Mike Hernandez is only still fighting in MMA because a stranger in a bar once told him not to stop.
Hernandez has an impressive record of 10-2 as a professional and went undefeated 5-0 as an amateur, but at one point, he was going to quit.
“I had just lost for the second time as a pro, in my sixth pro fight, I got my a** whooped; I had two black eyes, an infected ear and I got swindled,” Hernandez said. “I only made $400 from the fight.”
“I was like, I’m done with this sh*t.”
Then, on the brink of quitting MMA while drinking with friends in a bar, a man approached Mike.
“He told me ‘you’re an amazing fighter, you have a lot of people looking up to you and believing you can make it,’” Hernandez recalls. “He told me, ‘please don’t quit.’”
That made Mike decide to stick around MMA for a little while longer.
“I didn’t realize people were watching,” Hernandez said. “I’m doing it for the fans.”
Mike has always been a selfless person in this way. He never wanted to start fighting, his dad wanted it.
“My dad put me in wrestling when I was eight,” Hernandez said. “I hated it. But it stuck on me because it made my dad proud.”
Mike would have rather played hockey, but it was much more expensive than wrestling, or his real passion of playing football, but he was a linebacker at only five foot five inches tall and didn’t get much play time. However, he regrets quitting football his senior year in high school.
“I love football,” Hernandez said. “I should’ve continued playing.”
As with many 18 year old men, without school or sports Mike had a chip on his shoulder and got into trouble. He started fighting in the streets, a lot, and word got around that he was a wrestler and a tough guy.
One day, Ben Lagman, a fighter from a local MMA gym approached Mike and said he should try out MMA, because he’d be good at it. So Mike went.
After only one month of training, Mike fought in a cage.
He fought and won five amateur bouts but admits he didn’t learn much. His aggressive style and street fighting experience along with years of wrestling seemed to carry him through his amateur career and his first two professional opponents. He only trained a few times a week, not being that serious, and still beat his competition.
“I only started Jiu Jitsu when I lost for the first time, in my third pro fight,” Hernandez said.
Mike won two more pro fights after starting Jiu Jitsu, but then lost again and was ready to quit. His friends and teammates told him to take it seriously, take it all the way or get out. After the stranger in the bar inspired him, Mike decided to put his full time and energy into fighting.
“I told myself, if I lose again I’m done,” Hernandez said. “I don’t really enjoy getting punched in the face. But for some reason I keep winning.”
When you ask Hernandez about living the fight life, he is honest.
“I don’t enjoy it,” Hernandez said. “It’s a tough life, it’s a struggle. You pay a lot, and you get paid dog sh*t to fight. It’s a tough life to live to chase a dream.”
The one thing Hernandez does enjoy is the fans. He says he has “crazy” amounts of people that love watching him, which he attributes to his 80% KO/TKO rate and his big family. He fights for his family, he fights for the fans and for a third group of people very important to him; American soldiers.
“I wear American flag shorts to represent everyone that fights for our country,” Hernandez said. “People in America argue about politics and race, and burn our own flags and fight each other. I don’t understand. My grandparents fought in World War II, and people of all races are out fighting together for our country and are dying every day for it. When I get into the UFC, I want to get people to come together and maybe love our country a little bit more.”
Hernandez says he is one or two fights away from the UFC and he’s gunning for it.
“MMA is kind of sticking on me since I’m on a winning streak,” Hernandez said. “I want to see how I do, get a good run. Hopefully I’m on the right path. God willing.”
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