Jake Heun’s wildest dream is about to come true. A longtime fan of Japanese MMA, the American fighter makes his RIZIN 13 debut in Japan against Jiri Prochazka.
Heun is a veteran of two seasons on TUF, hails back to ProElite and made marks n WSOF and PFL. After picking up and relocating to Phuket, Thailand, he came on the map in Asia with a fight in ROAD FC. And he never left. Now he calls Phuket home, just like so many other fighters who come for a training camp and end up staying for life.
“My camp for this fight kind of started at ATT in Atlanta with Jucao when my PFL fight got canceled. After that, I ran my fight camp based out of Unit 27 in Phuket, a strength and conditioning gym, and they helped me get set up with the team and facilities at Tiger Muay Thai, because they have a really good group of guys and facilities over there.”
Heun is a Muay Thai-based fighter with a record of 11-7. He’s fought at many different weights, including openweight, but this time he made the cut to light heavyweight.
“No, Openweight Jake won’t be making an appearance this time. It will be lean, mean sexy Jake.”
The gregarious American is always putting in the work as a character of sorts, and for Japan, it’s good to get the audience attached to your personality.
“This time I reckon I’m the heel, American asshole is the way to go. But at the end of the day, I’m a nice guy, and Jiri’s given me no reason to be otherwise. But just watch – my walkout will be interesting.”
True to his straight forward nature, getting down to brass tacks about his record is something that Heun won’t shy away from. He’s had high profile matches, yet a solid run of wins eludes him. Heun comes in the cage to do battle, and displays an excellent striking game, however his worst moments come when he seems to make a mistake and his opponent capitalizes. It’s a hole in his game that we wondered if he’d be working on before his dream come true Japan debut.
“You’ve hit the nail on the head. I don’t ever go out there and get my ass kicked, I’m usually giving it and then get caught. There are some things that Jiri does that I’m aware of. He’s got a flying knee, which obviously I’m susceptible to, as everyone saw on Sports Center. He’s got a tricky slow behind kick. It’s a ten-minute round, so it’s a matter of pacing myself, and going after it. I’m going to put some thing away before I get in a position to screw myself. When I find my opening, I’m going to put it away.”
Heun comes to the match knowing his own strengths and weaknesses. He also approaches the fight with extreme confidence and a winning outlook. Heun knows he’s the underdog against a young and extremely hot prospect who’s become a posterboy for RIZIN.
“Jiri’s got a great record, fought in Rizin a long time and was in the tournament and fought King Mo. I’m excited to fight him, he’s got good power in both hands and feet, as it’s been seen. He’s got the ability to come from behind, which I can relate to. Even though my record’s worse, I think I’ve fought longer and tougher fights than he has. Still, can’t take anything away from a guy with his record. He’s fought for Rizin and knows the territory.”
So, what’s his key to overcoming this obstacle?
“Elbows are allowed in this fight, and that’s going to be a huge factor. The elbows are going to make a difference.”
Heun is Muay Thai fighter, yet his MMA bouts take place in the cage. We asked if he prefers the cage or if RIZIN’s big shiny ring will be a welcome experience.
“If I was fighting anyone other than Jiri, I’d be stoked to fight in a ring. I don’t generally like them because wrestlers try to just push me up against them. I have fought in rings under K-1 and Muay Thai, and Jiri’s only a striker, so I’m not worried.”
RIZIN 13 happens in a few short hors from posting and Heun is ready for what could be the fight of his career in his dream come true promotion.
“This is where I’ve wanted to be from the beginning,” he says.
“I’ve always tried to promote myself to be on a show here. I’m stoked to fight in Saitama, and in front of a sold out crowd. I get to fight the best guys, I’m glad it’s against Jiri. I wouldn’t want to fight anyone less, I want to display all that I have to offer. We’re going to put on a show for the Japanese fans. I think we can steal the spotlight from Tenshin and Horiguchi. Because Honey Bear do what Honey Bear do. I hope Japan can become my new home.”