it was a great learning experience. I was young in my career. I could have went in two different directions. I could have said, ‘Nah, this isn’t really for me’ or ‘All right, I gotta train harder.'”
He chose the latter.
“It made me who I was in my career,” Hieron said of his fight against St-Pierre, who later became the UFC welterweight champion and one of the greatest fighters in MMA history.
That career included 30 professional fights — 23 of them wins — the welterweight world title in the International Fight League, the Bellator Season 4 tournament win and one of those oversized checks that looks cool in the photo but doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment of the plane for the flight home. (A minor detail when the actual check includes three digits on each side of the comma.) It included four fights in the UFC, all losses.
It also led to Hieron’s post-fighting career: acting and stunt work.
Hieron moved to Las Vegas in 2004 as his fighting career began to take shape. He trained at Xtreme Couture and befriended Randy Couture, a five-time UFC champion. Couture, who since has transitioned into acting as well, introduced Hieron to John Cenatiempo, a noted Hollywood stunt man from New York.
“I didn’t think I could turn it into a career at first until a few years being in it,” Hieron said. “Thank God it’s going well.”
Well enough where Hieron has appeared in more than 50 movies and TV shows.
Going from a professional fighter to someone who fights on camera may seem like a natural jump. In theory, sure. In reality, it’s a bit more nuanced.
“I had to learn how to fight for film. It’s totally the opposite of real fighting. The punches that work in real life, they don’t translate well on camera,” said Hieron, 40. “Even though I was a real fighter, I had to transition and make you believe that I could do a film fight because the camera don’t lie.”
No, it does not, which works out nicely for the former national champion wrestler at Nassau Community College who recently acted opposite Method Man. Not too shabby for a kid who grew up listening to the Method Man and his rap group, the Wu-Tang Clan, in the early 1990s.
“I’ve done a car chase with a police car 100 miles an hour down Madison Avenue in New York City,” Hieron said. “I mean, it’s pretty cool. With the lights on and I’m dressed as a full cop. I’m a kid from Freeport, you know what I mean.”
|Jay Hieron’s UFC fight history|
|June 19, 2004||UFC 48||Georges St-Pierre||Lost by TKO, Round 1, 1:42|
|Oct. 3, 2005||UFC Fight Night 2||Jonathan Goulet||Lost by TKO (doctor’s stoppage), Round 3, 1:03|
|Oct. 5, 2012||UFC on FX 5||Jake Ellenberger||Lost by unanimous decision|
|Feb. 2, 2013||UFC 156||Tyron Woodley||Lost by KO, Round 1, 0:36|
Photographer: Chris Ware
Video editor: Greg Inserillo