Ian Heinisch: UFC Rochester foe Antonio Carlos Junior 'looking past me a little bit'

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Ian Heinisch had to deal with a momentary low when he had a bout canceled on fight day earlier this year. Once he got past that, though, he realized that what came out the other side made it all worthwhile.

Heinisch (12-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) was supposed to face Tom Breese at UFC on ESPN+ 5 in March when his opponent had to be pulled with medical issues on fight day. It was highly frustrating, but just days later the UFC came back with an offer against Antonio Carlos Junior (10-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) on Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 10.

The obvious difference is that Breese is unranked, while Carlos Junior is No. 14 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA middleweight rankings. That upside alone made the situation worthwhile, but Heinisch said the UFC did even more to make him happy.

“It worked out,” Heinisch told MMA Junkie ahead of UFC on ESPN+ 10. “Now I’m fighting over here against a top-15 guy, I got a new contract, the UFC took great care of me. It was meant to be.”

UFC on ESPN+ 10 takes place at Blue Cross Arena. The entire card streams on ESPN+.

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With the canceled fight, though, it’s been six months since Heinisch has seen action. For someone who fought four times in 2018, that amount of downtime is a challenge to comprehend, but he said he learned to find the positive.

Heinisch, 30, said he’s evolved significantly since a unanimous-decision victory over Cezar Ferreira in his promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 140 in November. Carlos Junior is among the best grapplers in the game and his 13-month layoff is unlikely to change the gameplan, but Heinisch wonders how time off will play into the fight.

“You’re going to see a new Ian Heinisch for sure,” Heinisch said. “I’m taking six months out, which always sucks. You want to stay fresh, but he’s out more than a year. He’s going to have more cage rust than I am, and I feel good. I don’t think that’s going to affect me.”

For Heinisch, UFC on ESPN+ 10 represents the biggest moment of his career. It’s important for Carlos Junior, too, but the Brazilian is more eager to get some momentum back during his layoff before turning his attention to the bigger names at 185 pounds.

Heinisch has been paying attention to his opponent in the lead-up to fight night, though, and he said part of him feels he might be underestimate, which he insists would be a big mistake by Carlos Junior.

“I’ve looked at some interviews, and he’s kind of looking past me a little bit, and that’s good,” Heinisch said. “If he looks past me it’s going to be a long night for him.”

To hear more from Heinisch, check out the video above.

For more on UFC on ESPN+ 10, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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