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UFC 241: Ian Heinisch calls for U.S. prison reform — ‘We’re sacrificing lives for money’

Ian Heinisch knows a thing or two about jail time and he is passionate about prison reform in the United States.

Ian Heinisch sees little hope for those incarcerated in the U.S., so long as prisons pick profits over people.

Heinisch has plenty of experience looking out from inside a cell. The No. 10 ranked UFC middleweight served three-and-a-half-years at facilities in the Canary Islands and Northern Spain on a cocaine smuggling charge. Once he returned to the U.S., he was shipped off to Riker’s Island for leaving the country following a 2009 arrest, per Yahoo! Sports.

“Here in the States it’s not a reform prison. It’s a money making machine,” he told in an exclusive interview. “Over in Europe I was taught how to speak Spanish fluently, I was able to be a part of the wrestling program, a boxing program, start my own MMA program. They just have so many things for you to do. When you have all the time in the world on your hands and nothing to do, you know, you’re going to get in trouble. That’s how the prison system here is. There are no weights, there are no sports anymore. It’s just a money machine that makes $60,000 per prisoner — per head — a year.”

“If you watch the Kalief Browder [movie, TIME: The Kalief Browder Story] that Jay-Z made on Netflix, it’s sad, man. He went to Riker’s Island for three years. He was innocent. He was 16 years-old. He came out and he couldn’t handle it. A year later he committed suicide. What is that?” Heinisch asked. “We’re sacrificing lives for money.”

Heinisch also touched on a big milestone: proposing to his girlfriend. Always one to up the ante, the UFC fighter proposed while scuba-diving. “I got some buddies down in Mexico... We set this up where the photographer hid the treasure chest and the coral. We ‘found’ it and, obviously, I didn’t use the real ring. I used a fake one. We weren’t worried about that,” he shared. “It was crazy too. Right after the proposal we had to go up. Usually you can stay under water with a tank for about 35 to 40 minutes. We were under there for 21 minutes and I sucked all my air because I was just nervous.”

Heinisch (13-1) fights Derek Brunson (19-7) on the main card of UFC 241. The event takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. and is headlined by Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic 2 for the heavyweight crown. will be covering the action live at the event.

For much more on UFC 241 click here.

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