Big Words from “Big” Jon Hess

By Traci Ratzloff Feb 10, 2005
“Given the chance to fight Vitor Belfort again, I will knock him out faster than he did me,” said “Big” Jon Hess, referring to his second—and last—MMA fight, which took place at SuperBrawl 2. “If I am allowed to return, I will be world champ!”

The 35-year-old San Diego native made his mixed martial arts debut in 1995’s Ultimate Fighting Championship 5 against third dan Andy Anderson. Hess easily won by technical knockout after only slightly more than one minute.

Said to be one of the dirtiest bouts in UFC history, Hess sees it differently: “I would not agree that this fight was a dirty fight as the UFC billed itself as no rules. If there are no rules then how can you break them? It was a true fight in that Anderson was trying to hurt me, and I hurt him first.”

Hess first became interested in MMA when he saw UFC 4, which he “thought was a joke,” particularly Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Royce Gracie, whom he said he “could defeat very easily.”

During a 10-minute workout with Art Davie, Hess said he displayed his “exceptional hand-to-hand skill and was allowed into the UFC.” With Lew Hicks and his new wife, Julie, in his corner, Hess entered the cage in 1995 for the first time.

After the bout with Anderson ended, an overweight Hess forfeited his position in the tournament. “Two months prior to the UFC, I quit smoking (two packs a day), and I put on 40 pounds of fat,” he said. “I was eating very unhealthy and drinking too much. After destroying Anderson, I was gassed and my right forearm and wrist were injured from striking Anderson in the side of his head. I didn’t think I could defeat Severn with just my left and without any energy.”

A year and a half went by and MMA enthusiasts had not heard a word from Hess. “I believe that I was blacklisted by Art Davie,” he insisted. “I was not allowed to return, and I could get no fights anywhere.”

After trying for 14 months, Hess grew extremely frustrated and quit trying and training. In October 1996, however, his disbarment from the sport ended when he received a call stating Royce Gracie’s brother “Victor” wanted to fight him in four days at SuperBrawl 2. Hess had challenged Gracie after UFC 5, but nothing ever surfaced.

“After my bad experience in UFC 5,” recalled Hess, “I got in shape to show the world that I was the best fighter, so I challenged Royce Gracie, and he was unwilling to fight me—probably because he knew that I would kick his rear end.”

When he received the call, Hess replied that he was no longer in shape, especially for a fight that would occur in four days, but was told he was being “called out.”

“Because I had challenged Royce the previous year, I agreed,” he said.

Entering SuperBrawl, Hess quickly learned that the “Victor” he had anticipated was in reality Vitor Belfort. In 12 seconds, Hess was knocked out, suffering a concussion.

“I believe Belfort was using anabolic steroids prior to and before our match,” Hess stated. “Given the chance to fight him again, I will knock him out faster than he did me. I was sick and in the worst shape of my life, and I couldn’t overcome his steroid strength. However, Royce did get the last laugh, and I paid a heavy price of humiliation and a concussion.”

The MMA world has not seen Hess since. “I had to get my life squared away before I could give fighting my best effort,” he said, “so I retired after I humiliated myself against Belfort.”

Known for being the co-creator of Scientific Aggressive Fighting Techniques of America (SAFTA), a hand-to-hand martial art, Hess trained with Jerry Peterson, whom he believes “is the smartest hand-to-hand instructor in the world. He is a great man, and I learned a lot about life and how to handle situations from him.”

Today, Hess spends his time playing sports and religiously lifting weights, planning for a career, once again, somewhere in the fight world.

Going back to the basics of training, Hess said he is now a “considerably more dangerous man today than I was back then. I am also more humble and smarter. My punching power has increased exponentially, and I have an 82-inch reach.”

Weighing his options between a career in pro-boxing or MMA, he confides, “I’ll either return [to the cage] by summer, or I’ll stay retired for good. I am confident in my abilities, as I believe that I could defeat Royce Gracie, Vitor Belfort and Frank Mir. I would be willing to take any of those matches, winner-take-all. I wouldn’t do that if there was a chance I would lose.”

Unwilling to fight again in smaller venues, Hess focuses on the UFC. “There is no one at the UFC who I couldn’t defeat, but I don’t know if I am still banned as they have new owners.”

Though he has yet to step in the cage, Hess is well aware of how the sport has changed. In his own words he finds “MMA has evolved and devolved at the same time. It has evolved in that the majority of fighters are better and more well rounded. At the same time, it has devolved in that the champs and better fighters are less dangerous and of lesser skill. Frank Mir is an example of this devolution. Rulon Gardner is an example of the evolution.”

“I believe the old UFC was more exciting,” he continued. “With all of the cross training now, many of the UFC fighters seem to be Ken Shamrock clones. I think Mir is an example of these clones, and I would defeat him in less than 25 seconds.”

While he continues to train, preparing to show the MMA world just who he is and what he can do, only time will tell if fight fans will have the opportunity to see “Big” Jon Hess live up to his big words—an event that is sure to be unforgettable.
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