Sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story. If you look at Tommy Hayden’s record you will see that he went 0-2 in the UFC but the American feels he was badly let down by the organisation after taking a last minute fight at a higher weight division.
“I took my first fight one week in advance and a weight class up. That first fight wasn’t supposed to count for or against me, I was supposed to get two fights at 145 guaranteed win or lose, at least that’s what my manager told me. Either he was wrong of the UFC lied, take your pick.”
While the life of a UFC fighter might seem glamorous the reality for Hayden was anything but. For his final fight in the octagon he received a declared purse of US$6,000, more than most mixed martial artists can hope to earn but hardly enough to make a living if you are only able to compete three or four times a year.
Fighters often talk about how hard training is, but for Hayden it was just one aspect of his hectic daily routine.
“The only people that are ‘full time’ fighters with no day jobs are rich kids or people mooching off of someone. When I was in the UFC I held down three part time jobs. Maybe if I lived on my friends couches, didn’t own a car, didn’t rent my own apartment and threw all of my responsibilities out the window I could have lived a different life and maybe I would have had more success. I will never know and I don’t really care.”
The 30-year-old is making his comeback at Full Metal Dojo 10 this Saturday. He’s still several younger than Randy Couture was when the former UFC heavyweight champion made his MMA debut and is hoping to resurrect his MMA career in Thailand.
Hayden holds an impressive 8-3 record and has been training hard ahead of a matchup with Arben Escayo at the Insanity Nightclub on Saturday night. He thinks his daily routine as a school teacher in Thailand is much more conducive to training for fights than his old regime was.
“I’m making this comeback because I have the time to train and I love fighting. My typical day now is super conducive to training, I run before school and then I go to the gym for a high intensity session in the evening.”
Hayden did not move to Thailand to pursue his MMA dreams. He just needed a change of lifestyle and felt that moving overseas to become a school teacher would offer him exactly that.
“My old job was killing me. I am not meant to be stuck at a desk, that’s not who I am. So I started looking for other options, I have always enjoyed teaching and I had always wanted to visit Thailand. The two seemed like a winning combination so here I am.”
Like so many American mixed martial artists Hayden comes from a wrestling background. However he was far from your stereotypical high school ‘jock’ and actually started the sport as a teenager to help him get over a breakup.
“I started MMA when I was 19 because I had just broken up with my high school sweetheart and I didn’t really know what else to do. When I was growing up I didn’t have many friends and I was picked on a lot. I was a small kid for my size and we moved around a lot so I never developed any real close relationships. When I ended things with my girlfriend I had no friends and I needed something to take my mind off of everything.”
A chance meeting at a tattoo parlor led Hayden to check out a local MMA gym and he has been training on and off ever since.
“I had just gotten my first tattoo and while I was at the parlor I met a guy who was a fighter. He had given me his number so after a few months I contacted him, we met up at the gym and I knew almost immediately that I had found a place where I belonged. MMA cured my broken heart and provided me with the longest and most meaningful friendships I have ever had.”
Hayden has been out of action since 2014 after breaking an orbital bone and then finding himself in a soul destroying day job which left him no time to train. He’s already fought in front of nearly 15,000 fans on a UFC card and the American wants a second chance at scaling the MMA ladder.
Thanks to FMD he has the opportunity and on Saturday night Hayden will be looking to show that 11 years after he first set foot in an MMA gym he still has the hunger required to succeed inside of the cage.