Jeremy Horn: Technique in MMA has gone downhill, mostly
This is number seventy-one in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature an elite veteran of the sport, Jeremy Horn. Horn made his professional MMA debut back in 1996 and his UFC debut in 1998. Though Horn has not fought since 2011, he is still an active fighter and plans to fight again. Horn has had at least 115 professional MMA fights and 89 victories. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, trained in Iowa with Pat Miletich, and fighting out of Salt Lake City, Utah, now, Horn is a world-class grappler and a very dangerous MMA fighter. Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
Jeremy Horn: I started training when my older brother asked me to come to a local club in Omaha, Nebraska. I was twelve. It really was, and is, something that I love. It never really went from being a hobby to a job because it’s still not a job.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time? Was it the armbar win, in Atlanta, in 1996, listed in your record, or were there others before that?
JH: Yeah, my first fight was the one in Atlanta. I thought I was the best fighter in the world. It never occurred to me that others might also be training in my super-secret grappling techniques.
JB: When you made your UFC debut, at UFC 17, in 1998, you were already a veteran with an official record of 9-2-3 and had fought Dan Severn! In your debut you faced Frank Shamrock for what was then the UFC light heavyweight championship. What was that fight like for you at that point in your career?
JH: When I fought Frank I didn’t really care too much what happened. I was scheduled to be an alternate and fight Chuck Liddell, and when they decided to add another fight to the card, they pulled Frank in and let him pick his opponent. Before that he had just beaten Kevin Jackson and Igor Zinoviev in about thirty seconds each. So I figured as long as I lasted longer than a minute I did more than they expected of me. I’ve never been really fazed by hype too much. I like to fight so when I’m in there, I’m happy to be there.
JB: Thus far you have had a 6-7 record in the UFC, with wins over guys like Chuck Liddell and Chael Sonnen. Your time in the promotion spans from 1998-2009 and you have seen a lot of changes take place. What were your personal highlights fighting in the UFC, and what do you think of the promotion currently?
JH: Honestly, I don’t think that I’ve shown my best in the octagon. Every time I fight there it seems like something goes screwy and I don’t show my best. I’ve had some moments, but nothing near my best. I think the UFC has done great things for the sport of MMA, but I also think some competition would be good for the sport in general. Fighters would benefit from having some sort of AAA league where they can develop. It’s hard going from some regional show to jumping right into the UFC. If there were something in the middle, if would help a lot, I think.
JB: You officially have 89 professional wins and well over 100 fights. Besides the UFC, you fought for Pride, WEC, IFC, the IFL, Bellator, and so many other organizations. You hold wins over well-known fighters like Gilbert Yvel, Forrest Griffin, Dean Lister, David Loiseau, and Josh Burkman. You also matched up with and fell short in decisions against legends like Anderson Silva, Randy Couture, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. What were your most satisfying performances in these fights outside of the UFC?
JH: I think the fight that I have been closest to my best in was against Forrest Griffin in the IFC. Things were really clicking for me that night, and I felt great.
JB: You last fought in November 2011, and won at Extreme Challenge 200. What has the status of your fighting career been since then, and what would you like the future of your fighting career to be at this point?
JH: Since then I have been focusing on getting my gym running better. It has always been second to my fighting, but sooner or later it will have to take over paying the bills. So I needed to spend some time on it. I would still like to fight again and maybe make a run at something. I am still very healthy. No injuries. I still train regularly and I’m in decent shape. I see all the other fighters around my age and it constantly reminds me that I can still fight. DaMarques Johnson is fond of saying, “It’s not the age of the vehicle. It’s the mileage.” If you think of it like that, I still have way more to do. I just need to find the time and get my schedule right.
JB: You have trained, and trained with, so many greats in the sport. Who are some of the ones that impacted you the most, and who are some of the ones that you are proud to have impacted?
JH: This is kind of a cheesy answer, but everyone I have trained with has affected me, and I hope that I have affected them positively as well.
JB: What do you think of the current state of the sport of MMA and how it has evolved over the past twenty years? What issues are most important to you in the sport?
JH: The sport today is quite a ways from where it was. The athletes are way better, but, honestly, I think the technique has gone downhill for the most part. There are, of course, exceptions, but for the most part, I think what we have today coming up are fighters who are well-conditioned, aggressive, and want to “bang.” I hate that term. To me that sounds like, “I want to close my eyes and swing as hard as I can, and if he grabs me I’m going to hold on and wait for a standup.” I love seeing guys who are skilled in whatever area they chose, but you have to go out there to finish fights. If you want to stand, fine, move forward and throw strikes. And when you get him hurt, go for it. You can’t fight backing up all the time. If you want to grapple, fine, move forward and take him down, pass his guard, and submit him. I don’t like seeing guys take someone down and then not try to pass or guys who say they want to stand but clearly have little to no footwork or defense.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
JH: I’m a big gamer. I have been called somewhat of gun-nut as well. I shoot quite often. Other than that things come and go but those are the main ones. As far as support goes it would have to be Jennifer Howe, my girlfriend. She has been by my side for a long time and has always supported me without question.
JB: Last question, Jeremy, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
JH: That’s a hard one to answer because I don’t know what it’s like to not be a fighter. This is my life and always has been.
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