The opportunity of a lifetime has finally arrived for Central Valley graduate Brady Hiestand.
The 22-year-old Spokane-area native will face off against 28-year-old Ricky Turcios of Houston in the The Ultimate Fighter 29 Bantamweight Finale in Las Vegas on Saturday on ESPN and ESPN+. The winner of the fight will be signed to a UFC contract.
“I feel prepared as ever,” said Hiestand. “I’ve put a lot into my training recently and I feel mentally ready to go and put on a performance.”
The 29th edition of the reality series featured Hiestand and 15 other professional MMA fighters split up into two teams, Team Alexander Volkanovski and Team Brian Ortega, that live and train together, all while preparing to fight in a winner-takes-all-tournament in the season finale of the show.
“Coming from a small town like Spokane, this was huge to be a part of,” said Hiestand. “When I was little, I never thought that I would be a professional athlete. Now that I am here and on the biggest stage of mix-martial arts is incredible.”
Growing up in Spokane Valley, Hiestand began his fighting career in jiujitsu when he was 14. He earned a kid’s blue belt through the International Brazilian Ji-Jitsu Federation, and later a brown belt in Brazilian jiujitsu.
When he was 18, he officially turned pro and has since compiled a record of 6-1 in MMA fights.
“I feel I can compete with these high-level guys because the display of skill I put out there,” said Hiestand. “I feel this is just the beginning for me. I still have a lot to prove and that’s what Saturday is for.”
Heistand also said “this opportunity has brought back a lot of people in my life that I haven’t talked to in a while,” including family members and outside friends.
“It was a roller coaster ride of all emotions,” said Hiestand. “It was pretty cool to experience a lot on the show and I felt like I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a fighter.”
Hiestand and Turcios lived together during filming this past spring and they were also training partners as members of Team Volkanovski.
“It was great to train with him,” said Hiestand. “As a person he’s a great guy, and as a fighter he is a veteran and experienced, but I feel it’s my time to show everyone what I am made of.”
Getting to the finale was no easy task for Hiestand, who beat fellow Spokane native Josh Rettinghouse in the quarterfinal round by split decision. Hiestand then defeated Vince Murdock by TKO in the semifinals.
“The first few fights have been a journey, especially against Josh,” said Hiestand. “It was an absolute war going back and forth the whole time with one of my good friends. Not only physically, but emotionally that fight was taxing.”
With a victory, Hiestand would become the third fighter from the Spokane area to win the “Ultimate Fighter” series title, joining Shadle Park graduate Michael Chiesa, who won it in 2012, and Mt. Spokane graduate Julianna Pena who won the first female series title in 2013.
“Spokane has become an MMA fight town,” said Hiestand. “To win it again would reiterate that we are one of the toughest towns in the world.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.