Jason Heflin will return to mixed martial arts competition after nearly three and a half years away from the sport. The 34-year old Marine Corps Veteran will move up to heavyweight when he takes on Jon Romero at CFFC 67, Sep. 16 at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, Pa.
Heflin also the owner and operator of Full Metal Fight Promotions, where he puts on amateur and professional kickboxing and Muay Thai bouts.
“The Hooligan” was scheduled to make his own Muay Thai debut shortly after his last professional MMA win. Heflin ended up sustaining an injury, breaking a rib and the crossover from MMA had to be put on hold. I caught up with the former infantryman to discuss the layoff and decision to make a return to fighting.
“I’m a kickboxer. That was my first discipline ever picked up,” Heflin said.
“I ended up breaking a rib a week out and didn’t get to fight. After that, it was like a couple other injuries, and I was taking time off and then next thing you know, you look up and it’s been a year. Work and family and normal life stuff got in the way and there just wasn’t a time where I could train the way I wanted to train and be competitive you know? When you fight, when you are finally at that level these guys are at, they live, they breathe for fighting, so you don’t have your sh*t wired tight you’re going to get your head kicked in.
“I want to go in there prepared, you want to get the fans their money’s worth and a lot of it was just you know, family stuff. I wanted to do stuff with my kids. They were young but now they’re both in school now so I got a little more time for training. I love to compete, I’m a competitive guy, so that’s why I’m back.”
How did this fight with Cage Fury Fighting Championships come about?
“Well I had taken a Muay Thai fight for Lace Up Promotions up in Syracuse, New York and my guy wasn’t medically cleared or something like that. During the last week he got hurt or something, a medical condition or whatever, and the commission up there wasn’t gonna let him fight and they revoked his license.
“So I told them I would fight anybody on their heavyweight roster. My stand up, I am completely comfortable with it. I have great kickboxing. So they couldn’t find me a match. Here I am, I trained five weeks, I’m in shape and then shade and I’m also down at Hellfish MMA with Tim Carpenter in Bridgeport, PA. I go down there a couple times a week and train with some of the best guys in the tri-state area. That place is a shark tank you know? You have the CFFC heavyweight champ, Zu Anyanwu who is there. You have Tim Williams, former CFFC middleweight champ, Anton Berzin goes down there to spar, he’s light heavyweight champ, and a lot of really other good pros running through that gym. I’m there in there doing some grappling, some MMA, and sat down one night and talked to my wife and said, ‘Baby do you think I’m ready to compete?’
“She said, ‘You know, I think we are at a place in our life where yeah, you have plenty of time,’ so I spoke with Brian Palakow and he hooked me up with the CFFC brass and I said ‘I’ll fight anybody they give me and they gave me a pretty tough kid in Jon Romero.”
This fight will be your third pro fight, he’s going into this already having four under his belt. What do you know about him as an opponent?
“He’s a big, strong, young man. He’s 10 years younger than me, 25 years old. Big legs, kind of soft around the middle. I assume he hits hard, all the heavyweights hit hard. I think that his stand up has some holes. As far as his grappling goes, he is a decent wrestler but it’s all against the cage, so he’s a grinder you know? He’s one of these that puts you against the fence, hangs on you, drags you to the ground, tries to beat you up, tries to submit you, standard heavyweight type movement. There’s not a lot of fighters left. There are athletes but I come to come to put leather in your mouth so I hope he’s got his sh*t wired tight.
“Some of these people paid $55 a ticket, some of the $125 a ticket. They didn’t come here to watch two big guys lay on each other. If they wanted to see that they can get a PornHub subscription. They’re coming to watch two big guys throw down. That’s what we’re gonna do. They’re gonna close the gate, ring the bell and I’m gonna go punch him in his f**king mouth. And he’s gonna try to do the same. He’s a good strong, young kid, but I’m ready to go.”
You are moving up to heavyweight for this fight? How are you feeling weight wise? Any impact to cardio?
“I walk around at around 230 pounds. I’m a big guy anyway. Right now in the morning I’m about 240 pounds. I feel good. My diet is still super clean. I’m a personal trainer so I’m gonna be one of the fittest guys on the CFFC roster. I’m 240 pounds, I have a 34-inch waist and I’m probably 18 percent body fat. I’m a fit big guy. I am strong and I don’t think that these guys have seen anybody with the footwork and speed and timing that I have. I’m very fast. I was a fast 205-pounder, I’m lightning at heavyweight compared to these guys, lighting. I’ve got hands, great reflexes, great footwork positioning, and that’s what I’m going to use to exploit these guys.”
It sounds like you’re almost determined to end this fight on the feet standing. You want to showcase striking skills. How far do you see him getting with you?
“Listen I grapple almost every day. So I do have wins by submission. I beat my last opponent by submission a couple years ago. All my amateur stuff, I think I have four wins by submission. I have jiu-jitsu. I have wrestling. I prefer not to use it if I don’t have to. These people come to see a show. This is entertainment, you’re a gladiator. If he stands up with me, I’m gonna finish. I’m gonna put him to sleep. I think once I put leather on him and I started to hit him, he’s going to push forward, put me against the cage and grind on me but I’ve taken all the steps to prepare for all that. Listen, if can you can take me down, good luck, you gotta keep me down. I got great hips and good jiu-jitsu. If you get sloppy or slow down there, I’m going to submit you as well. I get hold of something, I’m ripping it off and taking it home with me.”
On the regional circuit everybody kind of knows everybody. Pretty much every face is familiar as there are not very many local promotions. Have you and Jon ever met face to face and has there been any trash talk online?
“No, no, no. Super respectful. I had a passing, I saw him fight for Global Proving Ground, I believe a few years ago. I was up there cornering a guy and I saw him fight. No, he seems like a very respectful individual. I don’t need to trash talk him. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business. He’s confident his skill set and I’m confident in mine. We’re going to go out there and punch each other in the f**king mouth.”
What are your intentions for competition once this fight has concluded?
“We signed for this fight and this fight only right now. I just kind of want to see where I’m at. Tis is a good test for me. This young man is strong and he is fit, and he is athletic. This is a good fight for me, and I’m a wily old guy so it’s a good fight for him you know?
“We’ll see. I’m not making any promises or any predictions really. I just….. If I go out there and I feel good, and I’m dominant, then yeah I’ll definitely fight again. If I go out there and I lost a step and I just don’t have it anymore, then I’ll i’ll shake his hand and keep it moving you know, no big deal. But I don’t think that’s the case though.”
What’s going on with your promotion Full Metal Fight Promotions?
“We have our third show coming up I believe the second week in November. We’re still focusing on kickboxing and Muay Thai fights right now. We are hopeful to break into some local amateur MMA stuff next year sometime and kind of run kickboxing and MMA at the same time which would be great. There’s not a whole lot out here in Montgomery County, so you know we like to like to pull people out here. There’s a market for it but everything is in the city. We’re hopeful you know? We’re just busting our butt and making connections and talking to guys, all the show’s have been great. We’ve had positive feedback and everybody.”
Any fights lined up or anybody to look forward to watching on the November card?
“I got a good young amateur, Keenan Forsey out of our gym in High Voltage. Him and Nate Maul are really busting their butts. They are really going to be something special. Good, young, strong athletic guys that Phil Lopez trained over there at a High Voltage. We’re excited about them. A lot of guys are get ready for WKA’s right now. They’re going to go fight the tournament as well.”
Learning to match make the hard way
“You know what? My hat goes off every matchmaker I have ever dealt with in my entire life. I don’t think there’s anything harder than f—king matchmaking. It is the worst. You have people like XCC’s Helen (Locura), CFFC’s guy, Arias (Garcia), knowing it. Listen what they do, is f—king hard. I’m doing on such a smaller level and it’s still hard. To get these guys to get the paperwork in on time to the commission, and make sure their bloodwork and all that stuff is good, and and get the matchups right, you know, it’s just a pain in the ass.
Some guys slack and stuff didn’t go through at the last minute, and they we lost a couple guys due to injury. You’re dealing with a lot of egos in the fight game and some people get their feeling hurt and pull out so we end up scrapping the first one (fight card) but when we set the second date and everything worked out, we only had I think six or seven fights on the card and the house was packed. We sold out and it was it was it was awesome. Everybody came out and went out on their shield. Everybody fought their ass off and the same thing with this last card. I’ve had people come out and tell me ‘Your shows are so violent man. These kids they just scrap for you guys.’ And I think it’s because we try to treat them like professionals. We treat them with a with a level of respect you might not get everywhere else and they respond to that.”
It sounds like things are going well. Is promoting something that you want to do for years to come or what’s your plan?
“For sure. We want to grow it, just like anything in business. We want to grow and make money. Right now we’re not losing money so it’s good. Of course you always want to make money and you want a little bit of that financial security and comfort and stuff, but you want to give these young people a platform to come showcase their skills. And you want to offer something good product to the community that you live in. So we’re trying to balance all those things. We’re going to be around for a long time. You have a reallly good promotion in USKA. A couple other kickboxing promotions up towards Jersey and stuff like that so you know, there’s plenty of plenty room and plenty of money for us to slide in there and take our piece of the pie and that’s what we’re doing.”
How long do you foresee yourself competing?
“I’ve been blessed and never been really hurt. I’ve broken rib or you know a hand or something here or there but nothing nothing bad. I’m healthy. I’m fit. I’m able to get in the gym and train the way I want to train so that I can compete at a high level. When I can’t get in there and train the way I need to train and I can’t feel comfortable with the way that I’m going to compete, then I’ll be done. Like I said, if I go out there and I shit the bed then that’ll be it. I don’t foresee that happening though. I don’t have that quit. There’s no quit. I’m a Marine. I don’t have that switch. But when I’m ready to kind of settle down and just coach and run the business and run the gym and and all that stuff then yeah I’ll match make full time.”
What did your kids say when you told them you’re going to go back to fighting?
My kids think that I am a dork. They think I’m a giant nerd. My son is 11. I got him in the gym, learning how to kickbox and learning to throw his hands and stuff. He’s sweetheart, wonderful, smart kid take that takes after his mother, thank God. I tell him ‘Yeah I gotta fight coming up.’ He’s like ‘That’s cool.’ I ask, ‘Isn’t that exciting?’ And he’s just like ‘Yeah man, whatever.’ He doesn’t care. I’m just some dude that lives in the house.
Any teammates, coaches, sponsors you want to thank?
“First and foremost Timmy Carpenter and Hellfish MMA in Bridgeport. Function and Strength in in Bridgeport, my strength and conditioning coaches Ryan Heickert, Marty Tomes, and Jason Fellheller. They’re fantastic. Patriot Chevrolet in Limerick, one of my sponsors. Railroad Street Bar and Grill, Razors Lounge in Limerick . And then lastly my wife and family for the support.
“I’m excited to be back man. I’m sure it’ll be good when you know when you see when you get to see 240 pounds of twisted steal and sex appeal baby.”