Posted on April 25, 2012 by CJ Siewert
When you link fighting and baseball together, the one correlation that comes to mind right away is a bean-ball to the batter’s head followed by a charge to the mound and possibly the clearing of benches. Fighting has become a focal part of Brian Heden’s life, a native of Frazee, Minn. and member of the Vergas Loons, but not on the diamond. Heden recently came away with an upset victory in the inaugural Worldwide Mixed Martial Arts’ (WMMA) main event in El Paso, Texas that propelled him into the MMA’s top-100 ranking, all while finding time to play amateur baseball during the summer months.
After opening his professional fighting career in 2005 with a pedestrian 1-4 record, Heden put together a string of victories against notable performers over the years and then earned the right to battle former UFC veteran Sean McCorkle in the WMMA main event on March 31 this year. McCorkle entered the fight on a six-match win streak, while Heden had suffered three losses in his previous four fights.
“I was offered the fight through the WMMA,” Heden said. “Sean McCorkle got cut from the UFC after three fights but was on a six-fight win streak. It was a big opportunity and the show was for a great cause; the Wounded Warriors Foundation for all the wounded veterans that are serving our country. The WMMA ended up writing a check out to the Foundation for $25,000, which was handed out right before the fight.”
Standing in at 5-11, 287 pounds, Heden took numerous blows to the head throughout the first round and was nearly knocked out before the bell sounded. The second round was a different story, though, as Heden’s endurance and toughness proved to be better than the 6-7, 312-pound McCorkle. McCorkle gained control of Heden’s back with three minutes remaining, but :08 later the Frazee wrestling product flipped McCorkle over his back and landed 47 hammer fists before the referee called the TKO with 2:17 left on the clock.
“I tried to go for a sweep,” Heden acknowledged. “But you know its tough when you got a guy who is 300 pounds on your back. You never want to give up your back to an opponent. I tried to sweep and I got on my knees and he got my back. As soon as I felt him too high on my back that’s when I scooted back and propped my legs up and sent him over the top.”
The win sent Heden’s world ranking from No. 160 to 96 and opened the door to a number of fights across the globe.
“They’re talking Brazil and that’s at a later date, which I’m not sure about,” Heden mentioned. “My manager is also in talks with a group out of Australia. As soon as I flew back home from the fight in Texas, my manager got a call from a group out of Europe and they wanted me to fly over there the next week. We kind of giggled because I couldn’t fight; I’ve got 12 stitches in me. So then I was offered to be part of a tournament up in Russia as part of the heavyweight division. That was for June 2, but my girlfriend is due with her first child on May 31.”
With the tournament so close to the due date, Heden had to opt out, but that’s not stopping him from furthering his professional fighting career. He wasn’t planning on fighting for another three-to-four months until recently receiving an offer to fight in Bemidji for Northstar Combat, which is close to home.
“They want me to fight for the heavyweight title,” Heden said. “That’s May 26 but that’s also five days before my girlfriend is due. Then again, it’s close to home and it’s hard to pass up what they’re willing to pay.”
While earning a living working with concrete on 12-hour days, training for fights and a baby on the way, Heden still finds time to play the sport he loves – baseball. Heden is now in his third year with the Vergas Loons after playing five forgettable seasons with his hometown Frazee Flames of the Country Side League.
“I played five years with Frazee and it’s pretty bad when you can count the number of wins on one hand,” Heden noted. “I pitch for the Loons now and play third base. We’ve got Jake Bachmann over at third on a regular basis but I fill in when I can. Basically, I start for the Loons and when we’re in a jam I come in and do some closing as well.”
The Loons started their 2012 campaign with an exhibition last Sunday against 2010 Class C State Champion Midway. Vergas and Midway met in regions last year and the Loons came away with a victory. In 2010, the two teams met as well with Midway advancing en route to its State title. On Sunday to start the season, Vergas lost 10-4 to the Snurdbirds, but Heden noted that all the runs were given up with two outs, runners on and errors in the field.
“It started out kind of rough,” Heden recalled. “In the second inning we had three guys running for a fly ball. The left fielder was knocked out after colliding with the shortstop. It was pretty scary, but everybody’s a little rusty coming back.”
Although working manual labor for long hours and training for fights takes its toll, Heden says playing baseball is the perfect escape. “It’s a sport that I just can’t give up. I love playing the game. It’s another way for me to get out there and continue to be active. After working so hard throughout the week, it’s just nice to be able to go out to the field and play some baseball, a sport that I love. I get to hang out with my friends and get a nice break from everything else.”
Next up for Heden and the Loons is a match-up with his hometown Frazee Flames. The two clubs will meet on Sunday, May 6 in Frazee for a 1:30 p.m. first pitch. Something tells me Heden may toe the rubber at some point in that contest.
Click here to view Heden's upset victory.