You may think that the odds of meeting a native of Squamish, British Columbia, Canada – population 19,512 - are pretty slim. Meeting two? Now that’s cause to go play the lottery.
“He's not from Squamish, so this is the first Squamish person,” laughs Jamey-Lyn Horth when I tell her that UFC vet Cole Smith was my first exposure to someone from the Canadian city. And yes, Smith was born in Vancouver, which means the newest addition to the roster is the first native to compete in the big show.
That’s impressive, but not a great track record for the city, likely drawing some interesting reactions from family and friends.
“When you think of Squamish, it's the logging industry, and forestry, and there's obviously hockey and soccer and baseball, but fighting wasn't really a huge thing here,” said Horth. “It's a super small town and this wasn't really much of a sport here. And then over time, it's grown, and people think I'm absolutely crazy, but they’re definitely super supportive.”
Being in the outdoor recreational capital of Canada doesn’t hurt when it comes to folks appreciating athletes, so Horth certainly has her fans, even if she admits that “the fighting world here is still so tiny and very foreign to a lot of us.”
Saturday's Fight By Fight Preview
Not to the folks she trains with, but to the world outside the MMA bubble, they probably believe Horth should have stuck with soccer.
“I always thought I'd be a professional soccer player,” she said. “Every sport I've done, I've always tried to compete and perform at the highest level, so, growing up, I played here in Squamish for five years since I was five years old. Then rec soccer, which is a little bit more competitive, when I was 11 years old until I was 15, and then I ended up having to drive to the next city to play at a higher level. And then with that, I always thought I was going to just continue to be a soccer player my whole life. And I played on travel teams, I traveled to Germany, Holland, France, California, and I did four years of university soccer in Las Vegas.”
The fight capital of the world. How ironic that her return to Vegas will be with a pair of four-ounce gloves on as she makes her UFC debut against fellow newcomer Hailey Cowan. Yeah, the 33-year-old is a prizefighter now, and she may have “The Beautiful Game” to thank for it, as her desire to get some crosstraining in led her to a martial arts gym. In her words, she “never left.”
“It's pretty cool now that it's kind of transitioned from soccer and getting into martial arts, more or less, as a fitness component to becoming a full-time job. And here I am, now fighting professionally. So I kind of tripped into martial arts as a cross training piece to supplement my soccer career because I thought I was going to be a professional soccer player, and took a hard left and went martial arts instead.”
Five pro fights later, Horth is unbeaten with five finishes. Add in an amateur career in which she scored a pair of wins over current UFC fighter Loopy Godinez, and though some might say she’s inexperienced for a jump to the Octagon, that would not be an accurate statement.
“I've always just been kind of guided down that sort of professional avenue and to treat everything the same no matter what state we were in. But back in 2020, I was offered a Contender Series place, and I was supposed to fight in the Contender Series in the end of 2020, but unfortunately with some athletic visa issues, that didn't happen, so I kind of felt like that carpet got pulled from underneath me. I knew that I was preparing for that and that I was ready to show that I belonged. So I've always felt like I belonged in a higher organization, but I've also been trusting the process and just waiting for that opportunity to come because I knew it would come. I just didn't know when.”
It's now, and against someone who did get to compete on Dana White’s Contender Series in Cowan, a 7-2 pro who hopes the third time is the charm to make her own debut after bouts in February and March were late scratches. Horth isn’t concerning herself with what-ifs, though. She’s focused on herself, and believe me, she sounds focused, more so than a lot of debutants.
“I think it just comes from just having such wicked support from my family and my friends here. I've always been an athlete and no matter what sport it is, I compete here in front of crowds in soccer. I've played baseball and hockey and football growing up. So it’s not new for me when it comes to being in front of people and having to compete in that pressure.”
And let’s not forget, for the last seven years, Horth has held the hold the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival choker race title. What’s a choker race, you might ask?
“We run across a 40-foot log that's suspended on either end in a pond of water, that's what rolls and moves. So you have to run across it without falling in with this 50-pound cable in your hand. Then jump over this three-and-a-half-foot log, set the choke on the third, hop back over the other two, and then run back across the log while over the water and not get wet.”
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Think Horth is bothered by the prospect of a 15-minute fistfight after that?
No chance. And if all goes smoothly in Vegas, what about a quick return in June to BC for UFC 289?
“My managers are fully aware of that situation,” Horth laughs. “Vancouver, that's 45 minutes from my house. I can be there tomorrow.”