If there was any doubt that featherweight Jimy Hettes wasn't one of the best young prospects in the UFC, he put them to rest last December.
Stepping into the cage against Nam Phan, a serious veteran of the sport who had even once vied for the Strikeforce Lightweight title, Hettes was not intimidated one bit. "The Kid" tossed Phan around the Octagon like a ragdoll, passing guard at will and landing a majority of his 300+ punches thrown.
When the results were tallied, Hettes walked away with one of the most dominant decisions in UFC history, earning scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26.
Hettes had arrived.
The Pennsylvania grappler had his encore delayed earlier this summer after suffering an injury but he's finally healthy and ready to get back to doing what he does best, beat opponents senseless. Hettes will be taking on Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 veteran Marcus Brimage this Saturday night on the FX portion of UFC 152 in Toronto, Ontario, Canda.
"The Kid" spoke with MMAmania.com about his upcoming opponent, the high expectations laid on him by the fans and his phobia of needles in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Jimy Hettes: (laughs) Oh no. If it's an actual contest, I'm gonna get killed because I can't do a backflip at all.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I think more people were talking about that than his actual fight against Blanco. You'll just have to make it so he's not physically capable of doing any backflips then.
Jimy Hettes: (laughs) Yeah, there you go.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You split your time training in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey. One of your training partners in New Jersey is actually a guy who trained alongside Brimage for several weeks on The Ultimate Fighter in Akira Corassani. How helpful has he been in helping you lay out a gameplan for this fight?
Jimy Hettes: He helped. He told me some of his tendencies, things he likes to do, but at the same time I'm sure that Marcus is a much better fighter now than when he was on the show. He had his faults, but I'm sure he cleaned up a lot and is probably much stronger now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's something I wanted to touch on. He was only 3-1 as a professional before his time on the show and he's gained a lot of experience and developed quickly since then. Have you seen anything specific in terms of major improvements he's had in the last year?
Jimy Hettes: I didn't see his fights on The Ultimate Fighter, but from watching his fights in the UFC, he's got fast hands. He's confident and he's got some major improving takedown defense. Anyone that's 2-0 in the UFC, you have to take them serious. He took on some adversity considering he was supposed to lose against Maximo Blanco and he pulled out the win there. I'm definitely not underestimating him at all. He's been in this situation before with it being a big fight so I'm sure he's dealing with the pressure.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you have to say to people who think this fight is a step down for you in terms of your opponent's experience level considering the last guy you fought, Nam Phan, has been competing against elite competition everywhere around the world?
Jimy Hettes: I think those people are dumb. (laughs) Anyone that's seen Marcus' fights know how explosive he is. He's one of those fighters that if you're not 100 percent committed to fighting him and you're not 100 percent focused on what he's doing, he's gonna make it a short night. Luckily for me and my camp, there was never any doubt that this guy was a threat. We took him very serious and treated it like it's a world title.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your last fight against Nam Phan, while you did showcase great ground work with takedowns and guard passes, there seemed to be a more violent approach where you were really going after it with strikes on the ground. Was that something you added to your game, or was that more of part of the gameplan because of Phan's jiu-jitsu credntials, wanting to mix it up a bit?
Jimy Hettes: I definitely added it to my game a lot. I've been focusing a lot more on ground and pound instead of just setting up submissions from top position. It's something I added to my game. I've always had it but I really started stepping it up lately. Also, the day before I fought Nam, I played a lot of Tekkan so I really some cool combos in my head and I figured I'd try them out on the ground.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That fight put a lot of fans and media on notice and you were put on several shortlists as one of the best prospects in the UFC. How do you deal with these raised fan expectations surrounding you?
Jimy Hettes: It's not a big deal for me. There's always someone that's got a lot of hype behind them that's supposed to be good but any fighter especially those in the UFC are only as good as their last fight. It doesn't matter how much hype or how good I did previously. If I don't have a good showing, people will forget that Phan fight real quick and think I'm garbage. After every fight, it's like someone hit the reset button. There's never time to sit back and think about everything you've accomplished. I'll have time to do that when I'm retired. As of right now, that doesn't really matter. What the expectations are doesn't really bother me. I'm just looking forward to the 22nd and that's what's on my mind.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Looking at the way you interact with fans on twitter, you're one of the more polite and appreciate fighters I've seen. Is that the approach you take to everything?
Jimy Hettes: Yeah. I get along with people for the most part. I'm not one of those fighters that has a chip on their shoulder. I'm not doing it because I was picked on when I was little. I'm not doing it for the money or the girls or stuff like that. I just do it because I generally like fighting. Anyone that says they're a fan of what I do, I'm appreciative of their support. There's really no reason for me to have animosity towards anyone in the game. You get an opponent and you and your opponent fight. At the end of the day, the better man wins and that's about it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's kind of how you got into mixed martial arts. It wasn't for a specific reason, it was more because you were really good at Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo and that was just the next logical step. It was more of a logical decision for you, right?
Jimy Hettes: Yeah, I was more into the martial arts side of it. I was never a big fan of the guys that just want to stand toe-to-toe and punch each other in the face. I don't have many flaming skull T-shirts. I just like the martial arts side. I watched all the movies growing up and I played Street Fighter non-stop so I was either going to go to prison for assault or become an MMA fighter. Luckily I went this route.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I came across this in my research and found it very interesting. You have to do these pre-fight medicals before every fight. How do you do all your pre-fight bloodwork and everything when you're afraid of needles?
Jimy Hettes: (laughs) Oh yeah. I did pretty good this time. Usually I almost pass out from the needles. This time the guy taking the blood sort of knew who I was so he was asking me about the fight and stuff like that. I really didn't want to show him that I was that scared. I just try to zone out.
I always wanted tattoos but as soon as I see a needle, I lock up. Sometimes for me, giving blood and doing the blood is more nerve-racking than the actual fight. I usually don't sleep the night before I have to do blood work. This time it went pretty good. Hopefully I'm getting used to it. In the past, that was definitely one of my worst experiences.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is it just needles or the blood too?
Jimy Hettes: I don't like blood either. The needles really freak me out. Blood I can deal with but it still gets me queazy. I've been like that since I was a little kid. My dad is the same way. He used to tell me stories about how he used to pass out and stuff like that. I guess it runs in the family.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now what happens in the worst-case scenario where you land a vicious elbow on the ground and your opponent just starts gushing everywhere? Are you in a different mind-set during the fight where it doesn't bother you like it would in a regular situation or will you just find out if it happens in the cage?
Jimy Hettes: It happened. In my first fight against Caceres I got cut and in my last fight against Nam, he was cut. Someone always keeps getting cut and I get blood all over. I don't stop and think about it but after the fight, watching it, it gets me kinda squeamish. If's not that bad. If it happens in regular day to day, I'll get a bit nauseous but during a fight, you can't stop because there's a grown-ass man trying to beat you up. I don't deal with it then.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): MMA is a strange sport that's ripe with rituals and superstitions. Is there anything specific that you have to do every time before your fights?
Jimy Hettes: It's not really a tradition-tradition, but before my last fight against Nam Phan, we had a fruit basket in our room and we had a pineapple. We didn't have anything to cut the pineapple so I held the pineapple and one of my corner guys, Kris McCray from TUF, he karate chops it and it just disintegrated everywhere. After the Nam fight, we decided that was a good luck thing. In the hotel room, we're probably gonna get a couple pineapples and try to karate chop them into oblivion. What made it best was our hotel room smelled so bad because there were a couple guys staying in there and by slicing the fruit everywhere, it made it smell so much better. It was better than an air freshener and everyone got a good laugh out of it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay last question, when you picture success in the fight against Marcus Brimage, how do you see victory?
Jimy Hettes: I don't usually make predictions because if I get it wrong I look real dumb. I'll just say it'll be an exciting fight. He likes to keep a fast pace and so do I. It should be fast-paced no matter what we do.
Jimy would like to thank Punishment Athletics, Hayabusa Fightwear, Microtech, InstaLoans and MGR Construction. You can follow him on Twitter @JimHettes.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Does Hettes have the personality to be a superstar in the UFC? How do you like his odds this weekend against Marcus Brimage? How high is "The Kid's" ceiling as a fighter?