Look at the age on the birth certificate and the less than 10 fights on his pro record, and you might assume that 23-year-old Brady Hiestand is a wet behind the ears kid who is learning on the job in the premier promotion in mixed martial arts.
Well, you know what they say about assuming. And while Spokane’s Hiestand is still learning on the job (like all his peers should if they’re doing this thing right), as far as experience goes, his dwarfs that of most of the fighters he’ll meet.
Growing up on the ultra-tough Pacific Northwest MMA scene was a good start, training for nearly a decade is another notch in his belt, and then there was the six weeks he spent in Las Vegas in 2021 as a member of The Ultimate Fighter 29 cast. That time in the house was invaluable and still produces benefits as he prepares for his third UFC fight against Danaa Batgerel this Saturday.
“I was used to media for however long I was in the house because I was in front of a camera 24/7,” said Hiestand. “So you get pretty accustomed to it. You’re doing interviews, you’re in front of the camera, being around UFC staff, all that good stuff. So I feel like I had a lot of experience with that and it doesn't really feel like any stress or anything like that when I go into fight week and have to talk to a bunch of people and do interviews.”
As for the aids to his fight experience from making it to the TUF final against Ricky Turcios, there’s something about having to fight more than once over the course of that month-and-a-half in isolation that will steel you for things to come.
“If you watch my first fight, the one that doesn't count on my record, it went to sudden death,” he said of his split decision win over Josh Rettinghouse in the TUF quarterfinals. “And I took the most damage I've ever taken out of any fight.”
And then he had to do it again two weeks later.
“I barely got out of bed the next day,” Hiestand recalled. “I remember because it was against Josh, there was a lot of grappling. I got hit, we headbutted, so I got stitches in my head. My back was all jacked up. I remember trying to roll out of bed and my whole body was full-on cramping the next day and I was like, how am I supposed to fight in 14 days? But luckily, after a week of letting it recover, doing some PT, eating the right foods, I think my body was ready to move again. But it took at least five to six days for me to even be able to train.”
Hiestand went on to stop Vince Murdock in their semifinal match, and luckily for him, the fight ended in less than four minutes. Then it was an instant classic with Ricky Turcios in their August 2021 final, and while he lost a split decision, he bounced back after taking care of some injuries to defeat Fernie Garcia last November in what felt like a new chapter in his career.
“The whole TUF show was its own thing,” he said. “I went on a run on TUF, Ricky's fight, all that good stuff. And I feel like once I fought and I was wearing the UFC shorts, it was just a little bit of a different feel. It wasn't like I was a TUF guy on a UFC card; I was a UFC fighter on a UFC card. So, it felt different and it felt way better. It felt like I belonged, and then when I won, I'm like, yeah, I'm here. I'm ready to climb these rankings.”
So, the bantamweight math equations have begun?
“For sure,” Hiestand said. “I've come down to Vegas and trained with my team and we do a lot of cross training with some guys down here. I'm training with a lot of top-level bantamweights, a lot of guys at the highest level, and I'm seeing where I rank and I'm pretty happy with how I do against these guys. So, I'm making a plan to beat this guy, a really tough striker, beat another guy maybe, and then shoot for the Top 15 after that. And hopefully, I’m in after two fights, I can be in the Top 15, next the Top 10, Top Five and the championship in the next few years.”
Not bad for the “new guy.”
“I have been doing this a big part of my life, but in the UFC, under an actual UFC fight night, I would say I'm somewhat of a new guy,” he laughs. “But I feel like that doesn't matter. At the end of the day, it's a fist fight and I've been in a bunch of fist fights. So April 22nd, it’s going to be the same thing; I'm going to go out there and beat this dude up.”