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Veteran Hein Never Lost That Rookie Hunger


It’s hard not to appreciate the saying “live every day like it’s your last, because one day you’ll be right.” UFC lightweight Nick Hein apparently does, at least as it pertains to his mixed martial arts career.

For proof, look at the lead-up to his most recent bout in June against Lukasz Sajewski, where the Elsdorf, Germany native made it very clear that the only thing on his mind was that fight and that fight alone; not what a victory would give him in the future. Nothing has changed in his mindset since then.

“By nature, I'm a nervous person,” Hein said. “I always have the feeling I need to move or I get shot. (Laughs) Maybe this is something I got from my police work, I don't know. But I always feel like I need to advance, otherwise you become boring. The moment you accept what you have is the moment you stop improving. I remember my words before my last fight, and I would back them up again - people asked me what I'm going to do after my fight, and I said after the 20th of June, my life ends. This is the day that I'm focusing on, and what is after doesn't exist for me. It's the same now. I'm having so much fun and I enjoy all the opportunities the UFC gives me. But I never feel settled. I always feel like the next fight could be my last and that keeps me going.”

That next fight arrives on Saturday, when he faces Japanese newcomer Yusuke Kasuya at Saitama Super Arena. It’s a fairly quick trip for Hein from his training home in Phuket, Thailand (at least compared to a trip from Cologne to Tokyo), and his wife, Marie, is a native of Japan. But until that final horn sounds or his hand is raised, there’s no time to appreciate his first fight in Asia, especially when he has an opponent looking to make an impression and secure his place on the roster.

“My wife is Japanese, I speak the language a little bit and I know that he (Kasuya) said in his interviews that he's hungry and he wants to stay,” Hein said. “He should be aware that I want to stay as well, and I want to win this fight. I'm not going to Tokyo to have a good time; I'm going to make his life really, really hard in this 15 minutes we have.”

To prepare for 15 minutes of hell, Hein has put in hours upon hours of the same grueling work in with the Tiger Muay Thai team. It’s a trip out of his comfort zone for sure, but it’s also essential for him if he wants to build on his UFC wins over Sajewski and Drew Dober and keep the momentum going in the lightweight shark tank as 2015 closes.

“The thing is, I'm really never satisfied,” he said. “I got into the UFC, I got a couple wins, but in my weight category, this means nothing. If you really want to make a name for yourself, you have to continue winning, build up a winning streak and improve yourself all the time. This is what I found at Tiger Muay Thai. I found a place with every aspect (of MMA), whether it's strength and conditioning, wrestling, technique. I can learn every part endlessly from these guys and this is why I decided to come here.

“I had four sessions today,” Hein continued during the August 26 interview, “and everything is in one place. So all I do is grab my bag, go to training, do my training, get on my scooter, and go back. The food, the weather, the conditioning, everything is set up for fighting. Sometimes I even get really bored because it's continuous repetition. But this is what sharpens the iron. I have big aims and I know this is necessary.”

Something that shows his dedication even more is the reality that to make the move to Thailand for training camp (this is his second there), Hein gave up his job on the police force and also put his successful acting career on the backburner in order to be a fighter 24/7. He admits to missing the hustle and bustle of doing ten things at once at times, but otherwise, he’s more than willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make a move on the 155-pound elite.

“The thing is, I love what I'm doing, and preparing and fighting is my number one passion,” he said. “Nonetheless, I'm a creative guy and I feel like I have more to offer. Sometimes, of course, I would like to do - as you said - ten things at the same time, but I think it's good how it is right now, just focusing on training.”

And fighting. For the last time? Not likely. But if that’s the mindset it takes for him to be at his best when it’s time to make that walk, so be it.

“I am afraid that this is maybe my last fight,” Hein said. “I'm always like this, so I'm putting everything in this. I'm making everyone, excuse me for the word f**king nervous. (Laughs) I'm stalking my coaches, saying 'can we work on this,' 'I think he might do this, so can we meet tomorrow evening, just for 15 minutes to talk about this?' I see them rolling their eyes, but I don't stop. What makes a newcomer dangerous is the fact that he's new and he wants to stay. He's hungry. But it's the same with me. I always feel like a newcomer. I always feel that hungry.”