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Heden ready for MMA ring again

Brian Heden will defend his SDTC belt Saturday.

When Frazee native Brian Heden committed to his Mixed Martial Arts fighting career, he didn't pull any punches.

Several years ago, Heden went full bore into his fighting career after he quit his job and sold all his belongings to his roommates for $100 and moved to Michigan, where he started training at MMA legend Dan Severn's Gym.

For four years, Heden busted his butt in the gym and slowly, but surely, he started building his MMA career.

"I went on a whim," Heden said of moving to Michigan.

That whim was right, as Heden is the current South Dakota Total Combat Heavyweight champion, as well as posting a 22-10 record and a 96th World Heavyweight Ranking.

He has posted some big wins over some very well-known fighters such as Severn, Randy Quest (for the SDTC belt), Tony Kelly (twice) and Demian Decorah.

After a yearlong sabbatical to heal some injuries, Heden will be back in action Saturday to defend his SDTC Heavyweight championship at The Deck in Aberdeen, S.D., against Iowa's Richard White, who is 18-10 for his career.

Heden is more than itching to get back in the fight circle, after losing his last bout, after his big fight against Tim Sylvia was cancelled.

He ended up fighting Tyler East, a 19-year-old champion from New Mexico and lost by unanimous decision.

"I had him down three times and let him back up," Heden said. "I should have stuck with my ground game, but I didn't."

East landed a hard knee to Heden's face, which broke his nose in three places, which ultimately led to the decision against the Frazee fighter.

Injuries derailed Heden's MMA path, after he suffered a hernia, which in turn turned into a staph infection.

Overall, the 26-year-old Heden has underwent 13 surgeries due to injuries from his time in the ring, including four procedures on the same knee.

"I was contemplating on throwing in the towel, but my family encouraged me to stick with it, since I was ranked No. 96th in the World and I still had a future in (fighting)," Heden added.

For the last several months, Heden has shed over 62 pounds to prepare for Saturday's championship defense of his SDTC title.

Heden has been training in Detroit Lakes, as well, at Big John's Gym with John Whitaker and with former professional boxer Chris Holt.

His main component in the ring, though, is his wrestling, in which he picked up wrestling for the traditional grappling power in Frazee.

"My key has been my wrestling background I gained from Frazee," Heden said. "Wrestling is the dominant sport (in MMA) and I also have been working on my stand-up game and striking."

After over six years of training with some of the biggest names in MMA, including Brock Lesnar, who has his training facility in Alexandria, Heden is more than ready to start pounding his way up the charts.

"I have a lot of aggression built up after being off for almost a year," Heden included. "(White) is a D-II wrestler from Iowa and is a gumpy, off-balanced fighter and is a slower striker.

"I'm feeling pretty confident and if he wants to punch with me, that will be a mistake on his part."

Heden is ready to start climbing back to achieve his goal of reaching the big show, which is the Ultimate Fighting Championship stage.

"I had two big opportunities to reach the UFC, but came up a little short," Heden said. "I've been told if I can put together another winning streak and beat two to three bigger name fighters, I can make it.

"I'm just 26 years old and most of the fighters in UFC are in their 30's, so I feel I have some time to do it."

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.