Hettes happy to have opportunity to fight Phan

Yael Grauer

12/16/2011
Yael Grauer, InterMatWrestle Staff Writer
yael@intermatwrestle.com

Photo/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images


Twenty-four-year-old Jim "The Kid" Hettes has had nine professional MMA fights and four amateur bouts, and he has finished every single one of them by submission, all in the first or second round.

A former high school wrestler, Hettes started boxing at the age of 14 and began training in jiu jitsu at 16 at Northeast Jiu-Jitsu in Swoyersville, Pa.

"As soon as I first discovered it, I just fell in love with it and spent hours and hours on the mat and just really became obsessed with it," he said.

Hettes' first coach was Pat Maloney, a purple belt at the time.

"After a while, I took over teaching classes and just carried on from there," Hettes recalled.

He started training in judo shortly after discovering BJJ.

"I really liked it, just about as much as jiu jitsu, just the different throws and really because it was more laid back and just easy for me to pick up on," he said.

Hettes was unable to compete in as many jiu jitsu tournaments as he may have liked due to financial constraints, but he is a two-time Keystone State Games judo gold medalist, and also had some other opportunities to test out his skills on resisting opponents.

"Me and my friends would always have backyard fights growing up," he remembers.

And although he did not begin training in order to beat up his buddies, he admits it was a definite motivator.

His strategy utilized his ground game due to size.

"I was always way too small to really just stand in front of them and throw punches, so I would just go forward guns blazing and go for the takedown and from there it was pretty easy ... but it was always a battle to try to get that first takedown," he explained.

"A lot of my friends were on the football team and the wrestling team, and I was always real skinny; I was the smallest one by far. So once I started winning most of the backyard fights, they used to think I was a ninja ... In school, they'd always ask me what would happen if someone would attack me with a crowbar or could I stop a bullet or just dumb stuff like that, that was associated with the old kung fu flicks."

Hettes made his professional MMA debut in 2009, earning his nickname "The Kid" when people who didn't know his name started commenting on how "The kid, the real young-looking kid" was tearing it up in the cage. Following the success of his amateur record (where he won all four of his bouts via first-round submission), Hettes scored six first-round submissions and two second-round submissions in the local circuits before he was able to fight in the UFC.

He was originally supposed to fight Tyler Toner on Dec. 4, 2010, at the UFC Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada, but could not take the contract due to a verbal agreement with a local promoter. However, he was able to step in for an injured Leonard Garcia and fight Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres at UFC Live 5: Hardy vs. Lytle. Hettes only had a few days' notice.

"When the UFC calls and asks you if you want to take a fight, you can't really say no," he points out, "so I was happy to take the fight."

Hettes said his training definitely paid off despite the nerves, which were unexpected.

"When you're at home and you hear of people suffering from the first UFC jitters, I remember I'd always hear that at home and think it was a bunch of crap, [that] guys weren't fighting good because they weren't good fighters. And then when I actually got there, I was as nervous as if it was my first fight in my whole entire life," he said.

"The first round with Caceres, I was real hesitant and I was almost tired before the fight began, so it really took me at least until the second round to fight like I normally would. Being nervous, you can't really think steps ahead, so everything was just instinct. That whole first round was just me reacting off of what he did."

Hettes went for submission after submission after submission in the bout, attempting a leg lock and foot lock in the first round and trying to land a D'arce choke, arm triangle, guillotine and triangle choke in the second before finally finishing the fight by rear-naked choke.

Hettes will be facing Nam Phan in his next fight, and he certainly has his work cut out for him.

Describing Phan's strengths, Hettes says, "He's definitely heavy-handed, so I always have to watch out for his right, and then his really good body shots, too. He's definitely a tough guy. Anyone that's seen him fight knows that he has a ton of heart and he always shows up to fight. Those are the types of guys I like to fight. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to get in the cage and test myself against him."

Hettes has been training for the fight under Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie in Toms River, N.J., alongside fighters such as Frankie Edgar and Kris McCray.

"The good part about being at a relatively well-known camp in New Jersey is that I get to train with some of the really good fighters here," said Hettes. "Frankie Edgar obviously keeps a crazy pace, but he's always real tough and his takedowns are phenomenal. And Kris McCray, his upper body takedowns are just unlike anyone's I've ever trained with. Obviously, Ricardo Almeida and Renzo, their jiu jitsu is phenomenal. I've learned to really appreciate a lot of the local guys here and what they're capable of."

To see what Hettes is capable of, tune in to UFC 141 on Dec. 30.

Fans can follow Jim Hettes on twitter at @jimhettes.

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