In other words, Hernandez had seemingly made it to the UFC on raw talent, and after a couple wins in the big show, he assumed that was enough. It wasn’t, and he soon found out the levels to the game against Cerrone in January 2019, and it wasn’t going to get any easier. That’s scary.
“It’s extremely daunting,” Hernandez said. “And the worst feeling in the world is being in there and realizing, ‘F**k, maybe we didn’t prepare.’ You’re getting caught with a hook and a straight and there’s that kick, and you’re like, ‘You know, I don’t remember our guys throwing something like that.’ (Laughs) Or they didn’t get up off the mat nearly this quick. So there was definitely that learning curve and definitely some lows in between. After the Dober fight, I had a real sobering conversation with everybody. I said, ‘Is this right for me, because I don’t think I have it in me to perform. I know I’m good, I know I’m better than that, but I’m going in there and I’m feeling completely lost and I’m not performing.’ That last loss, I didn’t even really expect to win after the first 15 seconds just because I wasn’t feeling it. I had no sense of direction, and that was really tough, and then going in with top 15 competition every fight is a really difficult path to figure s**t out on. When it works out, you think you’ve got something going, and then you get another completely different body, a completely different test, but again a Top 15 opponent, and you’re like, ‘Well s**t, maybe I didn’t figure it out.’ It was really difficult.”
Convinced by his manager, Jason House, that he didn’t need to walk away from the sport, but instead needed a change in scenery, Hernandez linked up with Montoya and Factory X, and he found exactly what he needed, while still keeping his relationships with his team in Texas strong.
“I need that mastermind because we were playing catch up with rudimentary tools,” he said. “We didn’t have the resources we needed. Coming over here, having a veteran coach with loads of experience, loads of training partners with high IQs and experience, you start to piece together those missing blocks, you get all the looks you need and it really bridges the gap quickly. But you need the oversight to do that. You just can’t do it on your own.”
That’s not to say it was all sunshine and roses in Colorado, because he still had to get used to Fridays at Factory X. Those who know, know. Those who don’t, find out quick.
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“We have heated Fridays,” said Hernandez of the sparring days in Englewood. “We write up fight cards, and guys with fights will have to get in the cage and you could sell that fight card on pay-per-view. We have so many UFC guys and talented guys in there, and so we build it up to be a big deal, and you get used to weathering those storms. And the way that I was approaching those and the way I was fighting, it looked just like my fights. I would smoke a dude in the first round. The second round, I’d get a new body, it got a little iffy, and if I had to do three, I was f**ked. (Laughs) But it was that overzealous style and the mind state behind it that would crumble, and where my head was at going into it was too serious, too strict, too high expectation. And then I was able to switch all that leading up to his last fight, and now I’ve been maintaining that.”