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SciFighting Exclusive Interview: Rising Star John Hackleman Jr. Swinging To Be The Next Chuck Liddell


His name is famous, but he is not. But he’s hoping to change all that soon.

For John Hackleman Jr., or “Handsome Hack,” as he is known, the road out of his famous father’s shadow begins Friday, Oct. 25, when he makes his professional MMA debut.

At the age of 31.

“I am freaking 31 years old,” Hackleman Jr. told SciFighting.com. “It is just time. I am old, but not too old to do something.”

Hackleman Jr. is set to fight Edward Hyman at Bamma USA’s BadBeat 12 at the Commerce Casino in Commerce, California.

His father John Hackleman founded the legendary “Pit” in Arroyo Grande, California. The Pit has been home to fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Court McGee and Tim Kennedy. Since he was a boy, Hackleman has been surrounded by fighters and the fight culture. He got a late start.

“I didn’t really want to do it,” Hackleman Jr. said. “I was really forced into it as a kid. It wasn’t something I really enjoyed.”

From the beginning, the expectations were high.

“There’s a lot of pressure, being the son of my dad,” Hackleman Jr. said. “He’s pretty well known.”

Even though he’s making a pro debut, Hackleman Jr. is not new to competition. He’s had eight amateur MMA fights and 15 kickboxing matches. He’s sparred recently with Liddell and Glover Teixeira.

“I know it’s different when you are sparring, But I have more ring time than people think,” Hackleman Jr. said.

For a long time, it was enough to just fight and not worry about a profession.

“I never thought of it as a career,” Hackleman Jr. said. “I thought I could fight for free. I really just liked to fight and I didn’t want to get into street fights or get into trouble. I would have been happy with amateur fights and fighting for free.”

After his last amateur fight, however, a conversation with his father changed his mind. He said his father told him if he’s going to fight, he might as well make some money doing it.

“I want to be a world champion,” Hackleman Jr. said. “I have a goal and a desire inside. I know I can knock anyone in the world out.”

Outside the cage, Hackleman Jr. certainly seems to love what he does. He trains six days a week. Spends quality time with his friends. He appreciates life, as evidenced by the plethora of skin, sweat and smiles on display on his Facebook page. These days he’s learned to handle the pressure of having a famous, demanding dad.

“He’s an alpha male and he’s accomplished a lot and he has his views on the way to do things in life,” he said. “I try to give him as much respect as I can, respect that he deserves.

The elder Hackleman told his son it was time to be a “professional fighter” because it was embarrassing for both of them for him not to be.

“He was pushing for it,” Hackleman Jr. said.

Hackleman Jr. doesn’t know a lot about his opponent Friday night, but he’s training hard, six days a week at his father’s gym and Paragon in Santa Maria, California. He’s known in amateur circles as a massive heavy hitter, which has been a trademark of Pit fighters.

“I am a big, strong 185-pounder,” Hackleman Jr. said. “He’s going to try to take me down. I used to put so much pressure on not getting taken down, but now I don’t care. I am ready to go out there and have fun. I am going to stay relaxed and have fun and put on a show.”

Hackleman Jr. said he’s about more than power.

“Everyone associates The Pit with just knocking people out and I want to break that stereotype because I want to be known as a well-rounded mixed martial artist,” he said. “I want to be known as a well-rounded fighter.

No matter what happens, Hackleman Jr. said he is not turning pro just to turn pro. He has big dreams.

“I am not even thinking about not winning,” he said. “This isn’t just a one-time fight. This has been a journey. I plan on doing this for awhile. I am not looking past this guy I am going to go out there and give it a 110 percent. My goal is to be a professional fighter and be a successful professional fighter. I want to be a world champion

Follow reporter Joshua Molina on Twitter.