Anthony 'Fluffy' Hernandez: Open Season
If you were to see Anthony Hernandez now, you’d find it hard to believe that he once weighed 250lbs aged fifteen and earned the nickname ‘Fluffy’. Fast forward to now and he has just earned a UFC contract in spectacular fashion and has the world at his feet.
Commencing his journey from unorthodox roots, Hernandez explained ‘I got into MMA just fighting in the yard with my buddies. My cousin took me to a gym and I started training and then a chick told me I couldn’t do it – I was like ‘Bitch, bet!’ and from there I went all in, realised I was good at it and now I’m here’.
On June 19th of this year, ‘Fluffy’ stepped into the octagon to face Jordan Wright as part of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series; he was victorious and scored a vicious knockout inside 40 seconds, thus earning a contract on the night. ‘It worked out perfectly’ he said, adding ‘Going into the fight, we knew that Jordan was good when he presses forward and sticks to his game plan, but going backwards he didn’t look very good. Our gameplan was just to push forward and catch openings’,
Much was made before the fight of the awkward style that Wright possessed and how it was one of the more unique styles in MMA today. Hernandez was able to execute his plan to perfection and ensured that Wright was never in a position to be able to capitalise on his craftiness. ‘The way he was standing, he was just looking to throw big spinning kicks, nothing was set up, it was just too easy’ he said.
As soon as Anthony connected with his first shot, Wright covered up immediately, and from there he knew it was game over – ‘It was open season. I tell my kids classes that all the time, you can either ball up and get the shit kicked out of you, or you can throw back and have a chance of hitting them’. Wright obviously opted for the former choice, and Hernandez duly obliged.
One of the glaring issues for Wright heading into the bout was obvious when looking at his record; as late as January this year, Wright was still facing opponents that he should have bypassed by this stage of his career and the talent level that he was now facing had clearly caught up to him. Hernandez agreed with the aforementioned sentiment entirely, saying ‘‘His record is so padded – you need to be testing yourself to get ready for that next level or you can just lie to yourself and figure it out once you’ve ended up on a highlight reel’.
‘Fluffy’ clearly had a clear plan going into the bout and that’s something that he entrusts his coaches with prior to each encounter. ‘I look at how people come out and then the rest is up to my coaches. I trust my coaches, they have my best interests and I’ve always trusted them to research everyone, break them down step by step and so far we’ve been pretty successful’ he explained.
Immediately after the conclusion of the fight, Hernandez could be seen celebrating with a familiar face – fellow UFC fighter, Max Griffin. ‘Max has always been a very good example for me, pretty much like my older brother, beating the shit out of me since I was 15, as far as fighting he’s a bad motherfucker too and he’s not even shown off half of what he can do yet. I think it’s just a case of getting comfortable in the cage, both of us are getting better, we’re both getting more confident, just wait for our next fights and we’ll be throwing some crazy shit’ Hernandez said.
As is always the case with the contender series, once all fights have been concluded, the fighters gather in the back and Dana confirms who has been given a UFC contract. Traditionally Dana will give two, maybe three contracts a night and after he had already started reeling off several names, ‘Fluffy’ was starting to think that maybe it wasn’t his night; ‘I was nervous, I was like ‘fuck’, they don’t usually give that many out, it looks like I’m gonna go back and defend the belt at LFA, but then they did say my name and I was like ‘fuck yeah!’’.
Before the bout had even begun, both the UFC and Hernandez did a brilliant job of telling the American’s story – from his early days fighting, to his determination to make his late father proud. ‘I tell everyone I’m just gonna be real. The person I am outside of the cage is the same person that I’m going to be inside of the cage. I do this sport because I’m good at it, I like it, I like to compete and make money for my kids. I’m not gonna be a dick outside of the cage and be all cocky, that’s not a good example for my kids’ he explained. He was almost genuine to a fault after the fight, where he appeared to have a more difficult time trying not to curse in his interview with Laura Sanko, than the actual fight itself.
As of right now, there is no date set for the octagon return of ‘Fluffy’ but he insists he’s just going to continue working and improving until he’s given a name by the UFC. He certainly won’t be turning down any opponents anytime soon, partially because he doesn’t even follow fighting enough to be drawn into the finer details of it. ‘Honestly, I don’t even really follow the UFC, I don’t follow fighting, I don’t really care, it’s just a job for me. All I’m looking for is to be the best me, I keep it very simple, nothing crazy – when you start making it crazy, that’s when it gets overwhelming’ he revealed.
Whoever is next for Hernandez, they’d be mistaken to look at his record and just believe he’s a grappler. One look at his last bout and that would become quite clear, but he does believe that someone could be in for a rude awakening one day soon - ‘They started calling me a grappler because I’ve got submissions on my record, but if you watch me fight then it’s always me cracking fools and then them starting to shoot. I’m definitely more of a striker. It is what it is, people can think I’m a grappler all they want and then they’ll find out the hard way’.