Part 2

Bigger and Better Than Ever

© Marc Wickert
July 30, 2008
All photos copyright 2004 Zuffa LLC
Photography by Joshua Hedges

It’s 4pm in Las Vegas, and Heath Herring is ready for the cot.  Despite having an important fight coming up in a week’s time at UFC 87, the Big Texan has been busy with the media.  “I’ve been doing interviews all day since 6.30 this morning, and I’m about to take a nap,” says the amiable Herring.  But he still graciously takes time out from his busy schedule to chat with Knucklepit.com.

For his upcoming bout on August 9, Heath is matched against Brock Lesnar in what is expected to be a mighty big showdown when these two heavyweights lock horns.  And while Heath is eager to notch up another victory to help present his case for a title shot, Brock will no doubt be eager to prove himself in the Octagon after his controversial debut at UFC 81 (http://www.knucklepit.com/mixed-martial-arts-ufc81.htm).

For UFC 87, Heath has been working with his long-time training partner, Mike Whitehead, for whom Herring cornered at Affliction Banned.  And Mike will be returning the favour when he’s in Heath’s corner for this battle.  Herring says that along with Mike, he’s also been doing a little bit of preparation with J. White and a couple of guys from Xtreme Couture.

Heath, what did you think of Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction Banned?

“I thought he looked great.”

You fought Fedor at PRIDE 23 on November 24, 2002.  Would you like to fight him again?

“Absolutely.  Down the line, I think that would be a great fight.”

What is the music on www.heath-herring.com? It’s definitely not country and western.

“I haven’t checked it out yet.  I haven’t spoken to my webmaster today, but he’s probably put something new on there, getting ready for the fight.”

You expected Cheick Kongo to stand and bang with you, but he prepared for a ground game.  Will you be ready for any scenario with Brock Lesnar?

“That’s what we’re preparing for: any and every eventuality.”  

Brock took Frank Mir straight down after catching his kick at the start of their bout.  Do you think Brock will want to duke it out with you on the feet?

“I hope he will, but I never know what’s going to happen in the fight.  I imagine he’ll probably try to take it to the ground, but you can’t go in there expecting something to happen and then get disappointed when it goes the other way.”

Did you hook up with Marc Laimon for this fight?

“No, I didn’t.  I’ve actually been down training at Couture’s a lot and at the Warrior Training Center in Las Vegas.”

Still training with Rob Kaman?

“Not exclusively.”

How do you think you will compare with Brock strengthwise?

“I’ve been in there with big, strong guys and I’ve never had anybody overpower me, so I think my strength will be pretty good.”

Do you do a lot of weights? 

“Yes, and for this fight we have been.”

You were 248lbs against Cheick, and Brock was 265 against Frank.  Do you expect to be around 248 again for this fight?

“Probably 250 – maybe a little heavier.  I’ve been working harder on gaining muscle, and I’m actually going to be coming in in better shape than I was against Kongo, so I’m looking forward to that as well.”

You were in great shape for that fight.

“We’re in better shape now.”

Does Randy Couture work on a game plan with you?

“I’ve worked with Randy a little bit – not that much, but he’s definitely put in his two cents.”

What do you see as being Brock’s strengths and weaknesses?

“He’s a big, strong guy and a good wrestler.  I think his weakness is probably his inexperience.”

How are you going to win this fight?

“Ah, it’s a good question.  You never know beforehand: You just go out there and try to be prepared for every eventuality.”

Any word on your getting a title shot?

“Not yet.”

Your sponsors?

“One More Round, Sprawl, Hardcore Sports Radio, High Gear, Combat Sports International, Cage Fighter, and www.vas.tv.”


For more on Heath Herring: www.heath-herring.com.

For more on UFC 87: www.ufc.com.









The MMA Legend From Amarillo, Texas








© Marc Wickert 
March 31, 2008

All photos copyright 2004 Zuffa LLC
Photography by Joshua Hedges


At just on 30 years, Heath Herring has 12 years’ MMA experience under his belt, having fought in dirt-floor rodeo arenas in Texas, in 40-thousand-seat arenas in Columbus, Ohio, and having competed in no-holds-barred events in Japan, Europe, South America and the States. After winning the hearts of PRIDE fans in Japan, the ‘Texas Crazy Horse’ is now rattling the floorboards of UFC arenas across America.


For this interview, Heath is sitting back in Las Vegas, and has just finished making a protein shake when Knucklepit.com catches up with him. Herring is a very switched-on character, and straightaway it’s obvious that this chat is going to be fun.


Heath admits he’s not in full-swing training right now, but he is doing some cardio to get back into training shape after his recent victory over Cheick Kongo at UFC 82. “I went home to Texas for a week or so to see my mom and everybody. I’m a Texas boy: That’s home for me,” says Herring.


There seems to be conflicting information on the internet as to where Heath was born and where he grew up, so the BIG Texan is asked to clarify that one. “I was born in Waco, but I was raised in Amarillo. Amarillo, I guess, is really my home town, and I’ve caught quite a bit of hell from all my friends in Amarillo about that. I try to rectify it as much as I can.”


After his returning home, the partying for Heath didn’t end in the Lone State. “Then I went to Cabo, San Lucas, in Mexico for four or five days and just had a good time with a couple of friends. We caught the tail end of the spring break, and I got back last Saturday. Now I’m trying to get back into training shape and will hopefully start working out this week or the next.”


It’s been a long, hard road for this exceptional athlete who was known for his playing defensive line as a footballer, and for his wrestling skills, prior to becoming an MMA competitor.


“The only thing I did before fighting was one year of wrestling in high school: That was about all the pre-fighting experience I had. From there I started taking classes in Amarillo, and one of the wrestling coaches from a rival high school that I competed against – he was teaching submission classes, and said, ‘You should be good at this. Why don’t you come and check it out?’ I loved it, and that summer in Amarillo was actually when I had my first fight.”


Heath, was your year of wrestling after you played football?


“No, it was at the same time: The football season and wrestling only overlapped by a couple of weeks. I took to wrestling pretty naturally, and I ended up going to state in my senior year in high school and I never really wrestled before, so it kind of came to me naturally, I guess.”


And you got into MMA when you were eighteen?


“Yes, I’d just graduated from high school and my very first fight was in August that year.”




How did you come to compete in PRIDE?


“That’s kind of a funny story as well: I was traveling around and fighting at the time – I was fighting probably once a week for different organizations all over the south-west of the state – and I got an opportunity to fight in a little place in the Caribbean called ‘Aruba’. They called me up and said there was a spot in a tournament (World Vale Tudo Championship 8) if I wanted it. So I flew down there by myself – no cornerman or anything, and ended up getting into the finals, and they awarded the fight to Cacareco (Alexandre Ferreira). I think I surprised everybody and they invited me back a few months later. I ended up winning the tournament at that time.


“The promoters of the fight were Dutch (Bas Boon and Ron Nyqvist) and they invited me to the Netherlands. They were trying to start up a fight team, which of course is ‘Golden Glory’ now. They invited me to come out there and start training with them, and Gilbert Yvel was one of the other fighters they had signed at the time. They then signed the two of us to PRIDE.”


Gilbert is a very capable man.


“Yeah, Gilbert was really good with his stand-up, but on the ground he was lacking, so that’s what I was brought in for – to kinda help out with the ground training.”


You’ve said you have 60 fights under your belt, but your stats on the internet are 28-13-0. Are some of your fights not accredited?


“And I don’t know why. I really need to go back and look at everything because most of the missing ones were victories, but the events I was fighting were not necessarily high profile, so even though they were fights and I did get paid for them, maybe they didn’t get recorded for whatever reason on the internet.”


Do you believe you will soon have a shot at the UFC World Heavyweight belt?


“I hope so: That’s kinda what we’re shooting for right now. I believe I’m the number one title contender right now, especially with Tim Sylvia leaving the UFC. I really don’t see where the argument would be for who else could be next in line for the title shot. I know there’s talk now about Randy and Fedor coming over. They could get Randy to fight Noguiera, or Fedor to fight Noguiera or Randy for the belt. Then that problem is solved. But as far as the current lineup at the UFC, I think I am unarguably the number one contender.”


Did you link up with Rob Kaman specifically for the Cheick Kongo fight, or had you been working with Rob before then?


“No, we hooked up specifically for the Cheick Kongo fight.”


Will you be staying with Rob?


“Absolutely. Rob and I knew each other when we were living in the Netherlands, and I actually trained with one of his old trainers, Cor Hemmers. Then when I moved back to the States in 2004, I ran into Rob a few times – I think he was training Brandon Vera at the time – and we talked about training together. Nothing materialized, and then when he split from Brandon and I needed to find a good stand-up coach for this fight, it was like, ‘Rob Kaman: Why not call Rob up?’ It was the perfect fit right away, because we got on on a personal level beforehand, and once we started training in the gym everything seemed to flow naturally.”


Why do you enter an arena to ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’?


“I don’t know. I’m a Texas boy and it kinda goes along with that theme, and I like it, but I haven’t always been into that song. I’m into quite a few different country and western themes, and we might enter to a different one in the next couple of meets. I’m not married to that song by any means. But I like it and a lot of the fans seem to like it.”





When your fight with Cheick started, he stood with his hands down and casually waited for you to bring the fight to him. Do you think he was trying to unnerve you by being so casual after his big stare down?


“You know what: I really don’t know what he was trying to do. And to be honest with you, I was really not too perturbed. Anybody who’s watched me fight, they know I come out right away, and once the referee says go, it’s a fight. I’m not there to shake hands and touch gloves and kill time… I train for months and months to be ready for that moment, so it’s time for me to get out there and do it. And that’s the way I do it.”


You had to cross the Octagon to go to him because he just seemed to stand there flat-footed. Then you surprised him with that big right hand. Do you think he expected you to just want to go straight for a takedown, and wasn’t expecting you to throw a punch?


“Ah, I don’t really know what he was thinking about… as I said, I can’t really get into what he was thinking or what he was wanting to do at that time… I can only control what my actions are and what I’m doing in the fight.”


It worked well for you anyway.


“It seemed to. I caught him with a straight right and it felt good.”


You’re known for your powerful knees, amongst other things. The big knees you delivered to Cheick’s body, they would have sapped his energy as well as scoring you points, wouldn’t they?


“Absolutely. And it was really frustrating to be in that position and not be able to throw the knees to the head. Had it been in PRIDE, that fight, I think it would have been over in the second round. Unfortunately, that’s just a tool I don’t have in the States, and I’ve had to make accommodations. But it was nice to use it again, and to get into a position to use it, and win the fight because of it. I really haven’t seen a lot of people use that weapon in the UFC. In PRIDE we kinda led the way with the knees to the head, and hopefully we’re setting the standard for a new weapon in the UFC.”


Punches to the head in a fight don’t necessarily accumulate, but those knees to the body you delivered do, don’t they?


“Definitely. And I think it makes a huge difference: I think there’s nothing like knees to the body to finish it. A knee to the body is going to cause a lot more damage than a glancing shot to the head.”


You said you didn’t do any ground training for that fight. You won’t adopt that strategy again, will you?


“No, I will not. That was actually a huge error and I kinda got lucky. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I’ve had so many fights and I have that wrestling experience in my background, otherwise we could have been in for a little bit of a problem. And we were in some problems – that’s the reason he won the first round, because I was taken aback and had to change gears, and realized that it was possibly going to be a ground fight.”


You remained cool on your back. Do you feel you shut Cheick down when you had him on his back – particularly in the third round?


“Yeah, obviously once I got him onto his back and started getting those knee strikes into him… You know, he did try to reverse me a couple of times and tried to get out of that. But I just did a good job of pinning him down and doing more damage.”


What was the story about your asking Marc Laimon to call you after the fight?


“Marc Laimon is a ground coach I’ve worked with here in Las Vegas and hopefully I can start working with him again in the future. He cornered me for a couple of my fights in the UFC and I just have a really good rapport with him.”


Heath, is there anything you’d like to add?


“I’d like to thank all the fans and everybody who’s been really supportive. I have quite a few fans from Australia on MyBlog, so I always love to hear from Australian fans as well.”


Your sponsors?


“Toyo Tires, Sprawl, One More Round, Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and www.vas.tv.”







For more on Heath Herring: www.heath-herring.com.

Herring vs. Kongo review: http://www.knucklepit.com/mixed-martial-arts-ufc82.htm

For more on UFC: www.ufc.tv.












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