~ Billy Joel – “The Angry Young Man”
It's always nice to hear about a happy ending to what started out as a very sad, tragic story.
Former Strikeforce lightweight Conor Heun was dealt a crushing hand over the last year of his professional life that would have sent the strongest fighters to the mat, ready to tap out and give up on the sport altogether.
Heun's entire adult life has been about MMA, but after his 2012 loss to Ryan Couture, he was fighting for his future outside of the cage.
Following that fight in Strikeforce, Heun was forced into hip surgery to repair damage done during the bout, but to prevent further suffering down the road, his doctor recommended and performed preventative surgery to keep him from going through the same thing over and over again.
Unfortunately at the time, Heun was advised by the insurance company that covered him under his contract with Zuffa (parent company of the UFC and Strikeforce) that they would not pay for preventative surgery, and he was going to have to foot part of the bill himself. At the time, Zuffa had paid a substantial part of the bill, but Heun was stuck with a $40,000 debt for surgeries already performed, and he was at the bottom of a blackened well, looking up and seeing very little by way of sunlight.
They say the night is darkest just before the dawn, and Heun soon saw a ray of sunshine after what could only be described as a grim, downtrodden journey seemed to be coming to an end.
“The UFC was calling to try to get in touch with my doctor, I guess the insurance company doctor was having problems getting in touch with my doctor to discuss my case, and when I was talking to Briana (Mattison) from the UFC, she said, ‘Why did you think the final surgery was $40,000?' I was like, those are just the bills that I already have for $40,000, and she said the surgeries were actually $120,000, and she said, ‘We're going to cover it; we're going to take care of the surgeries for you.' I just said wow,” Heun revealed to MMAWeekly.com on Wednesday.
Following a lengthy battle between insurance, doctors, patient and provider, Zuffa ultimately opted to pay Heun's entire surgical bill and the physical therapy and rehab he needed up until the New Year. Heun will still be responsible for his rehabilitation from this point forward, which will still take about another four months. Prior to the decision that Zuffa made to cover the medical costs, Heun had worked with Fund-A-Fighter to help offset some of the tremendous expense involved, but now he will be able to use that money to assist him with his rehabilitation costs instead. Those bills will still be around $10,000.
A relieved Heun could only exhale after figuratively holding his breath for the better part of the last month, wondering how he could ever amass the money to even make a dent in the medical bill that loomed overhead like a dark cloud.
“It was a big load off my mind, but more than that it was sort of just reaffirming some beliefs of mine that everything's going to be alright in the end. If it's not alright, it's not the end. If you walk the path that's hard and you walk with integrity, things are going to take care of themselves. The stress I was feeling from it was something that I couldn't bear, the weight of it, of those surgeries, the stress of that financial burden especially after already using my ‘get out of jail free card' with the bankruptcy with my ACL surgery,” said Heun.
“I just had to have faith that it was going to work out. At that point in my life, taking on another $120,000 in debt would be something that was going to be very crippling.”
Heun believes that once the executives at Zuffa and the UFC realized what was happening, they wanted to step up and support a fighter that battled for them for much of his career, and help his body recover, while relieving the financial burden that was about to saddle him for several years to come.
At the time the medical bills were mounting, Heun told MMAWeekly.com that between his surgeries, the cost incurred, and the possibility of returning to the local circuit of shows, battling for pennies compared to what he once earned, he would probably walk away from the sport forever. His body and mind had seen enough. His last fight in Strikeforce was probably his last fight period.
Now that the medical costs have been taken care of for the most part, has Heun changed his mind? Will he heal up and find that fire again?
“To tell you the truth, I think my days of fighting are behind me,” Heun stated. “When I got into this sport, I got into it because it was frightening, it was something that scared me, the idea of training for a couple of months to have a guy train for me to try and kick my ass. It brought me back to Spanish class in high school and when the bell rang, I was meeting some kid at the flagpole to throw down, it was just a horrible feeling in my stomach, and over the course of my career I overcame that, I don't have that fear anymore.”
Throughout his career, Heun was known for his exciting style and never say die attitude in the cage or ring, but it also took it's toll on his body, mind and spirit. Now at 33 years of age, Heun is a different man with a much different outlook on mixed martial arts.
His new goal is to become the best martial artist he can be, studying many different disciplines and not focusing on training for just one opponent anymore.
“The lessons that can be learned through professional fighting, I've already learned those lessons. I've already proven everything I need to prove. The (Magno) Almeida fight, I probably should have walked away after that fight. I feel like after that fight, I proved what I needed to prove and there wasn't much left for me in the sport as far as the evolution of my soul,” said Heun.
The angry version of Conor Heun is dead and buried at this point, but that doesn't mean he's completely done with MMA. He's still going to train and teach, and once he heals, there's no telling that the fire to compete won't be reignited. The only difference will be if Conor Heun ever steps back into a cage or ring again, it won't be as the angry, scared kid looking to prove himself on the playground.
It will be a more mature, passionate Conor Heun that just wants to fight because he loves it.
“I never thought of this as sport fighting; I went out there to kill the guy. I don't want that part of me with me anymore. I've sort of moved to a place where that frightened little kid waiting to get beat up at the flagpole doesn't run the show anymore,” said Heun.
“The one asterisk you can put next to my name when talking retirement is you're definitely not going to see Conor ‘Hurricane' Heun in the cage anymore. You may see this body in the cage in a few years down the road after I've healed and after I've grown, but angry, rage filled, hyper aggressive fighter that's going out there to smash some guy because he's frightened, that guy's retired.”
To support Conor Heun via Fund-A-Fighter visit his page here –> Conor Heun – Fund-A-Fighter