Recent World Series of Fighting (WSOF) acquisition Jason High (18-5) is here to remind the mixed martial arts (MMA) masses of his skills in combat when he makes his return to competition at WSOF 25 this Friday night (Nov. 20, 2015).
"The Kansas City Bandit" hasn't fought in 17 months after being released from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in June 2014. High has compiled an impressive resume in UFC, Strikeforce and Japanese organization DREAM, defeating notable names such as Andre Galvao and Hayato Sakurai, among others.
The 34-year-old carries a 2-2 record in his last four outings into the WSOF ranks, where he will face former UFC and Bellator combatant Estevan Payan 16-8-(1) inside Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.
High spoke with MMAmania.com prior to his tilt with the dangerous striker to talk about how he's kept busy during his down time, a future bout against 155-pound champion Justin Gaethje and more.
It's been a while since we've seen you compete in MMA. Obviously, your American Top Team brothers have been at it, but how anxious are you to finally get back to fighting?
JH: I'm excited, man. It sucks to sit while your healthy. It just sucks. I wouldn't say I'm anxious, but I'm definitely happy to get back in there.
What have you maybe added to your game during this time? Have you been helping your other teammates get ready?
JH: Yeah, of course. I stay in the gym so it really wasn't like an issue. I stay training. Financially it's probably the biggest difficulty. I like training and staying in the gym. It really wasn't too much of an issue, like staying motivated or whatever. I definitely feel like I've added things. If there's a silver lining it definitely allows me to free up some of my time and concentrate on doing some things I want to do fight-wise. I did some jiu-jitsu tournaments. I've been doing a lot of reading -- fighting-related.
Did your passion for fighting ever waver during this time away from the sport?
JH: I had some moments. I talked a lot with my manager and you have moments where you're just sitting around and you're like, 'Oh, maybe I should retire.' I was able to back off the cliff ... nothing I couldn't handle.
With a new crop of contenders in front of you, what will you need to do to stand out from the rest?
JH: I never really go into my fights thinking about other people, or thinking I have to set myself apart. I'm just going in there and fighting and I always tell people whether this fight is on NBC -- or it's just me and Estevan in a backyard -- I'm going to try and get him out of there. It doesn't really change too much for me.
How do you feel about starting over after having worked your way up from the preliminary card and onto the main card of UFC events?
JH: I'd say that's something I would've been disappointed about when I got cut from UFC. I was a little disappointed when I got cut from the UFC and I was right there. Now, I'm just like I got a fresh start here.
When did you start camp for this fight against Estevan?
JH: I train pretty much all year round. I find that's best for me and my body. When you train consistently, your body adapts to it. You get in a rhythm. When I take a bunch of time off, I come back and feel like my body is hurting. When I have a fight coming up, I usually take four weeks and I'll turn it up a little bit.
What problems does he present for you?
JH: He's a tough guy. He's got some solid kickboxing and he likes to brawl. I've seen him in a couple of fights where he's able to pull guys into his game and his fight. That'd be something I'd look to avoid the most.
Should you win on Friday night, who are you looking at next?
JH: I want to fight Justin Gaethje, man. When I win, I'm not going to be calling out any losers that's for sure.
For the complete WSOF 25: "8-Man Lightweight Tournament" card click here.