As the 30-year-old German lightweight himself notes, most of the good stuff — his role on a hit German TV show and UFC contract — came in the last 18 months.
"It really gives me a shiver every time I think about it," he said in a interview. "It's a cool time right now."
Hein steps into the Octagon for a second time Saturday night when he faces James (The Texecutioner) Vick on a televised UFC card in Austin, Texas.
Former lightweight champion Frankie (The Answer) Edgar, currently ranked No. 3 among featherweight contenders, faces No. 2 Cub Swanson in the main event at the Frank Erwin Center.
Hein (11-1 with one no contest) won his UFC debut in May via unanimous decision over American Drew Dober on a card in Berlin. It was an impressive showing with Hein using his left hook to carve open a cut over Dober's eye and his judo skills to take the American down.
He faces a tall task in the unbeaten Vick (6-0), who at six foot three has a seven-inch height advantage on the German.
"We train for that," Hein said nonchalantly. "We have tall Germans too."
Hein is a firm believer that things happen for a reason and has plenty of ammo to back it up.
He shifted to MMA after his judo career was essentially blocked by having a German world champion in his weight class.
He won his role on the popular German sitcom "Diese Kaminskis" after meeting a scriptwriter in the gym. When it came time to audition last year, he almost missed his opportunity because he neglected to check his voice mail, eventually listening to the message just in time to make it.
Perhaps most importantly he met his wife-to-be — an artist — in Tokyo while he was training in her native Japan in 2005.
"I lost her number the first time," he said. "I was one and half hours away from Tokyo and Tokyo's not the smallest place to find somebody again."
He went to the same place one week later and waited. She had the same idea and they found each other.
They got married two years later.
Hein was 19 when he joined Germany's Federal Police out of school. The force supported amateur sports, allowing Hein to pursue his blossoming judo career.
These days Hein patrols the busy train station in downtown Cologne.
"It's a crazy place," he said with a laugh.
After his UFC debut, he recalls making a shoplifting arrest at the station only to see a store employee staring at him. Hein thought he might have food on his face after lunch.
"You're the MMA fighter?" the employee eventually asked.
In a country where mixed martial arts is still struggling to gain acceptance, Hein sees that recognition as a step forward.
While it's been more than four years since the UFC held its first show in Germany — UFC 99 in June 2009 in Cologne — mixed martial arts still has a way to go in Hein's home. The sport is still not allowed on domestic TV so fight fans will have to watch Saturday's card online.
Hein addressed that in May in his post-fight interview in the cage. He took the microphone and, in German, asked the fans if they felt good. Then he asked them to shout U-F-C "to show the world that the UFC has a home in Germany."
Hein said people may remember that post-fight interaction more than the bout itself.
Germany remains split on MMA, he says. The younger generation supports it but the older generation doesn't understand it. "And that's usually the generation of your bosses," he said.
He started judo at the age of six and went on to win European under-20 and under-23 titles. But his dream of making the Olympics was stymied by the fact that he competed in the same weight class as Ole Bischof, who won gold at the 2008 Games and silver in 2012.
"He competed better internationally in the time when it counted," said Hein, an Olympic alternate in 2008. "Still it was like a setback. I had to accept I couldn't pass him by."
He calls what has happened since "a fairy-tale."
But there were tough times getting there, with Hein calling the end of his judo career a nightmare time. He eventually switched his focus to MMA, a sport that had been in the back of his mind since someone had given him a VHS copy of UFC 1 years before.
"I thought I could do that too," he recalled.
That seed resurfaced in 2009 when a "really depressed" Hein was at a judo camp in Brazil. He needed a new challenge and decided to find an MMA gym when he went home.
The sport captivated him and he started taking more classes, eventually making his pro debut in August 2009. Still a member of the national judo team, he did it in secret.
Hein told his coach he had to go to a friend's wedding in Italy. He won his fight in Cologne — moved to a small space after the original venue was cancelled — and left in the wee hours to take a train to Berlin so he could attend judo training camp the next morning.
"Nobody knew what happened," he said.
Hein won his MMA debut in the first round and said he felt like he had won the heavyweight championship of the world.
"I was fighting in European (judo) championships, I was fighting in Brazil, in Russia, all over he world, really big competitions, really big organizations. But that (first MMA) fight with 30 people in the room gave me that feeling," he said.
Hein took some boxing lessons and learned he had power in his hands.
His TV show is about three undertakers who aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. While he has no acting background, Hein said the script grabbed him.
"I read it and I felt 'Man, I can do this. That's me actually. A really dumber version of me.'"
He says he manages to fit everything into the day thanks to staying focused and the support of his wife. But when it's time to fight, acting taking a back seat.
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