Squamish fighter Jamey-Lyn Horth set for UFC debut on Fight Night card in Las Vegas
Jamey-Lyn Horth told herself she would move away from martial arts if she didn’t make the UFC by the time she was 33.
The unbeaten fighter from Squamish, B.C., finally got the call from the UFC in March, six days before her 33rd birthday, and makes her UFC debut Saturday in Las Vegas.
Horth (5-0-0) takes on American (All Hail) Hailey Cowan (7-2-0) on a Fight Night card.
"I was going to give myself until I was 33 to see where my career would take me," Horth explained. "And if it wasn't going in the way that we thought that I would end up, then I would make some life changes and start focusing on bringing in an income to my family and some of the things that I want to fall back on once I'm done fighting.
"And I said at 33 just because I thought 33 is a good number. I like things that consistently match."
Horth last fought in December 2021 when she submitted Brazil's Mayra Cantuaria at LFA 120 to win the vacant Legacy Fighting Alliance flyweight title in Prior Lake, Minn. The victory came despite a nasty knee injury suffered early in the fight.
Caught in a kneebar in the first round, Horth looked down to see her leg was not where it should be.
The injury, which makes for some tough viewing, left her leg like "a noodle."
"Physically my body was saying 'Keep going' but mentally my body was like 'What are you doing?'" she recalled.
Amazingly Horth continued and beat the Brazilian down until she choked her out just less than two minutes into the third round.
"I kind of learned a little bit about myself as an athlete," Horth said. "It was pretty cool to push through that and be able to come put with a win on top."
She later found out she had torn her posterior and lateral cruciate ligaments as well as the popliteus muscles and tendons behind the knee. "And pretty much did a bunch of damage to the whole lower calf," she added.
She was told surgery to repair the damage would sideline her for a year. But tests showed she had enough stability in the knee to go with a leg brace, which she wore 24/7 for three months.
It took six months to return to full training. Finally restored to health, Horth waited for another bout.
"Not a lot of opponents wanted to step up and fight me in 2022," she said.
Eventually Horth was matched against Sabina (Colombian Queen) Mazo at LFA 148 in December 2022. But Mazo was injured less than three weeks before the fight, which was rescheduled for May only to see Mazo confined to a walking boot.
Saturday's main event at the UFC's Apex production facility features China's Yadong (Kung Fu Kid) Song, ranked eighth among bantamweight contenders, against No. 10 Ricky Simon of the U.S.
Song and Simon were supposed to meet on a UFC card last Saturday but the matchup was pushed back a week after an injury forced Brazilian Renato (Carneiro)Moicano, ranked 13th among UFC lightweight contenders, out of this Saturday's scheduled main event against No. 8 Arman (Ahalkalakets) Tsarukyan of Russia.
The card has been hit by injuries and illness with bantamweight Brian (Boom) Kelleher, lightweight Pete (Dead Game) Rodriguez and Swiss welterweight Ange (The Last Ninja) Loosa all forced to withdraw.
UFC newcomer Marcus (The Maniac) McGhee has replaced Kelleher against Journey Newson for a bout to be contested at a catchweight of 140 pounds. Trey (The Truth) Waters, who makes his UFC debut after winning the LFA welterweight title two weeks ago, is in for Loosa against Josh (The Renegade) Quinlan.
Rodriguez's bout with Israel's Natan (Lethal) Levy has been dropped from the card.
Horth, who says her leg is stronger than ever because of the rehab work she put into it, is moving up to bantamweight (135 pounds) from flyweight (125) to fight Cowan.
"It's a conversation with my team that I could potentially be a 135er anyway. I'm a very big 125er," said Horth. "I've never had an issue making weight (as flyweight) but it's definitely a cut to make 125."
Horth weighed in at 135.5 pounds Friday, a half-pound under the bantamweight non-title limit. Cowan was over at 137.5 pounds and will have to forfeit 20 percent of her purse to Horth.
Horth, who had her first amateur fight in November 2016 and made her pro debut in March 2018, got into martial arts through friends — initially as a cross-training partner to playing soccer.
"Lo and behold, here I am still stuck in the gym," she said with a chuckle.
Which she co-owns. Horth, whose head coach is Jay Jauncey,and her fiancé Kasey Smith run The Sound Martial Arts in Squamish. Her brother-in-law is former UFC fighter Cole (The Cole Train) Smith.
In late 2020, Horth took a leave from her job managing a local sports store, anticipating a chance to display her talents on "Dana White's Contender Series," a pipeline to the UFC, after winning the Battlefield Fight League flyweight title earlier that year.
The Contender Series door never opened, with Horth denied a work visa two weeks before the planned bout that had already been delayed. Horth continued to train full time, with the pandemic disrupting fight schedules.
"It was nobody's fault but it was definitely a very frustrating time, for sure," said Horth.
The 31-year-old Cowan earned her UFC contract with a split-decision win over Brazil's Claudia Leite in August on the Contender Series. An ex-gymnast who won an acrobatics and tumbling national title at Baylor University, Cowan is a southpaw who likes to push opponents against the cage and hold them there, according to Horth.
Cowan is also making her UFC debut, with two early bouts in the promotion called off.
"Like any other athlete in the UFC, these are the best of the best," said Horth. "I'm expecting a tough fight."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press