For fighter “The Honey Bear” Jake Heun (11-7), competing in Japan has always been a dream of his. On September 30, he gets to do that at RIZIN 13. He will be taking on the Czech knockout artist Jiri Prochazka (21-3-1D). Prochazka is on a five-fight win streak with four of those coming way by stoppage in the first round. Heun was a regular fighter for the World Series of Fighting now known as Professional Fighters League. He also was a contender on The Ultimate Fighter 19. Heun talked about how he got involved with RIZIN, his tough opponent, his pick for the Tenshin Nasukawa vs Kyoji Horiguchi kickboxing main event, and his difficulty getting a fight for PFL after suffering a knockout loss.
Origin of “The Honey Bear”
AB: How did you get the nickname “The Honey Bear”?
JH: Long, long time ago I used to train with Chris Leben. He was a UFC fighter. He was actually my first coach in MMA. I was cornering him before his fight against Wanderlei Silva… [Leben] was one of these guys who could cut 40, 50 pounds of water weight. So he’s real delirious. We’re sitting in the hotel room and has one of those little bears of honey. And he looks at it and he goes “this thing looks like Jake. Jake’s The Honey Bear.” And it stuck from there…
Jake Heun Origins as an MMA Fighter
AB: How long have you been an active competitor?
JH: I had my first amateur fight while I was still playing football at the University of Hawaii in 2009. My first pro fight was in 2010. I’ve been doing it for about 11 years.
AB: How did you get started in MMA?
JH: I actually got started in Hawaii… Chris Leben and I met each other in a bar. We had similar interests. We liked to drink and party. And both liked to train a bit. He was getting ready for his fight with one of the Rosholt brothers. We got into talking about how I used to wrestle. He asked me if I could come help him out. I was coming off a pretty severe back injury that put my college football career on the backburner. By going up there and training with him, and through that discovering jiu-jitsu, it actually helped me with my back rehab and started bringing strength back to my back. To be completely honest, I remember the first time I actually sparred live rounds. Chris hit me with that overhand of his that just used to kill people and I was walking back to the UH football locker room and I called my dad and said “Hey dad. I figured out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’m going to fight in cages.” All my dad says is “we’ll talk about this tomorrow.”
AB: How did the talk go?
JH: He was good with it. I think he always knew in the back of his brain that I was never going to ride a desk. I was never going to be one of those guys. My degree in college was European history. There’s not a lot you can do with that. I put a lot of eggs in the NFL basket. When I got I hurt, I had a real severe back injury and I was never the same player again. But I found my athleticism transferred really well to MMA. It allowed me to be fighting at a level that I probably wasn’t at skill wise, but athletically I was there. Early on, I jumped into some fights that most guys at my level wouldn’t have been in.
AB: Would you agree that your football background obviously helped with that athletic background?
JH: 100 percent. I think it helped to a massive extent, but there are also parts of it that are really a hindrance to it. Football is a hard-nosed, go forward, do as your told, it’s not very cerebral. Wherein fighting after you get to a certain level you have to realize you can’t constantly just be the bull. My fight coming up with Jiri is a prime example. This guy has knockout power in both his hands and his feet and if I just go in there wild and flailing like a young Wanderlei 2004, it’s going to be a short night for me.
Getting booked for RIZIN & the fight with Jiri.
AB: How did you get involved with RIZIN?
JH: I have been hitting up Shingo [Kashiwagi], their matchmaker for years, trying to get a fight with them. I’ve been with World Series and then with PFL for many years. But there’s problems getting fights and contractual issues. I don’t want to dive too far into it. I eventually sent Shingo a message after my loss in the first PFL, when I found out I wasn’t going to be cleared by the New York commission to continue on in their regular season. [PFL President] Ray Sefo and [League President] Carlos Silva were great. I told them I can’t sit around and wait. I want to fight. They gave me the clearance to fight in Japan. I hit up Shingo one more time and said “Look man. I want to be there. You know I want to be there. I badger you constantly…”
He first wrote back to me, “Will you fight with Mirko?” and I automatically said “Yes. Right now. Yes.” That was the first option Shingo presented to me… Cro Cop’s team, they didn’t want that fight. It’s understandable. I’m very dangerous but I don’t have the notoriety or the record to make sense. I kind of get that. So he ended up taking the fight with Roque Martinez. But in between that Shingo sent me a message and said “Can you make 93 [kg]?” I said “Hell yeah!” He said “Prochazka?” I said “Yes. Send me the paperwork,” not knowing who Prochazka was. That’s pretty much how it went down… I looked into Jiri. I’m excited. He’s a tough guy. He’s a guy RIZIN is behind. I think he’s fought on more RIZIN shows than Kyoji. It’s a good fight and I’m excited for it. It’s going to be a really good fight for me to show the Japanese crowd and Japanese fans that not everyone out there is a point fighter and is looking to score jabs and takedowns to win rounds. I’m going to bring a fight to this guy. He’s very dangerous but I’m going to go out there and I’m going to put on a fight that the fans of 2002, 2004 PRIDE would be proud of.
AB: What’s your strategy going into a fight with someone like Prochazka? Like you said he is dangerous and he has very heavy hands. He’s finished all but one of his opponents in his career. The last time he lost was against King Mo. How do you go into a fight like that?
JH: King Mo and I were actually having a conversation the other day and Mo goes “Jake, I know how you like to fight. You can’t fight this guy at kickboxing range. He’s got too much power. My strategy is I’m going to make it a fight. Japan doesn’t want to see belly button wrestling. They don’t want to see Jon Fitch. And I know that and I respect that. That’s part of the reason I want to be there.
But I also have noticed that in Jiri’s fights with [Karl Albrektson], he got taken down and didn’t know what to do. That kid just couldn’t turn the tables into the violence. He had him on his back but he couldn’t make it violent and he ended up getting caught. My game is I can bring violence from any angle. The fights all start on the feet. We’ll see how it bangs. If not, he might eat a soccer kick on the ride coming up. I’m looking forward to a fight. I know that they have the fight between Tenshin and Kyoji and that’s why the arena is selling out, but I really truly believe the fight between Jiri and myself can be one of the best fights RIZIN has put together.
Thoughts on who wins in the Tenshin/Kyoji kickboxing match
AB: Speaking of the big ticket seller, do you have a pick in the Tenshin and Kyoji kickboxing match?
JH: I have to go with Kyoji. I used to train with him at American Top Team. He’s not just an MMA striker and that’s why he’s able to get off so much on MMA guys because he’s so unorthodox. And when you see unorthodox strikers go against straight K-1 style guys it creates problems. Look at Raymond Daniels. He’s not that great, but he does crazy shit and he’s a champ.
Not fighting for PFL for the rest of the season
AB: Can you talk about how the New York State Athletic Commision made it difficult for you to get a fight?
JH: The New York Athletic Commission, to begin with, made it difficult for us to get licensed. I had a cold sore the day before the fight, just stress, they almost didn’t clear me for that. I missed the ceremonial weigh-ins because I was at a dermatologist. After that, I had a great fight. Hats off to the guy who beat me. He hit me with that shot, put me to sleep. I felt like I was putting on a clinic up until then. They gave me a 90-day suspension.
The next fight in PFL’s regular season was going to be in 85 days. So we appealed. Just trying to get five days back… I got cleared by a neurologist a week after the fight. He said “You’re fine to fight. It’s no problem.” New York wouldn’t give us the five days thereby ending my PFL season. Leading to the phone call with me and Ray Sefo… Ray was great and helped me out with RIZIN… I think PFL has the right idea with what they’re doing. They just got to get a little more ground under them when dealing with these commissions. New York is the worst.
Final Words on Jiri
AB: Do you have anything you want to say to your opponent?
JH: Jiri, I’m looking forward to fighting you brother. You’re very impressive. I think we’re going to bring a great, great fight to the Japanese fans and the rest of the crowd. Let’s not hold anything back.