Why was UFC middleweight Ian Heinisch in prison and how many years did he spend there?

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Anwesha Nag

As Ian Heinisch faced Kelvin Gastelum in the biggest fight of his career, he was also celebrating seven years of freedom from two back-to-back prison sentences in two different countries.

After being diagnosed with ADHD at an early age, Ian Heinisch was home-schooled by his parents, who also put him in wrestling classes to help him channelize his energy. His wrestling got him to North Idaho College, but he soon dropped out and started selling recreational drugs to sustain his livelihood.

In a first-person story in The Players Tribune in 2018, Ian Heinisch narrated his side of things in detail.

"At the age of 19, I started dealing serious amounts of ecstasy in my hometown of Denver... I was dealing because … well, it was all I could do. My high school wrestling career hadn’t taken me anywhere when colleges found out I had been expelled as a senior for all sorts of s***. I had ADHD and I had gotten hooked on the amphetamines that I was taking to control it. It was around the same time that my parents had run into money trouble, and when the global financial crisis hit in 2008 things got worse."

Going to prison changed Ian Heinisch's life

He was under arrest in America for selling more than 2,000 'ecstasy pills', and to avoid serving time in prison, he fled to Amsterdam and then to Spain. He pursued the same line of work in Spain as well and got caught by a Spanish immigration office who detained him with a kilo of cocaine.

That led to his first prison sentence in the Canary Islands for three-and-a-half years. His years at the Canary Island prison helped him find his way back. He found god, taught himself Spanish by reading a Spanish Bible with the help of an English Dictionary, and got into a type of wrestling called Lucha Canaria.

"[Prison in Spain] rekindled everything that used to drive me, my passions came alive. I kicked my addictions, cured of it from God," Ian Heinisch told Insider a few days ago.

Ian Heinisch also shared that he got to "keep his dignity", go to classes, and get his then-girlfriend in Spain.

However, things were not the same when he came back to the US.

Upon re-entry, Ian Heinisch was immediately apprehended without bail as he was a fugitive and was sent to Rikers, one of the most notorious prisons in the country, infamous for its record of brutality and abuse.

After getting out of Rikers in 2014, Ian Heinisch was fighting on Dana White's Contender Series in just four years. Since then, he has fought six times in UFC, winning three and losing three as well.

Edited by Anirban Banerjee


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