From Wrestler to Fighter: Two-Time State Champ Derak Heyman Looks to Make His Mark in MMA



The Broome County Arena is a very special place for Derak Heyman.  The five-time Section IV and two-time New York state champion hasn’t lost in that venue, where the Section tournament is held, in eight years.  He looks to keep that streak alive when he takes on Venezuelan kickboxer Jon Lopez at Upstate Shredding’s Art of Combat Four on Friday night.

Section IV and NYS wrestling will be well represented at the event, which begins at 7:00 p.m, as Jon Conklin of Union Endicott, Andrew Canale of Tioga Central, Tyler Bayer of Union Endicott, and Matthew Kurey of Chenango Valley are also on the card along with Heyman.

Heyman Photo by Peter Rodriguez

Heyman has only one MMA fight under his belt, and it was quick.  He won by way of TKO in just thirty-seven seconds.

“My first fight went well, obviously, but I’ve improved dramatically in the short time preparing for this fight,” Heyman said. “Basically, I’ve just worked on cutting angles and I’ve been working a lot of kick defense.”

When asked about the transition from wrestling to his new sport, Heyman pointed to a few things.

“The biggest difference from wrestling to fighting would be the 24-hour weigh ins,” he said. “Cutting weight isn’t nearly as bad when you have a full day to recover instead of just one or two hours. I walk around at 170 pounds, so this cut [he will weigh in at 160 on Thursday] isn’t too bad.  But I plan to drop to 145 after this fight.”

In addition to weight, Heyman spoke about how his preparation is different than it was on the mat.

“The training is different,” he said. “Aside from learning new things; you don’t go live as much because you don’t want to hurt yourself or your partner.  I’ve also had to change my stance up from being a right leg lead in wrestling to a left leg lead in fighting.”

Heyman was originally scheduled to fight in Ithaca on April 27th, but the chance to return to the place he got his hand raised so many times before was too appealing.

“When this opportunity came up I couldn’t turn it down,” he said. “This arena has made so many memories for me, and its time to add another one.”

He sounds prepared to make his mark against Lopez, who was a perfect 3-0 kickboxer in Venezuela before making the change to MMA, where he is now 2-1.

“I don’t get nervous, I’m excited and ready to go,” Heyman said. “He’s good at what he does.  I plan on closing the gap to take him down. Everyone is looking for the picture perfect knockout, but I think my submission game is going to win this fight.”

He’s hoping it’s just the beginning — Heyman said his goal is to be a UFC champion in the long run.  He doesn’t want to be known as “Derak Heyman the wrestler” but “Derak Heyman the fighter”.

You can watch him and some of New York’s finest wrestlers make that transition on Friday night.


Doors will open at 6 p.m. on Friday for the event.  For more information on Art of Combat 4, see this link.


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