Ian Heinisch responds to Antonio Carlos Junior's foul complaints: 'He was just breaking mentally'

Ian Heinisch added a big win to his resume last Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 10, but it took weathering quite a storm from Antonio Carlos Junior early in the middleweight encounter to get the job done.

Heinisch, who was in the unfortunate position of having to fight a rear-naked choke specialist off his back, credits a few things for managing to turn things around. In wrestling, he says, he’s always good at getting people off his back. In camp, he had a slew of “long, lanky black belts” and people with strong back control helping make sure he was comfortable in the position if it came down to it.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Heinisch has been through enough challenges in his life to know how to overcome them. And he believes that, as the end of the fight approached and both fighters tired, it was that mental fortitude that helped him prevail.

“This whole thing I went through, this whole process gave me such a strong mentality, a strong mindset, that I am able to lose a round and have someone hang on my back and not let it faze me at all, because I’ve been through adversity my whole life,” Heinisch told MMA Junkie Radio on Wednesday. “And I know how to bounce back, and I feel like I’m one of the most mentally strong guys in the UFC.”

But it seems Heinisch can’t say the same about the mental fortitude displayed by his opponent in Rochester, N.Y.

The fight featured a few visible fouls, including fence grabs by Heinisch (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC), a groin shot by Junior (10-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) and a headbutt. Junior complained about both Heinisch’s fouls and the ref’s lack of action in an interview with Combate. Junior, who was coming off a layoff, said he believed that both the time away and those events in the cage threw him off.

“I lost a bit of focus, especially in moments of the fight when I was upset with the ref,” Junior said. “One was (Heinisch) grabbing the fence when I went for the takedown. I spoke to the ref before the fight, when he went to the locker room to explain the rules. I went for the takedown, he grabbed it, didn’t fall because of it, and later even elbowed me and grabbed the fence again.

“I told the ref that if it happened, it could change the path of the fight, and he said he’d deduct points. He grabbed (the fence) twice. The ref did nothing. That took my focus a bit. He even headbutted me. I complained, and the ref told me to continue. To his back, I said ‘You know you headbutted me. Be honest.’”

Well, let’s just say Heinisch isn’t exactly on the same page.

“He was just breaking mentally,” Heinisch said. “We had an accidental headbutt, and he wanted to stop the fight. It’s just like, ‘Man, we’re fighting. The ref didn’t see it. We’re going to keep fighting. You’re the one who kneed me in the nuts.’ So he can complain about whatever he wants. He was breaking mentally. When you’re breaking, you start letting little things like that affect you. Cezar Ferreira – we headbutted hard, a few times, and none of us said anything.

“If the ref doesn’t see it, I’m not going to try to wave him down and let him know. I’m just going to keep fighting. And whatever he wants to believe, I was there for a mission, and a little headbutt is not going to stop me. I’m going to keep moving forward until the ref actually pulls me off. That’s on him. That’s mental things. And if he wants to find excuses, that’s on him. I’m happy with my performance and what happened.”

Heinisch certainly has reasons to be happy with what happened. By snapping Junior’s five-fight winning streak, he added a fifth consecutive victory to his own streak. The most recent two were in the UFC after Heinisch made the most of his “Dana White’s Contender Series 7” shot. And while decisions aren’t usually how fighters prefer to get their wins, 15 minutes of cage time with a tough foe makes for some valuable experience.

A big win calls for a step up, and Heinisch made that clear right away. With his sights set on the division’s top 10, he believes Derek Brunson was both someone he could beat and someone who’d make for the type of firefight that he wants to put on for fans. Late August seems like as good a time as ever to make that one happen.

But that’s not all that Heinisch has his sights on.

“Honestly, I would love to make it 4-0 this year,” Heinisch said. “I hope I can get one in August, one in November, December. That would be my ideal. And if (Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza) needs a fight, too – and he’s coming off a loss. If he thinks I’ll be tune-up fight, I’m ready. So let him know.”

To hear from Heinisch, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC on ESPN+ 10, visit the UFC Events section of the site.

MMA Junkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio. You can also check out www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmfightnation.

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