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Island man’s journey took him from the boxing ring to supplying security to the stars

Drew Barrymore, Nicholas Cage, Robbie Williams: Victoria’s Jason Heit was by their side
Jason Heit teaches a class at the Island MMA Training Centre in Victoria. Heit moved back to the Island in 2007 after spending four years as a security guard for various A-list celebrities. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

In his own words, Jason Heit has had a wild ride. From construction sites to the boxing ring, from Dragons’ Den to working security on a global concert tour, he’s seen a lot.

The journey started in the boxing ring, where Heit demonstrated his prowess as an amateur fighter, winning a Canadian national championship and representing his country at the 1995 Pan Am Games. He was pushing toward a professional boxing career but had to make ends meet in the meantime, starting off working in construction.

“I just found that it was really hard to go do an eight-hour day, and then go for a run and then go to the gym and spar – I would just be flat from the physical labour.”

Heit pivoted to working as a security guard instead, which he said was a good fit with the physical skills and discipline he learned in the ring. He started at nightclubs but once he had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a professional boxing career, he started meeting some famous faces (his manager was Burt Young, who played Paulie in the Rocky movies.) Around this time he got offers to work in close protection security work.

In 2002 he hit pause on his boxing career and started looking after some of the biggest on-screen and music stars of the time like Drew Barrymore, David Duchovny, and Nicholas Cage. Despite being some big personalities, he said he didn’t have bad experiences working with them.

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“I can’t really say I ever had any clients that were exceptionally challenging to deal with or work with, my experiences with it were good. I would say some of the events that I did are more challenging. But the close protection work – with a client that I’m going to take on – if it wasn’t a client that was a good fit, I wouldn’t have been doing it.”

One of the most challenging events was when he worked security on a two-year world music tour with Robbie Williams, the British pop star. That tour with Williams saw work in around 40 different countries and had Heit dealing with massive crowds everywhere they went.

“He is like Elvis over there (in the UK). He’s as big as it gets. Over here, people kind of don’t really know. So it was an eye-opener for me, that’s for sure. Because I’d worked for him in L.A., and things were pretty peaceful over in L.A. and then you go to Europe and have 15,000 fans outside of your hotel.”

The experience was exciting but involved long hours, “a lot of travel, a lot of timezones and a lot of restaurant food.”

“I mean it’s just constant travel. That’s kind of one of the things that’s unique about the touring life. The tours are packed, they’re just one city to another city to another city.”

But after a two-year tour and years working other security gigs in Los Angeles, the rockstar lifestyle was becoming taxing, with a long time away from his two young daughters who lived back in Victoria.

“I started to get a little bit burnt out with the travel, especially with two daughters. That was a big factor. I wanted to be present in my children’s lives,” he said. He was also looking to return to boxing.

“I kind of hit the point where it was like, ‘Well, it’s either now or never.’ I either go back and have a few more bouts and finish off or call it a career. But ultimately, I figured I kind of wanted to continue to compete. And I also wanted to own my own gym, run my own business and call my own shots and have my own schedule.”

He stopped working security full-time in 2006 and moved back to Victoria in 2007. Since then he’s been undefeated in mixed martial arts competitions, opened his own gym and successfully pitched an MMA fighting championship on Dragons’ Den. Most recently he’s started a boxing promotion company and is hosting an event in Esquimalt later this month. He still works security occasionally, especially during the pandemic when boxing events were essentially shut down.

“It’s been real, real interesting that’s for sure.”

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