Jay Hieron (file photo) credited his chiropractor Saturday night. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Jay Hieron stands one fight away from once again becoming a world champion.
Following a hard-fought split decision victory over Rick Hawn in their welterweight tournament final at Bellator 43, Hieron called out the man he will face for the promotion’s 170-pound strap: reigning champ Ben Askren.
Asked to sum up his feelings after his victory at the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla., Hieron attributed his success inside the cage to his dedication outside of it.
“I feel awesome. Hard work pays off,” said Hieron. “I live by that. I stay in the gym, no matter what’s going on. I’ve been through everything in my professional career, man. I’ve been through all the ups and downs, but I weathered the storms. Through the worst times in my life, I’ve been in the gym, sweating, bleeding, releasing all of it.”
A former International Fight League welterweight titlist, Hieron praised Bellator for the organization’s commitment to the tournament format in determining challengers for its champions.
“I’ve been in organizations that collapsed around me or they have poster boys to protect, [even though] I’m winning my fights. But with the tournament style, if I win my fights, I get a title shot. I’m here to be the best,” said Hieron. “I joined the tournament because these are all tough guys. You may not know these guys’ names, but Rick Hawn is an Olympian. That’s incredible. There was a lot of talent in this [tournament]. I’m doing something right, so I’m going to stay on the same path.”
Though a seasoned professional, “The Thoroughbred” has found himself in unfamiliar territory in 2011. As per the tournament format, the 10-year pro was required to fight thrice in just over two months -- a mental and physical hurdle that Hieron was forced to overcome in order to capture the tournament crown.
“It’s been a grind, man. It’s a marathon. I did so much trying [to get] my body to recover. After my last fight, [Bellator told me that] I was fighting in three weeks. I’m like, ‘No [thanks],’” joked Hieron. “Thank God I have so many people that take care of me in Las Vegas. I’ve got doctors, chiropractors... I sat in a hyperbaric chamber for a week. With the tournament, you really have to train smarter, not harder.”
Looking toward the future, Hieron has Askren -- and the title -- on his radar. The Xtreme Couture product asserts that while his last two victories have been close, they have also been well-deserved. In that vein, Hieron was succinct when asked about the pending title clash.
“I’m going to do what I do every day. I’m going to bring myself in the cage and get the victory.”