For just getting started in his MMA career, Matt Hemry probably could have it worse.
Hemry (3-0), a four-year letterwinner and all-state wrestler at Portage, is being brought along quickly by the team at Duneland Vale Tudo, where he trains with the likes of Keith and Justin Wisniewski, UFC featherweight standout Darren Elkins and Bellator MMA veteran Josh Shockley.
Hemry gets what arguably should be his toughest test yet after three pro fights when he meets Chris Haney (3-5) in the main event of Hoosier Fight Club 17 on Saturday at Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso.
"Haney brings a lot of experience and toughness," said Hemry, who also is a math teacher in Portage. "He's more of a standup fighter and is taller than me. It's a clash of styles. This is a key match for me on my way to a big organization – a main-event fight looks great on a resume."
Hemry redshirted at Purdue, then wrestled there as a freshman and sophomore. But knee surgeries kept him from competing as a junior.
Still, that wrestling base has served him well so far, as has his jiujitsu game. Hemry has submitted all three of his opponents so far, all under the HFC banner.
"We still work all areas in our gym," Hemry said. "Wrestling is obviously my base and is pretty much instinct. I now see myself working at other areas to improve my overall game."
With Elkins fighting two weeks ago in Indianapolis, and Keith Wisniewski fighting last week in Brazil, both for the UFC, having fighters in the camp peaking at the same time as he needed to has been a help leading into his fight against Haney.
And while it would be easy for Hemry to get a little starstruck early in his career with the big-show experience level around him, he said it's a non-factor in the gym.
"I know in the back of my head I have something special (at Duneland Vale Tudo)," Hemry said. "We don't really talk about it or even think about it until it's brought up. We are never satisfied with saying, 'It's okay, he's a really good guy' whenever we have a bad round. All of us try to outwork and beat each other, and that is why our team is growing to an elite level."
Although Haney has lost four straight, they've been to quality competition – including Sergio Pettis, the younger brother of new UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Sergio now is a champion, himself, for Resurrection Fighting Alliance.
Haney hasn't fought since June 2012, but that doesn't mean Hemry is preparing for an easy road to getting his hand raised.
"I'd like another quick finish like my last fight," Hemry said. "Chris Haney has taken some good guys the distance, and I want to prove that I am a force – win the fight and make a statement at the same time."