Luck of the Irish: An interview with UFC 140 winner Jake Hecht

Photo via mmapundit.co.uk

Jake Hecht isn't one to turn down life-changing opportunities.

It's how he ended up with a coaching position in Ireland despite being born and raised in Missouri and it's how he stepped in on one month's notice to take on four fight UFC veteran Rich Attonito.

And boy did he take advantage of his shot.

Hecht ignored the first-time Octagon jitters at UFC 140 this past Saturday night (Dec. 10, 2011) and battered Attonito with a pair of elbows which rocked "The Raging Bull" and set up his eventual technical knockout (TKO) finish.

The now 1-0 UFC welterweight spoke with myself and Matt Bishop during a guest appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio yesterday and he discussed his fight with Attonito, his background and some very interesting and unique life experiences.

Follow me after the jump to learn a little more about Mr. Hecht:

Matt Bishop: I understand you're joining us here today from across the pond.

Jake Hecht: Yeah, I had to come back home to Ireland. I'm not Irish, but I live in Ireland.

Matt Bishop: That's interesting because I've read you're from Missouri so how did you end up in Ireland from all that?

Jake Hecht: I fought for an organization called Cage Warriors last October and they were impressed with my style and asked me if I wanted a coaching job in Ireland and I jumped at the opportunity so I've been over here since February and I'm loving every minute of it.

Matt Bishop: Alright Jake, let's talk about your fight this past weekend. You beat Rich Attonito by second round TKO in your UFC debut. How excited are you to go in there and get a win in your debut against a guy who had been on The Ultimate Fighter and had four fights in the organization?

Jake Hecht: Oh man, I was just on cloud nine. Really, words cannot describe how happy I was, happy I am and I couldn't be any more pleased with the win. I couldn't have really planned that out better. Like I said in the post-fight interview, I took that elbow attack from my fight last October with Che Mills, who's now in the UFC as well. When I fought him, I spent the majority of the fight in the same position Rich was in, trying to get a takedown along the fence and he must have landed 50-60 elbows and they hurt and cut me up pretty bad. When I threw mine, I felt his legs go limp and I jumped at the opportunity and couldn't stop throwing right hands until the referee pulled us apart.

Matt Bishop: That was a very unique finish. Were you surprised you were able to hurt him so badly with your elbow while having your back against the fence like that?

Jake Hecht: Yeah, I was really surprised. The only thing I can say about that is my elbow is still really sore so better my elbow than my face I guess. In my last fight, I broke my right hand in the third round and that sucked, but better my elbow than my hand either.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You overcame a bit in the first round. Can you kind of talk about that? Rich took you down and I'd scored the first round for him so what was it like with your corner in between rounds? What was going through your mind on how you were gonna stop him?

Jake Hecht: Well, we weren't too worried about that. I felt like I had the advantage on the stand-up so the gameplan was to throw left leg kicks and focus on body kicks, head kicks. I came out in the second round and tried throwing a head kick and stayed standing and weather the storm. I really wasn't too caught up with losing that first round because I knew there was a long fight ahead of us and I thought I was gonna get the advantage in the second and third round which ended up happening.

In between rounds, they just told me, "Less leg kicks, more boxing, more movement and use your wrestling whenever you want," because we were confident that our wrestling would be better. I think traditionally, if you look at my past fights, I'm more of a wrestler and grappler so we were gonna use that wrestling in later rounds and my corner told me to use that if I wanted to and look for the takedown. If you watch the fight really closely, Rich and I both shoot at the exact same time. It wasn't like he shot and I sprawled. We both shot at the exact same time and just smacked shoulders so I was planning on using that grappling and that's kind of what happened.

Matt Bishop: Can you take us through the week? What was it like going to Toronto? First off, have you ever been there before and then, what was the week like for you? What was going through your mind, your emotions all the way up until getting the win?

Jake Hecht: I've never been to Toronto but I'm very pleased with Canada. The fans were crazy. I've never seen fans that were more into MMA than that. I was very pleased with that. I came in and Burt, who runs the UFC show, everything backstage, he came in and weighed me on Tuesday and was not happy with me all week. I like to cut a lot of weight all at once so when he weighed me on Tuesday, I weighed 188 and he was all over me, "what are you gonna do? Why are you this heavy?" and yelling at me but I really thought I was in great shape for losing that amount of weight. I just spent the week dieting and slowly coming down and I always load water to do it and ended up losing a lot of water weight in the last couple days. I came down in a hurry and then came back up in a hurry. I felt great for the fight. I weighed in right before the fight right at about 194-195 so I was able to take the weight off and put it back on really quick.

The day of the fight was really, really surreal and strange. Normally I'm very nervous, very methodical and really thought out and just run through gameplans and that day I felt really relaxed and I felt like nothing was gonna go wrong that day. It was strange how comfortable I was. A lot of people are teasing me back in Ireland about how happy I am walking out to the fight and saying they'd never seen someone so happy during their entrance but it's just how that week was going. I felt like nothing was gonna go wrong.

Matt Bishop: We've got a lot of questions, people asking about your background. Could you take us through how you got started in MMA and what you've been up to before getting the call by the UFC?

Jake Hecht: Sure, sure. Go back a long, long time to whenever I was a little kid. I had an older brother of course and older brothers are supposed to pick on younger brothers, however, my older brother took it to a whole new level, like breaking collar bones, breaking ribs, knocking teeth out so I had to kind of learn how to defend myself a little bit so I got into wrestling whenever I was about 14 and really took to that, really enjoyed it and I ended up qualifying for Missouri State competition in 2002.

To go along with wrestling, I decided to do something in the offseason so I took up boxing and really enjoyed that as well. I won the golden gloves tournament in 2002 and ended up getting second place in 2004. I ended up wrestling in college for a year and a half in a small NAIA school in St. Louis and decided that I didn't want to devote my life to sports, at least not that sport. I transferred schools out to the University of Missouri Columbia and about the time that I did that, a man named Wade Rome came out and introduced the American Top Team branch to Missouri and that's where I first got into MMA and found out I can combine my wrestling and boxing together and I was really pleased with that. I jumped on that opportunity to train with really high level guys and just kind of went from there.

I ended up with nine amateur fights all ending in the first round TKO so I thought all I had to do was box people and I would be successful at that but in my first pro debut, I ended up facing a guy who was a very skilled jiu-jitsu guy and we went back and forth. I ended up losing a split decision because he outpositioned me so after that, I spent the next two years just working with American Top Team black belts and working on my jiu-jitsu game. That's how I became the grappler I am today I guess.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's the fight scene like in Ireland? I know you're working with the guys over there. I find that very interesting.

Jake Hecht: Yeah, the game iss really, really developing over here and they're still in the beginning stages. There's a lot of, it's kind of different than the states because in the states, you have like all amateur and pro but here, they kind of break it down to different classes. They have D class, C class, B class and A class where a D class is like a no head shot competition, more of a glorified grappling competition. C class would be comparable to an American amateur fight and then A class would be comparable to the pro class so I have guys at a range of different levels and just basically taking them around the country both to the UK and Ireland and getting them going.

The great thing about being over here and what gives us a huge advantage is I wrestled for so long and hardly anyone over here trains American style wrestling so it really gives guys a big advantage to show them and focus on the takedowns, focus on takedown defense and if they can go out there and really take the guy down and really work from top, they'll get a big advantage there.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You fought in Jordan in your last fight before you competed in the UFC. I'm wondering what that experience was like.

Jake Hecht: Oh, it was crazy. You'd come out of the hotel and you'd go five miles south and we went to this colosseum that was built in like 180 AD. It was like the oldest building I've ever seen in my life and then you'd go 10 minutes north the other way and you're at a super strip mall with JC Penny and big stores in it. It was quite a culture shock and the fans there are interesting to say the least. How the beginning of that card worked out, it was kinda like UFC 1 where you had all these guys from the Middle East who were world champion kickboxers or world champion wrestlers or world champion greco Roman so it was kind of like UFC 1, it was a comparison of styles.

It was not like a bunch of well-rounded fighters come together. It was someone who was extremely good at one discipline and it was really a comparison between disciplines. It was really great to watch that show in the beginning and you talk about some loyal fans. There was almost a riot in the crowd over there and the security was outrageous. It was a hell of an experience and I'll never forget it. I can remember looking up in my fight and the royal family of Jordan was in the top row watching from the VIP balcony so it was crazy to fight in front of the king and queen of Jordan. It was quite an experience.

Matt Bishop: We'll let you get out of here with one last question. We appreciate you joining us here today. What's your timetable here? Do you want to get back in as soon as possible? What are you looking at for your next UFC fight?

Jake Hecht: I'd like to relax for a couple months, maybe do some traveling around here. I thought about going to Thailand for a month and a couple friends of mine are going over there in March so I thought about going with them to both train and party so we'll see. Whenever they call and say, "Hey, you've got a fight," of course I'll fight but I'm looking for taking about a month or two off.

Jake would like to thank his sponsor Stand Up Fighter. You can follow him on twitter @JakeHechtUFC.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

For those of you that saw it, were you impressed with Hecht's finish of the veteran Attonito last Saturday night? How much of a future do you feel he has in the welterweight division?

Sound off!

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