Finding one’s own identity as a fighter can be hard enough, but when you’re the son of one of the sport’s most well-known trainers, it can be even more difficult.
So far, however, John “Handsome Hack” Hackleman Jr. seems to be doing well blazing his own trail.
Since making his pro debut last October, Hackleman has won back-to-back fights, finishing both of his opponents in less than 90 seconds combined.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself before believing that I had something to live up to, but I’ve been able to put that aside and just go out there for myself and have fun and not worry about if anyone else accepts me,” said Hackleman of living up to the family name.
“Definitively, everyone has an idea of how I should be. It’s a double-edged sword; it has its negatives and positives; but I just try to roll with it and have fun.”
With Hackleman’s father and namesake gaining fame as the Head Trainer of The Pit and helping Chuck Liddell to UFC light heavyweight championship glory, it’s understandable that opposing fighters would seek to use him as a steppingstone on their resume.
“That’s another one of the things that’s negative or positive,” said Hackleman. “For some people it’s intimidating, and for others they want to take a shot to make a name off me.
“That’s fine though. I’m 32 years old. I should be fighting tough guys and solidifying my name. It doesn’t matter to me; I’m going to punch them in the face either way.”
Hackleman (2-0) will be looking to pick up his third win in a row at RFA 15 on Friday in Culver City, Calif., when he takes on fellow undefeated up and comer Justin Jones (2-0).
“(Jones) is a pretty tough guy, but I think I need to go out there and do what I do,” said Hackleman. “Just go in there and not get taken down, punch him in the face, and implement my game plan and hit him more than I get hit.
“I train for everyone pretty much the same. We might change things up a little bit, but I’ve basically just got to be myself and have fun.”
While a famous name can hurt or help an MMA fighter, especially early in their career, for Hackleman, his main concern is what’s in front of him Friday night at RFA 15.
“I do have goals that I want to obtain, but I don’t look past any fight,” he said. “Every fight is the most important fight of my career at that time.
“I want to keep climbing the ladder and become a champion, but right now I’m just looking at this one fight and it’s all that’s on my mind right now.”