Jay Hieron (right) won the Bellator Season 4 welterweight tournament. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
As he waited on the decision after a 15-minute battle with Rick Hawn on Saturday at Bellator 43, Jay Hieron was confident that he had won.
“I knew hands-down I had it,” Hieron said Monday during a “Savage Dog Show” interview on the Sherdog Radio Network. “When they called it a split, I was kind of surprised, but right after the fight I believed I’d won 100 percent.”
Hieron took the split decision on two 29-28 cards. One judge ruled the fight 29-28 for Hawn.
“I feel I won the first two rounds,” Hieron said. “I give him the edge in the third. A lot of people say I’m going backwards, I’m going backwards. No. If you know the sport and you’re a fan of boxing or any combat sport, they’ll know what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to set him up, use my angles, my footwork, bring him in, hit him. I’m hitting him more than he’s hitting me. I’m slipping, moving out of the way of his punches. That’s the game. I want to hit him and not be hit.”
In particular, Hieron used kicks to score points and keep Hawn off balance.
“We knew Rick Hawn comes forward,” Hieron explained. “He’s kind of a flat-footed fighter. He doesn’t really check kicks. That was definitely the game plan I went over with my coaches, and it was working great. I was kicking the inside, outside of his leg. High kicks, all the kicks were flowing.”
Hieron appeared to win the first round and Hawn the third, with the second up for debate. The problem in that last round, Hieron pointed out, was that he couldn’t breathe.
“I went in with a broken nose and he just tapped it and it rebroke,” Hieron said. “I couldn’t breathe out of it at all. I had no air going through my nose.”
Hieron toughed it out, however, to win Bellator’s Season 4 welterweight tournament. The victory earns him a title shot against Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren.
“He’s definitely tough,” Hieron said. “I think he’s a little one-dimensional. He has Olympic-caliber wrestling. He presents some problems, but at the end of the day, I’m going to be prepared 100 percent. Just going through this tournament has made me a 100-percent better fighter. Mentally, physically -- this tournament is a grind.”
The reward now is that Hieron is just one step away from a title. His decision to sign with Bellator has been well worth it, Hieron reflected.
“I can’t wait. This is why I do it. I want to fight for titles,” he said. “I want to fight for championships. Nothing was given to me with Bellator. I had to work my way through the tournament to get it. I’m going to train that much harder now and take this belt. I believe it’s my time.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 57:04).