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Ian Heinisch says fellow wrestler Derek Brunson ‘embarrassed’ himself against Israel Adesanya

Ian Heinisch (pictured) fights Derek Brunson in a middleweight bout Saturday at UFC 241 in Anaheim, California
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ian Heinisch sees a lot of similarities between himself and UFC 241 opponent Derek Brunson.

They’re both wrestlers. They both have a tendency to brawl and they’re both pressure fighters. But that’s where Heinisch would like to see the comparisons end.

Heinisch sees himself as being superior in the wrestling and standup and he’ll get the chance to prove it when he and Brunson fight on Saturday’s main card at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Even more importantly, Heinisch wants to show that he’ll have better results when the time comes for him to face the kinds of marquee names that Brunson has faced.

One of those names is current UFC interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. “The Last Stylebender” took out Brunson inside of a round when they fought at UFC 230 last November, and Heinisch can’t imagine himself falling into the same traps that Brunson did.

“I’m honestly a little embarrassed for him to be a wrestler and to fight Adesanya the way he did,” Heinisch recently told MMA Fighting. “If he’s so scared to strike with him and take the stupidest shots, if he would have thrown the strikes and made him respect his striking a little, he could have got the takedown and we could have seen what Adesanya does against a good wrestler. But we didn’t get to see that.

“We see him run in face down, six feet away shooting, getting kneed in the face. So he kind of gave wrestlers a bad look there and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Heinisch’s goal is to have UFC gold around his waist and he has Adesanya firmly in his sights, even though Adesanya has to deal with undisputed champion Robert Whittaker first.

“Absolutely,” Heinisch said. “Adesanya’s a fight I really want, even more than Whittaker.”

Known as “The Hurricane,” Heinisch has a lot going for him in the nascent stages of his own title campaign. He is 13-1 as a pro and 2-0 in the UFC so far with convincing decision wins over longtime middleweight veterans Antonio Carlos Junior and Cezar Ferreira. He also brings an unbelievable and well-publicized life story into the cage that involves drugs, international intrigue, Heinisch learning to fight in a Spanish prison, and, like any good story, a shot at redemption.

That last part is still a work in progress for Heinisch, though there’s no arguing that he’s come a long way in his fighting career. Still, he’s not settling for anything less than reaching the very top of his division, and that mission is tied into his desire to have a greater platform for his faith-based message of staying on the right path and on a macro level, proposing improvements to the U.S. prison system.

Heinisch credits his experience while jailed on the Canary Islands with turning his life around and he’s currently working on making the right connections to someday set up a halfway house for troubled youths. He’s been asked by the Denver Broncos to speak to the team and also by CEOs at RE/MAX Masters Millenium.

It’s a start and he knows the name “Ian Heinisch” will carry a lot more cachet if the words “UFC middleweight champion” are next to it. That’s when the real work can begin.

Heinisch might not be as far off as it looks. Though Brunson has taken his fair share of losses inside the Octagon, they have come against Adesanya, Whittaker, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Yoel Romero, and Anderson Silva. Heinisch can join that list this weekend and more importantly, push himself towards the front of the contenders’ line where he feels he already belongs.

“When I finish him on Saturday, I feel I’m right there,” Heinisch said. “My goal is to be top-5 by the end of this year. If that means one more fight against (Kelvin) Gastelum, or ‘Jacare,’ or the winner of Jack Hermansson and ‘The Killa Gorilla’ (Jared Cannonier), whoever it may be, I feel like I can get in the top-5 this year and be fighting for a title next year.”

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