“When I was on the show, I actually tore my ACL,” Hiestand admits. “Then partially tore my meniscus and MCL. So I had to get surgery, and this whole time, I was out, recovering from surgery and just trying to get my knee right so I could get back there and fight.”
This Saturday, Hiestand makes his long-awaited return against Fernie Garcia. He’s taken a mature approach to the entire wait, and I wonder if this 23-year-old is really 40 on the inside.
“I’ll take it as a compliment,” he laughs. “I think martial arts definitely did help me. You look up to all these guys that are legends of the sport like GSP and Anderson Silva, and you’re like, I want to be like that dude one day, especially when you’re younger, and you’re like, how do I do that? And then you start hearing about the training routines and all this stuff they have to do. So to make your dream a reality, you have to start adopting those habits, and that’s made me seem like the 40-year-old I am today.”
Recovering from a knee injury can’t be easy on a 40-year-old body, though, right?
“I might seem like I’m 40, but I’ve still got the genes of a 23-year-old, so I recover pretty good,” laughs Hiestand, who has clearly settled into life in the spotlight. This isn’t someone with that deer in the headlights look when the cameras come on. And when the Octagon door closes, Hiestand already proved that he steps up on fight night. They’re all good signs, ones that often separate the haves from the have nots at the top level of the game.
“Where you come from in your life is the biggest key if you can minimize distractions,” he said. “If you have something bad happen in your day, your practice isn’t as good, so that goes into a fight, too. So you’ve just gotta make sure that your at-home life is set up and if it’s not, being able to stay mentally sound and work your way through it.”