After 15 years in one of the world’s most brutal sports, that walk keeps Ed Herman coming back.
Friday evening in Las Vegas, the fighter from Battle Ground will stalk toward the octagon-shaped cage in the center of a buzzing arena.
“Walking out to that cage and those emotions you feel, there’s nothing like it in the world that I’ve experienced,” Herman said. “That’s probably what has kept me in the sport, that addiction to the adrenaline.”
There are no easy paths in professional mixed martial arts. Herman’s is marked by toughness and endurance, qualities which have led the soon-to-be 37-year-old through some long detours caused by injury.
Herman (24-12-0) will rely on those traits Friday when he faces CB Dollaway (16-9-0) in the undercard of the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter Finale. The four-fight undercard starts at 4 p.m. and will be telecast on FS1.
“What has kept me around for as long as I have is my toughness and grit,” Herman said in a telephone interview. “I feel like I get stronger as the rounds go on. That’s going to be my advantage.”
In being part of the card for UFC’s Ultimate Fighter Finale, Herman is coming full circle. The Vancouver native got his big break when he reached the final of the made-for-TV contest’s third season in 2006.
Since then, there have been triumphs for the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder.
There have also been setbacks. Few were bigger than in 2009, when Herman tore knee ligaments during UFC 102 in Portland. That injury kept him out of fighting for 18 months.
A longer-than-expected layoff has preceded Friday’s fight. He was scheduled to fight in April, but a groin injury kept him from competing. His current training cycle has lasted six months.
“I’m excited to get in there and fight because I’ve been training for so long without fighting,” he said. “I’ve been chomping at the bit to get in there and fight, let alone that there’s not a lot of money coming in when I’m not fighting.”
Fifteen years ago, “Short Fuse” Herman punched his way into mixed martial arts by taking any fight he could get around the Northwest. Since those early days, he has seen the sport’s talent pool become deeper.
“When it first started, it was a lot of us tough guys who didn’t have a lot of other options,” he said. “Now you’re seeing more athletes who specifically train for this and chose this sport when they could have done other sports. You’re seeing a lot more super athletes or genetic freaks coming in.”
But Herman has stuck with it. He has adapted, building more rest and recovery into his training schedule. He spars with younger fighters and veterans alike, trying to stay on top of the latest moves and strategies.
Yet, Herman knows the sunset of his fighting days is approaching.
“My body is holding together good enough for now, but it’s hard to say how much longer it’s gonna to stay going for me,” he said.
But when Herman walks toward that octagon on Friday evening, that adrenaline will start flowing again. He channels it differently than during his youth, but he’ll still feast on the fighter’s fuel.
“When I was young, I was like a hungry pit bull ready to kill,” he said. “Now, I’m supporting my family, so there’s a lot more emotions that go into it.”