The increasingly popular term “polymath” describes a person whose expertise spans multiple subject areas; sort of an updated version of “Renaissance Man.” If the dictionary were to require a living example, it would need look no further than UFC lightweight “Sergeant” Nick Hein.
It’s well known to many UFC fans that Hein work as a police officer in his native Germany; hence his imposing (and let’s face it, awesome) nickname. But just a scratch at the surface of the interesting and diverse life he continues to lead.
“To be honest, it’s sometimes hard when people ask me ‘Oh, what do you do?’ Of course the first instinct is to say ‘I’m a fighter,’ but besides training every day, this is not what I do all the time.”
Actor. Author. Journalist. These are but a few of the lives that appear on Hein’s diverse résumé, and he adds more regularly as he dares to follow whatever makes him curious. And while most of us can scarcely dream of a life where being a mixed martial artist, let alone a feared UFC fighter, is just one of many hats we wear, a few minutes with Hein will leave you wanting to try.
We caught up with him in Stockholm, as he prepares to undergo just one of his day jobs against Frank Camacho this Saturday.
UFC: So the story goes that you started boxing training when you saw an old VHS tape of a UFC event?
Nick Hein: Yeah, kind of. In the year 2000, somebody handed me an old VHS table of UFC 1 and 2. And that was really like, a shock to see that. Because I come from traditional martial arts, like judo.
It was when Royce Gracie fought and won the UFC for the first time. It was fascinating, this thin guy, and I kind of related to him because I came from traditional martial arts. I had a gi on myself. I thought “he has a gi on, I have a gi on…I can do that, too!”
So I saw that and directly I was fascinated…shocked and fascinated at the same time. And then I actually started doing some boxing on the side.
UFC: Were there any UFC fighters that you followed or enjoyed while you were still learning the sport?
NH: I always liked fighters like Vitor Belfort. Kazushi Sakuraba, I thought he was amazing. Tito Ortiz, Bas Rutten, Chuck Liddell…I liked them all.
UFC: You’ve had a really interesting career both inside and outside the Octagon. A lot of people may not realize you’re an actor and an author. Do you have any other projects going on currently?
NH: Yes, I do! Right after the fight we will go back home and do some filming. I’m a journalist, but for stuff that journalists don’t like to go to; no-go areas, places that are dangerous. I like to interview kind of “dangerous’ people, those kinds of things. Maybe it’s the self-confidence that you build up with the sport. I have a show, and filming is already planned for June.
I also give police seminars for police officers all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I’m actually planning now with a friend from the UFC, Ricky Manetta, for the UK. So yeah, we are busy.
UFC: So when the day comes that you can no longer fight, which of those things can you imagine yourself doing?
NH: I see myself in all those areas, and there’s actually more coming! I started to do some pro wrestling. I got my foot in the door a little bit with Germany’s biggest promotion, and I really liked it.
I still feel for fighting I’ve got some good years left, and for wrestling there will be for sure. At the same time, I still love acting and this is something I want to go back to.
UFC: With back-to-back losses, I’m guessing 2018 was not your favorite year as a fighter. What changes have you made to your game to make sure 2019 turns around?
NH: Look, 2018 was also a good year for me because I made some personal changes. I relocated from LA to Germany. I also found a new coach---Cargi Ermis is The Man!--who really gave me that energy again. You know, this positive energy. We have been working on something extraordinary, different than before.
Sometimes you’re in a project for a long time, and then you’re like “oh man, there’s no new inspiration,” and then you feel it, and it’s not as fun anymore. And then something changes and all of a sudden you get all the energy and…suddenly the horizon opens up again. So that is actually where I’m at right now.
I feel now like with the new training and my new trainer I feel like I have like, an alien weapon that nobody knows about yet. And I don't know about it yet, too. This gives me confidence, you know? At the same time, it's scary to fight. But then you have this confidence and you actually want to know how good it is. So I'm at that point right now.
UFC: So how does it all play out for you on Saturday?
NH: When you get asked that question, it’s always the way you feel and what you want to hype and stuff.
The thing is, if I wouldn’t feel like I could beat this guy and could beat this guy in a dominant fashion, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have signed on for this. I’m not a risky person. I want to win.
I put everything in to win this fight, and I want to smack him.
Steve Latrell is a writer and producer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheUFSteve