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Jay Hieron: The Reason Fighters Aim For The UFC
In 2009, former IFL welterweight champion Jay Hieron was on a five-fight win streak and considered by many to be one of the top welterweights not currently in the UFC.
He was slated to face Paul Daley at Affliction 3: Trilogy and looked to be gaining quite a bit of traction in his career. Then Affliction called it quits just days before their third event and Hieron was swept off in the fickle waters of MMA free agency.
Despite not getting to fight a name opponent on a big card that he had been training for, the release from Affliction was not such a bad thing. Sure he was not getting the check he was counting on, but Hieron immediately began fielding offers from a handful of other promoters, including the UFC and Strikeforce.
The UFC made him a decent offer to enter their welterweight ranks and have the opportunity to work his way up the ladder, but they insisted Hieron retract his prior commitment to the EA Sports MMA video game.
From Strikeforce, Hieron was offered an immediate title shot against Nick Diaz, and he would be allowed to pursue his involvement in EA sports. From what I understand, the money was not too far apart between the two promotions.
In the end, the title shot and the principle of honoring his commitment were the deciding factors and Hieron decided on Strikeforce. Many applauded his decision and looked forward to a major welterweight bout between him and Diaz on the undercard of the the much anticipated clash between Gina Carano and “Cyborg” Santos.
Instead, Diaz pulled out of the fight, knowing he would test positive for marijuana, and Hieron was pushed down to the non-televised card against Jesse Taylor. Still, these things happen and everyone assumed he would get his title fight in his next appearance.
But, contrary to Strikeforce’s promise, Hieron had to wait over five months for his next fight, which was not a title fight, but another non-televised fight, this one against Joe Riggs. To add insult to their negligence, Strikeforce booked the main event of the same card with a fight for the vacant title between Diaz and Marius Zaromskis, a fighter that had never even fought in America before, let alone Strikeforce.
Hieron went on to win his fight in what many called the fight of the night. EAsportsMMA.com had advertised that they would show the Hieron vs. Riggs fight on their website, but according to anyone that tried, there was a technical problem and they saw none of the three-round war.
And now nine months later, that is still where Hieron stands. Many credited him with taking the path less walked in going to Strikeforce, but while he has been basically hidden from MMA fans on non-televised portions of events that he should have been headlining, he could have been steadily building his career in front of a solid audience against whoever the UFC chose for him.
Well, his relationship with Strikeforce appears to be coming to an end. Or is it?
At the end of August, Hieron tweeted, “I finally got my release from SF…Y’all know what I’m about to do!” Most assumed what he was about to do was sign with the UFC, but not so fast. A day or two later, the fighter stated to MMA Fighting, “I jumped the gun. We’re working on it.”
“Strikeforce is a good organization. I’ve had a good time fighting for them but I’m looking to the future. We haven’t cut ties yet. We’re working on a few things. But I’m in the gym every day and I’m definitely going to fight again in 2010.”
Strikeforce still has the option to match any offer presented to Hieron while they are in the contractual period.
When asked if the UFC was in his future, Hieron responded, “Definitely, I’d like to fight in the UFC or wherever. Wherever the chips fall, that’s where I’m going to go.”
I’m all for the UFC having some healthy competition, actually I insist that it must. But how is a top-level fighter ever going to prefer Strikeforce over the UFC when this is the way they are running their business.
I had high hopes for Strikeforce when they first made their deal with Showtime, and still do have some, but they continue to repeat the mistakes made by EliteXC and basically to just take vacations from thinking about the logical next step for each of their fighters.
The fans don’t want Bobby Lashley, or Dave Batista, or whatever sideshow they are working to come up with. We want to see talented fighters consistently facing each other. Don’t worry about names, that will work itself out. Just get world class talent and have them all face each other. That is what the fans want to see.
But while Herschel Walker and Bobby Lashley take precedent over top ten fighters at Strikeforce, it is clear why every fighter aims their sights on the UFC.
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