UFC Rochester: Ed Herman Worried About Loss of Casual Fans, But “Sky’s the Limit” in ESPN Era

Ed Herman, UFC Moncton
Ed Herman UFC Moncton Weigh-In Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Ed Herman once told doubters the UFC would be on ESPN some day. After 13 years with the company, that’s exactly where they are.

Ed Herman returns at UFC Rochester in just over a week’s time, coming off a close loss in Moncton, New Brunswick last October. That fight, against Gian Villante, left Herman fuming after the fight — setting off his ‘Short Fuse,’ in other words. After three hard-fought rounds, it’s hard to blame the reaction.

With months having passed, however, Herman (23-14, 1NC) has learned from the experience, as he told Cageside Press ahead of the Rochester (UFC Fight Night 152) card.

“I gotta remember to push as hard as I can every single round, not take anything for granted,” Herman said of the takeaway from that fight. “You think you’re winning a round, maybe you’re not in the judge’s eyes. So me and my coaching staff just talked stressing the fact that you’re always losing the fight.”

“A frustrating situation last time,” Herman called it. “Hat’s off to Gian, though, he did well.”

It was, however, “one of the worst” decisions of Herman’s long career. “I’ve had two or three, in my time, I feel like. But that’s probably one of the worst.”

Losing for a fighter isn’t just an 0 on the record, or a bump to the back of the line in the division, either. Rather “the hardest part” is the financial blow. No win bonus. “If I was on a flat rate or something, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal,” Herman explained. “But when you put all the work in and you have a barn-burner fight like that, you walk away with half the money, it doesn’t go nearly as far — that’s where the frustration lies.”

While Ed Herman admits that “I can’t bitch about it now, it’s the contract I signed,” it’s also worth noting that flat rates have become more sought after in MMA. Having half your purse vanish with a loss can be the difference between breaking even and not, in extreme cases. Justin Gaethje has made similar comments about wanting a set purse.

Of course, Herman, “could look for a takedown and lay on top of somebody” — but that’s not just him. He’s looking to bring the fight, and entertain.

He’ll bring it again against Patrick Cummins in Rochester. Like Herman, Cummins has been on a bit of a skid, but both remain popular fighters.

“Things feel really good. I was able to start this camp out in a lot better state than I was in the previous camp,” Herman said of how things are going heading in. Herman was out nearly 15 months or so before his previous camp, dealing with injuries. Now he’s back to training full time. “I had to get a job last summer just to pay bills before my fight,” he recalled. That was about feeding his family, and Ed is certainly “not afraid to work hard.” Still, it’s clearly preferable to train full time when possible.

In the months that followed the Moncton fight, without having a full time job to juggle, Herman also earned his black belt in BJJ. “That was cool, man. I’ve been training jiu-jitsu for a long time,” he said of the honor. “I’ve failed to focus as much time on straight BJJ as I’d like to just because of my fight career and everything. It’s kind of been something that, I don’t want to say part time, but when I’m training MMA and all that stuff, it’s hard to focus on the actual BJJ side.”

“So it was really cool to make that happen, to be able to get some time in over this last year and a half or so,” he continued. “To get to where my coaches thought that I deserved that black belt.”

With pro grappling bouts also an option these days, with competitions like Submission Underground, that’s a path Herman has considered. “I’ve almost jumped in on a couple cards, the timing just hasn’t worked out.” However beyond timing, Herman has also been hesitant due to injury concerns. “I’m always a little nervous about getting hurt doing that, then not being able to fight, where the real money’s at for me.”

So it’s MMA for now. UFC Rochester. Patrick Cummins brings a known quality to the table with his wrestling base. You know he’ll be looking for the takedown. On the pairing with Cummins, Herman feels that “it’s a good match-up.”

“We’re both old guys. Yeah we’re both old,” deadpanned the 38-year old. “We’re both vets. We’re both in our late 30s. It’s tough getting in there matching up with these young guys in their 20s, sometimes. So it’s nice having another guy who’s kind of going through the same physical demands as myself.”

“That being said I feel like I have a lot of experience,” he continued, “and I’m just better everywhere. Pat is a very good wrestler and athlete, but I’m working with some very talented wrestlers, trying to focus on my wrestling as well as letting those hands go, baby. I don’t think he’s going to be able to handle that.”

Herman has even brought former UFC fighter Mike Pierce in to be his wrestling coach for the Cummins fight. “He’s retired from fighting, but still trains a little bit, helps coach. He’s excited, and I’m excited to have him be part of this camp.”

“It’s something I should have done a couple of camps ago, is brought him in as a wrestling coach.” His next comment may surprise some fans, given wrestling is considered a core discipline in MMA. “I’ve always hired jiu-jitsu coaches and kickboxing and all these other coaches, but I’ve never taken the time to hire a wrestling coach. I think that’s a huge add-on for me,” said Herman, who got his start as a wrestler.

Herman has been in the UFC for 13 years now, making him a fighter who has gone through a couple of eras, from Spike onward. “I remember back in the day, explaining to people what I did, trying to convince them that we are real athletes.” At the time, Herman told people they’d be on ESPN some day. It was exciting when the sports network started putting UFC results on their news ticker. “Now it’s really on ESPN, that’s a big deal, man.”

“Pretty cool. Pretty exciting,” he added. “My only worry is we’re going to miss out on your channel surfer fan, sitting there on the couch, flipping through the channels.”

“You’ve gotta have the ESPN app, you’ve gotta really be on it to watch some of these fights,” Herman pointed out. “Are we going to get less viewers because of being on the ESPN app? I don’t know the answer to that. I want those casual fans to be able to tune is as well as the hardcore guys who are going to have the app and all that stuff.”

Still, said Herman, “I’m happy being with ESPN. The sky’s the limit, you know?”

Ed Herman returns at UFC Rochester on May 18 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. The event airs live on ESPN+ in the U.S., and TSN in Canada.