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Jay Hieron’s UFC return ‘worth the wait’ in more ways than one

Hieron meets Jake Ellenberger in Friday’s co-main event


Leila Navidi

Local UFC welterweight Jay Hieron works out for the media at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.

Jay Hieron Workout

Local UFC welterweight Jay Hieron works out for the media at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. Launch slideshow »

UFC on FX 5 complete card

  • Main card airs at 5 Friday evening on FX after preliminary bouts on FUEL TV and facebook and 2 and 1, respectively.
  • Heavyweight bout: Travis Browne vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva
  • Welterweight bout: Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron
  • Flyweight title eliminator: John Dodson vs. Jussier Formiga
  • Welterweight bout: Justin Edwards vs. Josh Neer
  • Lightweight bout: Jeremy Stephens vs. Yves Edwards
  • Lightweight bout: Michael Johnson vs. Danny Castillo
  • Lightweight bout: Dennis Hallman vs. Thiago Tavares
  • Lightweight bout: Jacob Volkmann vs. Shane Roller
  • Featherweight bout: Bart Palaszewski vs. Diego Nunes
  • Flyweight bout: Darren Uyenoyama vs. Phil Harris
  • Lightweight bout: Marcus LeVesseur vs. Carlo Prater
  • Welterweight bout: Aaron Simpson vs. Mike Pierce

To understand why Jay Hieron felt no anger when UFC 151 fell apart, it’s necessary to know his fighting schedule from last year.

Hieron fought three times in two months, winning all of them, as part of the Bellator season four welterweight tournament.

“It was definitely a grind,” Hieron recalled. “It’s a marathon. I’d almost rather fight three fights in one night than fight three fights five or six weeks apart. You get injured in a fight, hurt in training and it’s just a long process.”

Hieron (23-5 MMA, 0-2 UFC) was supposed to make his long awaited return to the octagon in the co-main of UFC 151 against Jake Ellenberger (27-6 MMA, 6-2 UFC) on Sept. 1. After the event’s cancellation, the UFC pushed the fight back to Friday as the co-main event of UFC on FX 5 in Minneapolis.

Having to deal with a month postponement was a minor nuisance compared to beating one opponent and immediately turning around to think about the next for Hieron. The 36-year old local, who trains at Xtreme Couture, took it as a positive after getting over the initial shock.

“I took a step back, unwound for a few days and just used the extra time to train,” Hieron said. “I just had a few more weeks of training to get that much sharper.”

If he was facing someone other than Ellenberger, Hieron may have studied his opponent’s other fights. But he felt like he knew “The Juggernaut” well enough to focus on himself.

Hieron was the first fighter to ever hand Ellenberger a loss when the two met six years ago in an International Fight League bout. Granted, the 27-year old Ellenberger has blossomed from a prospect to one of the world’s best 170-pound fighters since that bout.

But Hieron has paid close attention, even mimicking Ellenberger’s style in training for teammates Mike Pyle and Martin Kampmann. Ellenberger defeated Pyle at UFC 108. Kampmann scored another one for Xtreme Couture by upsetting Ellenberger earlier this year.

Hieron says all the familiarity bodes well for his chances at the Target Center.

“The first fight has nothing to do with Friday,” Ellenberger said. “I’m going to be happy to avenge that defeat, for sure, but it isn’t like I’ve been thinking about it since the fight.”

It would make sense if Hieron had thought more about their first encounter. Their careers have gone in decidedly different directions with Ellenberger garnering a higher stature in mixed martial arts.

While Hieron traveled around the country to fight in secondary promotions, Ellenberger became a title contender in the UFC with six straight wins before the Kampmann loss.

Hieron said he never thought “what if.” He fought the jealousy temptation.

“I watched him but I didn’t dwell on it,” Hieron said. “Good for him, he’s done well.”

Hieron’s two stints in the UFC have ended anticlimactically. The promotion cut him after a first-round TKO loss to current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 48 in 2004 — a defeat that doesn’t look so bad anymore — and again after falling to Jonathan Goulet a year later.

Hieron believed he would find his way back to the UFC over all the years. A slight delay won’t curb his enthusiasm.

“It’s been the worth the wait already,” he said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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