Jake Heun has been on a world tour for the last six months. Since the beginning of 2019, his craft has taken him from Anchorage, Alaska, to Kemerovo, Siberia, to his upcoming bout at RIZIN 16, in Kobe, Japan.
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Heun’s return to RIZIN came from his diligence. For years he’s been contacting the promotion’s matchmaker Shingo Kashiwagi to try and persuade him to give him a contract. Eventually, his perseverance paid off. Heun explained his story to John Hyon Ko in a recent interview.
“You guys need to sign me. I’ll put on a show for y’all. And he [Kashiwagi] hit me up and said, ‘hey man, do you want to fight Roque Martinez?’ I said, ‘hell yeah, but let’s make a three-fight deal a part of it’. And, he said, ‘absolutely, let’s get the job done.’ So here we are.”
At 31, Heun doesn’t seem ready to hang up the gloves yet, but when he does go to war for the final time he suspects it’ll be in The Land of the Rising Sun.
“I’ve always wanted to be in Japan and I’ve always wanted to at least be able to end my career over there. And now I think I’m going to get the opportunity to ride this thing out over there.”
“The Honey Bear”, like many longtime fans of the sport, has a fondness for the island and the legacies forged there over the years. He understands the historical importance of MMA in the Pacific Rim and hopes to follow the footprints left by greats en route to blazing his own trail into the sport’s history.
“Watching PRIDE growing up and all that sh*t going on in Japan and I get to be part of that now. I’m going to be part of that legacy of dudes getting soccer kicked, stomped and Wanderlei [Silva] and Cro Cop killing each other,” Heun went on, “Fedor [Emelianenko] knocking dudes out and Don Frye and [Yoshihiro] Takayama. It’s kind of cool to be part of that lineage now, and the way RIZIN is going, I feel like, they’re starting to bring back kind of that PRIDE vibe.”
A change of scenery
These days Heun finds himself living and training in Melbourne. It was originally supposed to be a short trip to visit his significant other’s family and then on to beaches of Bali to settle. But Heun ended up running into some old friends down under at Absolute MMA and deciding to stick around for the time being.
Being at Absolute MMA affords him the opportunity to train with grappling wizard Craig Jones on a regular basis. Heun describes Jones as a “freak” and despite his misleading frame “a strong son of b*tch”. While Jones may be the one with all the fanfare currently, Heun maintains that the whole gym is packed full of Abu Dhabi and other high-level qualifiers.
“I go in there and I’m like, ‘yeah, I’m all right at Jujitsu,’ and it’s just tap, tap, tap, tap,” Heun joked.
Roque Martinez and the future
As important as it is to sharpen all of your skills in the sport of mixed martial arts, it’s unlikely we’ll see any of Heun’s new jiujitsu skills come into play this weekend. He’s taking on DEEP Megaton Champion Roque Martinez, who, like Heun, is known for letting his hands fly.
“It’s gonna be an interesting style matchup. I’m a lot longer than he is and he doesn’t fight really long, but he doesn’t need to. He’s got some power, so it’ll be an interesting matchup. I’m excited to fight the guy. It’s a guy off wanted to fight for quite a while.”
Heun believes that guys like him and Martinez can play an integral role in building up the promotion’s heavyweight division. But he’s also looking outside of RIZIN and at another organization’s heavyweight roster in hopes of finding future opponents.
“I got a feeling there are some things in the works between RIZIN and Bellator. I’m not going to say much, but I got my eyes on some things. There’s definitely some dudes I wouldn’t mind throwing down with over there. I would love to see old Fedor [Emelianenko] decide he wants to retire in Japan. Maybe get a crack at the great one.”
Jake Heun hopes his long term contract gives him a chance to build the legacy he wants to leave. He feels his style offers him an opportunity to build a strong fanbase across the island. Guys like Wanderlei Silva and Bob Sapp became nationwide stars outside of the ring and Heun would love a piece of that action.
“I wanna get on that Bob Sapp level of f*cking having a cooking shows and doing weird sh*t. Well, maybe not quite like weird sh*t Bob Sapp level, but you know what I’m saying?”
Brandon is a long-time fan of combat sports who has covered them for various outlets since 2017.