Jake Heun (14-9) returns to the ring at RIZIN 20 on Tuesday, December 31.
After picking up two wins in the promotion over the past year, Heun recently signed a new exclusive multi-fight deal with RIZIN. In the past, “The Honey Bear” had to “bother” RIZIN brass for a chance. This time, the deal went much more smoothly, and they were able to come to “some good numbers,” according to Heun.
New Year’s Eve
While Heun has traveled to Japan multiple times to compete, this time it’s different. This time it’s on New Year’s Eve at the Saitama Super Arena. The Super Arena is synonymous with mixed martial arts. It’s where PRIDE and K-1 put on many shows with the biggest always happening on the final day of the year. For Heun, the chance to compete at the venue on that special date is a dream come true.
“Fighting in Japan on New Year’s Eve at Saitama has been on my career bucket list since I started doing this,” Heun told The Body Lock. “A lot of guys have always wanted to make it to the UFC, but for me, I wanted to get inside Saitama on New Year’s Eve with [Nobuhiko] Takada beating the drum and all that wild shit. Throw some soccer kicks, and get a victory there.
“People in the west, they really don’t understand how big it is. It’s bigger than the Super Bowl in Japan. The country shuts down. There will be 60 million people watching this fight.”
It’s “just another day at the office” for the 32-year-old, but he does feel the need to perform. Heun would like to put on a show and catch the eye of some potential sponsors.
“Being an American, living in Australia, and fighting in Japan puts me into a really weird sponsorship market. So I’ve just kind of been fucking coasting, man, for the last two or three years. Just getting by on my fists and my laurels.”
Heun’s opponent at RIZIN 20 will be Olympic gold medal-winning judoka turned MMA fighter, Satoshi Ishii (22-10-1). Ishii is highly revered in The Land of the Rising Sun. The prospect of beating a national hero on his home turf is an exciting one for Heun.
“When they called me with the offer for Ishii, I jumped on it right away,” Heun said. “Not only is he a well-known guy in Japan, but he’s also a great stylistic matchup for me. I think all those years of training with Cro Cop [Mirko Filipovic] has kind of led him to think that he’s a kickboxer. He’s gotten away from his judo, which is great for me.
“If you want to get into a kickboxing match with me, bro, I am more than happy to kickbox with you as opposed to having a judo match with you. You’re probably going to win the judo match, but I will win the kickboxing,” Heun laughs.
Across the promotions
Bellator will be holding their own card in the Saitama Super Arena a couple of days before RIZIN 20. That event will feature a RIZIN vs. Bellator theme that will see fighters from the two organizations clash. In return, RIZIN 20 will also feature a couple of Bellator combatants on its card.
These matchups are important to Heun, who believes this is RIZIN’s chance to really show the world the type of talent they possess.
“MMA has become so Western-centric and UFC focused, that they [fans] think Bellator is another big league, but it’s second rate. Then they hear RIZIN and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask me, ‘when are you going to sign to the UFC?’ or ‘when are you going to sign with Bellator?’”
“These guys don’t get it. I’m happier and making more money than I would in the UFC, and I get to soccer kick people. So, I think it’s important for guys from RIZIN to come out and put an ass-whooping on some of these Bellator boys.”
Rampage, Super Hulks, and Prochazka
Heun hopes RIZIN continues to cross-promote. To him, it’s the best way for fans to get a peek into promotions they may not have looked at otherwise.
“We just need to separate ourselves from this idea that there’s just the UFC where they wear Reebok and nobody is allowed to be a star unless you’re a superstar,” Heun said. “Then you can break company codes of conduct. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m not a big fan.”
Should RIZIN and Bellator continue their business relationship, Heun sees some interesting fights for himself on the horizon. If Quentin “Rampage” Jackson wins his bout against Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator Japan, Heun is down for that scrap. Former Bellator champ, Liam McGeary, is also in his sights, as is a former PRIDE superstar.
“Sergei Kharitonov is a scary son of a bitch. That would be a lot of fun. He’s a scary, frightening man.”
But what would truly make Heun happy would be another Super Hulk Tournament. The first Super Hulk Tournament featured the likes of Bob Sapp, baseball star Jose Canseco and eventual winner, Ikuhisa Minowa. When asked who he would like to see in such a tournament, Heun was ready with a list.
“You can’t do it without bringing Bob Sapp out of retirement,” Heun states as he chuckles.
“You have some of those guys in KSW. They have some monsters. You’d have to bring back Baruto to get a big sumo in there, then some crossover guys from K-1. Bring over “Bigfoot” Silva. Shit, why not? Alexander Emelianenko, he’s still running around.”
There’s no way of knowing if we’ll ever witness such an absurd tournament again. But a very real matchup we could see is a rematch between Heun and RIZIN light-heavyweight champion, Jiri Prochazka. The pair first met in 2018 and it’s a loss that Heun wants to get back.
“We’re going to cross paths again. In 2020, I’m going to have one of those belts. I don’t know if they’re going to introduce a heavyweight belt or if I’m going to have to take Jiri’s belt off of him, but by New Year’s Eve 2020, I’ll have one of those belts around my waist.”
Brandon is a long-time fan of combat sports who has covered them for various outlets since 2017.