In this episode, I interview Jeremy Horn, a storied MMA pioneer and legend with over 170 fights to his name. He even fought on the weekend where he was victorious in his professional boxing debut. He has fought a whos who of MMA greats, including Chael Sonnen, Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin, Randy Couture, Dan Severn and Frank Shamrock and many in every significant promotion of the sport, including UFC, Pride, Bellator, Pancrase, IFL & King of the Cage.
We discuss the wild tale of his first fight in MMA, where he wasn’t sure if he would make it out alive and how he has witnessed the sport change over the years. Also, his advice on training and sparring smart for career longevity, his time at the Militech Fighting Sytems could be considered one of the first super camps of the sport. Finally, we discuss the benefits he has gained from living a martial arts lifestyle as he now continues to train upcoming martial artists at his gym Jeremy Horns Elite Performance in Utah.
Listen to Jeremy Horn
Jeremy Horn Interview Transcript
Sonny Brown: Jeremy, pleasure to have you here today, mate. Let’s hope all is well over there in Utah. Looks very sunny in the background, I must say.
Jeremy Horn: That’s just a picture of my dog.
Sonny: Beautiful. Jeremy, your career is obviously very extensive. You’ve got to have be one of the fighters with the most MMA fights under their belt. At all, I think it’s 119.
Jeremy: I’ve actually got in the neighborhood of 175. A lot of my earlier fights didn’t get recorded. I was going to fight before the internet had a database so a lot of them slipped through the cracks. A lot of promoters didn’t really record them themselves, they didn’t submit them.
Sonny: I can believe that 100% that that is what happened and probably pride of the Sherdog days. With such an extensive amount of fights that’s so rare across the board of the entire sport, really, there’s a handful of guys that I’m sure you probably fought as well who you’re in that same category as yourself. One thing that’s always just interests me is how is that even possible? How does someone take on that many fights and get that much experience over the course of their career because now it just seems like it could never happen again?
Jeremy: Well, that’s certainly part of it. For today, everybody is so much more well-trained and well-rounded and evenly matched even when fights are technically a lopsided fight, they’re still way more evenly matched than somewhere back then. Add to that the fact that today everybody seems to be encouraged to stand up and throw punches. You’re seeing a lot more damage with people, the rules affect that as well. Back in the day when I was fighting, I’d easily– Dozens and dozens of fights where I could take the guy down and get on top of him and as soon as I started to throw a punch, he’d roll over and I’d choked him. The fight was over in a minute and a half, neither one of us took a single punch, we could both fight again an hour later if we felt like it. That’s a big part of it. Then that’s always been my mentality is, I want to win fights as fast as I can, as cleanly as I can and generally, that means taking people down and submitting them. It just causes less damage on both sides.
Sonny: That’s a good way to do it, [crosstalk] get a lot of fights by taking as little damage as possible.
Jeremy: Exactly. That’s how I like that.
Sonny: When you first got into into fighting, what was it that drew you into it, and did you have any martial arts background? What were those first couple of steps like?
Jeremy: I started martial arts when I was 12. My older brother had seen a demonstration at a local fair and so he joined and then not long after I joined. I just fell in love with martial arts right away. Like any kid, I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s so obviously, all the martial arts movies, the ninja movies, the John Claude Van Damme, Bloodsport movie. Those are movies I grew up on, so infatuated with martial arts. When the opportunity to fight rolled along it just seemed like something fun to do. What kid that does martial arts doesn’t want to try it out. I had a couple of fights, turned out I was decent at it and I loved it so I just kept fighting.
Sonny: I hear that we were listening to the Bloodsport soundtrack tonight at training, it’s always a good one. When you had those first fights, did you know what you were getting into?
Jeremy: No, not at all. In my first fight, I actually thought I was possibly entering into a snuff film. I thought we might have be going to be killed after the fight. In my first fight, I was living in Omaha at the time, in Nebraska, that’s where I born and raised. They flew us down to Atlanta for the fights and they didn’t pay us anything but they bought us a plane ticket, put us in a hotel and I think they gave us like $100 so we could get something to eat while we were down there. Me and a couple of my friends both fought. They show up the night of the fight with a limo which is odd. At this point, I don’t even know how I’m going to fight. It was just, you guys are coming to fight, we’ll have you a fight, be ready at five o’clock or whatever. They show up to pick us up, they drive us down into the dark after hours business area of Atlanta somewhere like a business district and we are in metal utility sheds and corrugated metal buildings and not a good area of town. They pull up and we are literally fighting in a warehouse. We walk in, they have some of those suede mats thrown down on the floor and there are people in tuxedos and evening gowns drinking champagne. There’s only about 20 people watching. It was creepy like bear light bulb hanging from a chain in the roof, in the ceiling in the building that’s what was lighting us. No cage, no boxing ring. They had a bunch of guys with those old school Taekwondo kicking shields, the curved ones you can hold. They had guys with a bunch of those running around the outside of the mat and if we got close to the edge, they would just body-check people back in to keep you inside. Then they got everybody lined up and then they’re like okay, you guys are about the same size so you fight him and you fight him and you fight him. I thought they were going to do this and then take us out and kill us and throw us in the ditch. It was bad, [chuckles] but they obviously didn’t so it ended up working out pretty well. It actually turned out to be the guys that did this show were the same ones that ended up promoting the MARS Show. I don’t know if you remember that it was–
Sonny: Japanese show?
Jeremy: It was martial arts reality super fighting. The main event was Murilo Bustamante against Tom Erikson. Do you remember that tournament?
Jeremy: It was those guys they were doing this. These fights were basically auditions to possibly get into the tournament. They were going all over and having everybody fight and then some of the people that fought got into the tournament. It was quite nerve-racking. After a start like that, it’s only uphill. It can’t get any worse after that. I’m like, oh, I actually am fighting in a cage in front of a crowd with a referee and people that know I’m here. It’s much easier to deal with.
Sonny: After that one then, were there any other unusual places that fights took place for you?
Jeremy: Well, unusual, sure, but nothing like that severe. Obviously, as the sport was growing, a lot of fights in rodeo arenas, I had a couple of fights that were basically in some guy’s backyard, that kind of thing.
Sonny: Nothing to compare to the warehouse with the tuxedos?
Jeremy: Yes, being flown to Atlanta and chauffeured to the fight in a limo and then you walk in. It literally was like a movie, we walk in and there’s people in evening gowns and tuxedos. This is crazy.
Sonny: That was so bizarre. What a way to get started on your journey.
Sonny: Couldn’t ask for much more for sure.
Jeremy: I had quite a few interesting beginnings in my career like that. I think that’s part of the reason I really had an easy time with a lot of things that other people would struggle with. Just like when that’s your first fight, it can’t get worse. A lot of guys are going to their first fight and it’s an amateur fight on a real MMA card and they’re like, “Oh, I’m nervous.” Did you think you were going to get murdered after you fought? [laughter] Definitely it’s only up from there, I actually got a locker room?
Sonny: What were some of those other interesting parts of those beginnings then for you that helped shape you?
Jeremy: Another one was my first fight at the UFC. My first fight at the UFC, which normally is incredibly nerve-racking for everybody. That’s a tough fight to get going, not only that but my first fight in UFC was Frank Shamrock. At the time, he’s looked at as the greatest fighter on the planet, and I knew that I was pretty much being brought in as a sacrificial lamb. I didn’t care that it was in the UFC. I’m like I’m fighting Shamrock, nobody thinks I’m going to win, nobody cares what happens, I’m lucky to be here. It’s not like I got to win this fight, I got to make a good impression. Nobody expected that, so no stress there. Also, Frank Shamrock had just fought his last two fights were Kevin Jackson and Igor Zinoviev, both really, really tough fighters. He beat both of them in 30 seconds. Again, I’m like nobody’s expecting anything at me but I knew that there’s nobody that he’s going to beat me in a minute. Those guys that are better than me but nobody’s going to beat me in a minute. I can run for a minute. [laughs] When I go into that fight, I had zero expectations. Nobody expected me to win. Nobody cared if I won. It was just another opportunity for Frank to beat somebody up so all the stress is gone. There’s no performance anxiety when nobody expects me to win. It makes it real easy, my first fight is out of the way.
Sonny: I think that fight you’re talking about he wasn’t going to beat you in a minute, I think that flight went on 17, 18 minutes or something.
Jeremy: Yes, I ended up winning the majority of the fight until I screwed up and got caught in a leg lock at the end of the fight.
Sonny: That hints to the different changes in the rules of the sport that you would have been around for because, of course, that was not a 25-minute title fight-
Jeremy: Right. Right. Sunny: -it was before those were happening. How did you see those evolution of rule changes happen from your side?
Jeremy: I guess we could say that the rule changes have been necessary for the acceptance of the sport and to get it a little more understood by the general public but truthfully, I don’t like a lot of them. As the sport gets further and further away from what a real fight actually is, it becomes more of just a game, it is just– It’s a sport, obviously, but it gets further away from reality. When they took away kicking and kneeing a downed opponent, that was big. When they take away hair pulling, [unintelligible 00:12:11] nobody- everybody shaved their head anymore anyway. Being able to control somebody by their hair is a big part of it, that helps a lot. Not being able to hit people in the back of their head, not being able to elbow people, the 12 to 6 elbow. All these little things make- they all add up to a big change. It used to be that if you were a grappler and you shot a double leg on somebody and they sprawled and you were stuck on all fours, you were in terrible danger, not anymore. You can shoot and stay on all fours and they can’t really do much to you other than then punch you or try to spin your back, that obviously submissions. If you were on all fours and somebody had you in front headlock, you were going to get kneed in the head. That was a massive, massive change for the wrestlers, now, they can take a shot and if they miss, no big deal.
Sonny: That’s still one of the biggest weapons in Japanese MMA, to be able to– those knees to the head from front headlock position is such a powerful weapon.
Jeremy: Yes, it’s huge. Or downward elbows when you’re on top of somebody that– They don’t get used a lot but that’s one thing that a lot of people don’t understand is the threat of them being used is oftentimes enough to elicit the response you want. I’m training guys in the gym here, and guys are getting ready for a fight and I try to tell them, “You have to spar and you have to train with the mindset of would I do this in a real fight if my life was on the line, if the win was on the line.” Because there is always another level of anxiety that you just can’t get to until you’re actually in a fight. We’re grappling and we’re rolling around and guys see they’re doing well. Then we put those little MMA gloves on and say, “Okay, now I’m going to punch you in the face”, and suddenly everything changes. Not a massive amount because we’re still friends and you know that if I hit you, I’m not going to try to hit you hard. If I do hit you hard, I’m going to let up and I’m not going to try to put you away. Whereas in a fight that one more step, it really breaks a lot of people and it’s just the threat of doing it. I don’t have to throw a single punch but if I put on a glove, and you think, “Fuck, this guy, he might hit me. I got to do this, this, this and he might hit me.” The same thing, now he’s like “He might hit me and it might knock my teeth out.” It changes things. I don’t even have to throw a punch but the chance that I could throw a punch changes your perspective. That’s what a lot of people don’t understand. You can put on gloves and you can train a little bit. It’s definitely a good training tool but it’s still not a fight.
Sonny: Then for you have those rule changes and turning it more into a sport and then we see now and even going more into an entertainment side with some of the promotional tactics and how different fighters are promoted. How do you think that has taken away from the essence of what you see as the real art of fighting?
Jeremy: I don’t know if the promotional side of things has taken away from it too much. Even now, I’ve got my problems with that as well because I prefer to see people that are awarded on their skill as a fighter. As a participant in the sport, I want to see people earn a number one spot by beating the number one guy. As a fan, I also enjoy the Conor McGregor’s of the world and the Chael Sonnen’s because it does, it makes it entertaining, definitely. I would still rather see people earn their spot through their actions and their performance not by running their mouth and that’s what earns them a big fight.
Sonny: Yes, I hear you. I’d still prefer that too but then I still always tune in. [crosstalk]
Jeremy: Absolutely. I love an entertaining fight as well and I love a good backstory, but it’s irritating when now everybody tries to be Conor, to be Conor and Chael both. Both of those guys have a gift to talk. They’re very good at hyping a fight and they seem sincere. Even though I think at this point, we all know, it’s a show. They’re talking, they’re building a fight, and they’re making us get engaged but you still can’t deny it, you’re still engaged, you still want to see it. Whereas other people just do a really bad job of it.
Sonny: When you were fighting and obviously over in Japan, there’s this crossover over there with Japanese MMA and pro wrestling. Was there any kind of fights that you had that the Japanese put that extra bit of show on for or that they were hyping up in an interesting way or–
Jeremy: No, not particularly. When I was fighting over in Japan, it was a big rush. The Japanese crowd and a lot of the organizations over there just really wanted to see a lot of foreign fighters. They are not quite sure. It’s both. They love to see foreigners come over and get beat by Japanese fighters. That’s huge for them, it’s a nationalistic thing. They’re proud of their fighters winning and so that’s cool. At the same time, they’re just huge fans of the sport. They love to see two guys fight and the winner win. They don’t care that much but at the same time, if that winner is a Japanese fighter, it’s just even better. It was just a huge push. Lots of foreign fighters coming over because the Japanese fighters and fans wanted to test themselves, I guess, wanted to see where they stood. We got a lot of press and we got a lot of push and a lot of support but never anything specific for me.
Sonny: Sure. I guess then speaking of then the different cultures and how those different cultures can breed different perspectives of people watching, and of also then the people earning their place. Probably one of the best examples of an early super team would have been the Miletich Fighting Systems and the culture in there must have been something special in those early days to produce so many of those champions.
Jeremy: To me, it really wasn’t anything special, it was just a room full of people that just really enjoyed training. Again, that’s another thing that I don’t like where the sports going now because now you see people that come into the sport and their goal is just to make money. They’re like, “Hey, I’m a pro fighter” because they love the image and the ego that comes with that, and I want to make money. When we started, there was no money in the sport. We trained every day because we love training, we love fighting, we love competing, we love doing what we do. When you love what you do, they always say “If you love your job, you never work a day in your life”, right?
Jeremy: We were at the gym five or six days a week, two or three times a day because we loved it. “Hey, I’m going to put in 40 hours a week to train for this fight and I’m going to go make $300.” Now, you got to tease people with a carrot on a stick, they’re like “Hey, if you come train twice a week, you might make $1,000.” I don’t like seeing that because I’m tired of people thinking that to become a fighter is an easy payday. I get to lounge around and do nothing all day, and then I get to go fight and be a superstar and make lots of money, well, that’s not how it works. If that is your goal, then you shouldn’t be in this sport anyway, you should be in this sport because you love to train, you love to fight, and it’s a bonus that you get to do it for a living.
Sonny: I hear that. What part were you on your journey when you started training with Miletich Fighting Systems?
Jeremy: Well, so I’d had a couple of fights in a few different organizations, and then in my, I guess actually, it was my second and third fights, I fought a tournament for Monte, who was my manager. Now, he managed me…
Sonny: Monte Cox? Is it?
Jeremy: Yes, Monte Cox. I met Pat and all the guys, and obviously, I was in Omaha training with my friends, and we were still pretty new, and everybody was still figuring everything out. I saw Pat and his guys, and I was like, oh, those guys they have a direction, they know what were doing. My friends and I were just getting together and jacking around, doing whatever we thought was right, like a lot of people at the time. I decided that I wanted to go train with Pat. I would start traveling to Iowa, it was about four hours. I would drive there for the weekends, then I would stay with him for the weekends, and we’d train Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then I’d go home on Monday and go back to work. Eventually, it got to the point where, excuse me, I was getting a few fights rolling in, but I was still working full time. Then I decided to move to Iowa, and at the time, fights were exploding, everybody was doing a show. If you had 300 square feet of space, you were going to put together a fight. When I move to Iowa, there were just so many fights happening that I could fight every weekend, and it turned out that I didn’t need to get a job again. Again, that’s another one of those things where I never really felt any stress. It’s not like, okay, here I go, I’m going to quit my day job, and throw all my eggs in one basket as a pro fighter. I was working in Omaha, I moved to Iowa, I had planned to get a job in Iowa, but there were so many fights that I didn’t need to. Back then, I was making $300, $400, $500 a fight maybe, but if you’re doing that every weekend, it’s enough to pay rent, so whatever. I’m like, okay, I got a lot of fights, I guess I’ll start looking for a job next week, another fight, another fight, and another fight, I’ll find a job next month. I just ended up never getting a job again because I didn’t need to. Then obviously, the sport started growing a bit, and there started to be a little more money in the fights, and I was still fighting every weekend if I could. Eventually, the fights started spreading out a little bit, but they were also paying a little bit more, so I just eased into being a pro. I never really intended to do it because I was training and fighting because I loved it.
Sonny: That’s a good way to do it.
Jeremy: That’s the way it should be.
Sonny: How many fights up to 100 did you get to when you realized, you know what? I think I’m in this?
Jeremy: Well, honestly, even like all the way up to five years ago, six years ago, I still look back and I think, man. I sometimes feel like a fraud, that’s going to get discovered at some point. People don’t realize I’m just some kid that likes to train, and fight, and play video games, and play with my dogs. Somehow they’re going to your realize, that I’m not really a pro fighter, they just happen to keep paying me to do this. That’s always how it’s been. I would get up in the morning, I would go to the gym and work out, and then I’d come home and hang out with my friends, and go ride my mountain bike, or play video games, then go back to the gym at night, and then on the weekends go fight. I never sat back and said, holy cow, I’m a professional at this. Imagine if you’re a college kid, but you get paid to go to parties every weekend. You just do your thing during the week, and then go do your thing on the weekend, and somehow there’s always money in your bank. That’s what it was. I never really looked at myself as a pro, never really sat back and thought, okay, this is my career now, I’m just riding this train as long as it’ll take.
Sonny: Wow, that’s fascinating. It was really just this natural progression of just, hey, I want to fight, I have to give this a go, into this crazy warehouse, let’s go one foot after the other, keep it going. It must’ve been maybe good fortune to be able to hook up with Miletich.
Jeremy: Yes, absolutely, it was. Had I not done that, then I’d imagine that things would have taken a different path obviously, because I would have hit some limits of technique and skill, and I would have started losing more. Because as it was, like in my first 30 or 40 fights, I think I only had three or four losses. I was doing well, and I was winning more than I lost. [crosstalk]
Sonny: Just to be on the side of that sentence, in my first 30 or 40 fights, I had a few losses, say no more.
Jeremy: It was a very different time back then too, because there were still a lot of people that were struggling to figure out the sport, and figure out the game. We were as well, but I guess I was just a little bit lucky, in that I had a little bit of a knack for it. I’ve got a good brain for understanding fighting, I guess. People tell me that the way I explain things, the way I teach, makes it easier to understand, and all I’m doing is like, this is how I look at it, this is what I think, this is how I look at this situation, and position and mindset and strategy. People like, oh, I get it. Just chugging along doing that, and then going to Iowa and having partners that were good, really good wrestlers and good kickboxers, and stuff like that, just gave me an opportunity to push me, make me better.
Sonny: What would you think then, some of those things that you looked at the problem a little differently to others, that enabled you to have success?
Jeremy: I don’t know if I could pick out any specific examples, but just different ideas of techniques, and different ideas of how to do things. This is one [unintelligible 00:26:21] that I actually ever have, I kind of struggled with a little bit as I’ve become a coach because to me– We talked earlier about, when you add punches and you add the ability to strike, it changes your mindset in a fight, but it never did for me. I realize now that it does, but it never did for me. I was always thinking look, if I’m in a fight, and I’m grappling properly, I’m controlling your arms, I’m controlling your head, I’m doing the things that I should do, then it doesn’t matter if you have the option of hitting me or not, because you can’t move your arms anyway. As long as I’m tying up your arms, which is what I want to do anyway to control you and win, so what is the matter if you can hit me? That’s how I’ve always looked at it, like if I’m doing things right, it doesn’t matter what the rules are. It doesn’t matter if there’s a gun laying across the room, legally you can get up and run over and shoot me, that’s fair. If I can keep you pinned down, and you can’t get anywhere near that gun, it’s not going to add stress to me because I got you. I realize now over the years of coaching, it’s not like that for everybody, that level of anxiety. I’ve always told people look, just do things right. If you’re grappling properly, it doesn’t matter if your opponent can hit you or not, do what’s right and you’ll succeed. That ghost hanging in the corner still scares them, but what if I lose track of him? What if he gets away from me? What if? That what if is what ruins people. I guess that I’ve always had a slightly different perspective, and that’s the one that jumps to mind, but conceptually, I grapple conceptually a lot more than a lot of other people, I think.
Sonny: Definitely your grappling skills seem to give you that advantage over a lot of people, and I’d say probably kept you safe, would that be reasonable to say?
Jeremy: Absolutely, it kept me safe, and my mindset as well. My goal was always to win fast, so I’m going to grapple, I’m going to not let you hit me, I’m going to keep you tangled up, and I’m going to get on top of you, and then you’re going to turn over, and I’m going to choke you. I’m a decent boxer, but I’ve never been known as a striker, I’m a grappler, and I think everybody should be, primarily when they get started. Striking is incredibly hard, and now everybody, they see the superstars in the UFC, everybody wants to be a kickboxer, but again, people don’t understand, it changes things. If you’re not used to it, and put a lot of hours into it, as well as the fact that t I think it’s more difficult. Grappling is like hand to hand, it’s like contact, whereas striking is we’re feet apart, and now it’s reflexes, and hand-eye coordination, and intuition, whereas those are all very less relevant in grappling.
Sonny: Is there a way that you would train your grappling, in maybe in the early days, that has changed over the years, or is there any kind of drills, that you’ve done the whole way through?
Jeremy: No, not really. My technique has changed a little bit, obviously. I’ve learned a bit more, and gotten a little bit better, and implemented some new things, and maybe changed a little bit the techniques that I used to do other things, but for the most part, well, it’s the same. It’s the same mentality obviously, like new techniques. Everything gets updated, everything progresses.
Sonny: Sure. One thing that always interests me is the progression of sparring over the years. We maybe hear that the old style way was more just the survival of the fittest. Whereas now people are trying to periodise training more and soft days and hard days. How do you look at that? How do you think that changed?
Jeremy: Well, I think I have always been of the mind, even from the very early days that training super, super hard, like hard sparring is unnecessary. Grappling is a little different. You can go really hard and you’re not going to get hurt, but when you’re hitting each other, you don’t need to do that hard. Also because like, if somebody’s going to punch me, they can either hurt me or they can’t. I don’t need to test that every day in the gym. All I need to test is whether or not I can avoid that punch. If the punch lands, the result is what it is. Again, that’s another thing that I’ve tried to explain to people. I’ve always tried to tell people when you’re sparring, what you should be trying to do is execute good technique, throw good clean punches, and do your best to avoid them. People are like, but what about this, what about that and what happens to this. I was telling people, there’s really only three examples, there’s only three things that can happen if somebody lands a punch. Let’s say you’re in a fight and we’re going to assume that your defense is already like redlining. You are doing everything you possibly can to the maximum of your skill and ability to not get hit. Let’s say that guy who manages to land a punch or a kick or a knee, there’s only three options. Either A that punch doesn’t hurt because the guy can’t crack an egg. What do you do? Nothing. Your strategy doesn’t change. You’re already defending as well as you can. That guy manages to get a punch through. If he set it up, well, maybe you’ll read that set up a little better, but for the most part, you do nothing. Because if you’re already doing everything you can, you can’t do anymore. Or that punch hurts you and hurts you bad and now you’re fighting on instinct and you’re wobbling. What do you do now? Nothing because you’re fighting on instinct. You don’t have a choice or you’re unconscious. Those are the only three choices if you’re going to get hit in a fight. Again, assuming that we are already doing everything we can to avoid getting hit. There is no reason to ever let emotion get into fighting because all it does is make you worse. When we’re talking about training, same thing, you don’t have to hit me hard. I’m trying to avoid that punch anyway. Obviously t here are some days where you need to go a little harder to make sure that you are capable of it, but once or once or twice a month is plenty. You know Sean, O’Connell. He won the first season of the PFL, he’s one of my guys.
Jeremy: Crazy, funny way in guy. That’s almost you all know him. From the very first day, he started training with me. It became very apparent that he does not care if he gets hit. He really doesn’t care. You watch his fights and somewhere you’ll punch him right in the face. His expression doesn’t even change. He doesn’t flame. He doesn’t squirm. He doesn’t run away. You punch him in the face. He just doesn’t care. That’s a unique perspective. All I had to do with him was get him to understand, but it is bad to get hit. You will go to sleep if you get hit hard enough. Even though you don’t care, let’s try to move your head. Let’s try to defend but yes, emotionally, you shouldn’t care. Mentally, defensively, you need to care, but emotionally, you shouldn’t care. You see those guys that are scared of getting hit, they shouldn’t be boxers. They should be grapplers. If your training is that, and all you’re doing is basically playing high speed tag, then your training can go on and on and on forever. I used to train with Jens back in Iowa when we were together, he’s weighing 140 pounds or 150 pounds. I’m weighing 210, and we’ve been sparked 10, 12, 15 rounds a day, because all we’re doing is playing tag, basically. With good adherence and good technique and not doing a bunch of flashy bullshit. If you do that, we’re learning good head movement, good defense, learning to do all the things you should do, but you don’t have to get hit hard.
Sonny: That seems like a much more efficient way to train because you’re going to get a lot more time working with good partners.
Jeremy: It’s a lot more fun. You trained yourself, right?
Jeremy: Do you train a lot of Jujutsu or MMA or a little bit everything?
Sonny: Jujutsu, MMA used to fight professionally, but now everything.
Jeremy: You know what it’s like when you go into that gym for a hard sparring, then you like, fuck, man, this is going to suck. I’m not happy here. This is going to be a bad day. I want to get my work done and get out of here because I’m not feeling it today. I’m getting my ass kicked and it’s going to suck. Well, who wants to train in days like that? Versus the days where you go in, you’re like, hey, we’re going to have some fun. We’re going to roll around real lightly on the mats. We’re going to have some fun. I’m going to learn, blah, blah, blah but if your sparring days are just like hey, we’re going to go in, we’re going to play tag. I’m going to run around, have some fun, then it makes training enjoyable and you get more out of it as well as retain more brain cells.
Sonny: I think even sometimes it’s certain people that are this round [crosstalk]
Jeremy: Absolutely. Everyone got one of those rounds. I got to bite down because this round is going to suck. You see, you need those every now and then, but only two to reinforce that, yes, I am tough. Yes, I can take a punch. Yes, I can continue to execute good technique even when I’m a little nervous and the things are on the line. Once you know that you have that faith in you, you don’t have to do it all the time.
Sonny: Were you ever able to do that then with Tim Sylvia?
Jeremy: Yes, because I’m faster than Tim. You’re training with people long enough, you get to know their tendencies and definitely hard to deal with his jab, but stay closer, stay far away.
Sonny: Then going back to your idea of taking the emotion out of fighting or the emotion out of getting hit, I think you were talking about specifically that when you’re taking your- like a mindset approach into fighting, is that where you also just trying to be emotionless and just trying to act rationally through the fight?
Jeremy: I try to be as much as I can, obviously, in a fight nerves creep in and nerves qualifies emotion. You start to make decisions that you wouldn’t normally because you’re basically scaring yourself. I got to flinch a little more because if this guy hits me, he’s going to knock me out. I can’t afford to let him come. I always tried to be as logical and rational as I could, when I fought. Every single time I fought, like generally, I was the better grappler in the fight. Look, I don’t care how good this guy is on his feet. I’m not going to box with it. If I can take him down, I win. It’s not a matter of, oh, what if he hits me or I can’t afford to get hit. I’m not even going to play that game. I’m going to do everything I can to take you down and then I’m calm. I’m calm with that mindset because I know what I have to do.
Sonny: Taking that mindset, is that something then you try and put onto your fighters that you’re training now? How do you go about trying to do that for you like when you’re warming them up or just when you’re walking them to the cage or how do you impart [crosstalk]
Jeremy: Yes, I do. Obviously, we talked about a lot while we’re training and while we’re rolling and stuff like that, I try to explain to people what their mindset should be. I’m like I said I always try to encourage people. Like I said, it all comes down to basically logic in fact. If you are faster than them, you’re faster. How do we work around that? If that guy’s faster than you, how do you work around that? If he’s stronger than you, how do you work around that? If you have a guy that’s bigger, stronger, faster, better Jujutsu, better boxing, better wrestling than you, how do you win that fight? You don’t, you can’t win that fight without some luck. If you’re my fighter, we’re not taking that fight. You don’t have a chance in that fight. There’s no reason to take that fight. If you’re a little bit stronger and you hit a little bit harder, but he’s a better grappler and he’s faster, well, now that gives us the strategy. We got to try to stay on our feet. You got to try to hit him hard, that kind of thing. Or if you’re a better grappler, blah, blah, blah. If there’s a way to win, then we just try to figure it out basically.
Jeremy: That makes sense.
Jeremy: Every fighter, well, it’s getting to be a little less common, but almost every fighter has a weakness, a weak area. All we got to do is find it and go there. Obviously, that weak area is getting smaller and smaller for a lot of guys, but everybody has one. We just got to find it and try to take the fight to that area. That’s again where we talked about earlier. I don’t really like to see where the sport is going now because now everybody wants to stand up and brawl. It drives me insane when I watched two guys that are, let’s say, one guy’s a bulkheads, are good stand up guys. One guy’s also a good Jujutsu guy. he’ll get clipped on his feet and he’ll go down. What’s the first thing he does?
Sonny: Stands back up.
Jeremy: Tries to get back to his feet. Like, what the hell are you doing, man? Do you understand what you should do? You are good on the ground and you are hurt on your feet, lay on your back and try to recover for a second. If that guy follows you to the ground, you’re good on the ground. Try to recover. Don’t get back up where you can barely stand up and let that guy knock you out more. Everybody is getting so sucked into this idea of, I got to stand up and prove how tough I am. I got to win that fight of the night bonus because I want to get up and brawl with people. I’ve never cared about that. I want to win. I still look at training and fighting as an offshoot of self defense.
Sonny: That makes me think then of maybe the diminished role of the guard now in modern MMA, it just doesn’t seem to be played as much, sometimes not at all. What’s your thoughts on how that’s happening and what could be different?
Jeremy: I agree 100% the guard is going away because the way the rules, rounds, and the standards have implemented the sport. There’s a lot of things that the grapplers, in general, but specifically it hurts the guard a lot. Judges are still stupid. If you’re on your back, they think you’re losing. Somebody can lay on your guard with their head in your chest and punch you in the ribs, and they’re going to win. That’s not always the case, but you get what I’m saying. There’s just a lot of opportunities where the grappler is hurt. Every round starts on their feet. The strikers get an advantage every round. Well, if I spend three minutes in a round, chasing you around because you’re running, then I finally get a hold of you, it takes me a minute to drag you down because you’re leaning against the fence and every now and then grab. Well, that’s a whole another issue.
Jeremy: Out of a five minute round, I’ve been chasing you around, finally dragged you down and I have a minute to work. If I sit still for 30 seconds, I’m going to get stirred up. Really, I just spent four minutes working on taking you down, and we’re going to get stood up within a minute. Why don’t we start on the ground on the next round?
Sonny: I could be sold on that idea for sure.
Jeremy: Just like anything else. If there’s a referee restart, and they can reset it in the same position, like in some of the grappling tournaments, if the position is clearly definable, then restart him on the ground. He earned it that whole first round. Why not let him work from the segment? That might change things a little bit because now you have a guy if he’s good enough on the ground, he can take you down. One take down is all he needs. He gets one take-down in the first round and keeps you there for the rest of the fight, might change things a little bit, rather than the striker getting a free stand up every round as well as stand ups for the referees, stand ups for inactivity, blah, blah, blah. It’s just very skewed towards strikers.
Sonny: It’s definitely just evolved that way now. I think a couple of maybe set positions that they could restart if it needs to be. I’d be willing to watch some of that. Of course, I enjoy watching grappling myself. [chuckles] I may not be the average person that people are- that they’re marketing these fights through, unfortunately.
Jeremy: Right. The average people just want to see people get knocked out. It brings more money to the sport for the fighters, which I’m a fan of, but it also makes the pursuit of money the main goal rather than winning a fight.
Sonny: It’s one of those things that it’s going to be difficult to change at all really. On then your pursuit into professional fighting, and maybe this was getting into where it was starting, to get more money for you into the UFC and the rings as well. You had fights Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, what for you was some of those most memorable ones with these elite levels of the sport?
Jeremy: Honestly, all of them were memorable. Again, because I’ve always loved fighting and I’ve always loved training. None of them really stood out more than any others because they’re all awesome. It’s like which one is your favorite? Well, they’re all my favorite. Again, I feel like I’m a kid that’s hiding and somehow I’m going to get discovered. I’ve gotten to live an amazing life. I’ve gotten to travel the world doing exactly what I love, training and fighting and being part of this community of people. I love all of it and I always have. The more I see it shift away from that, because it’s going to be more financially driven, the less I like it. I don’t want to see it go that way. I’ve had people come into my gym before, they’re flicking a cigarette as they walk in the door and they’re like, “All right, how long before I can have my first fight and how much money do I make?” I’m like, “Man, just get the fuck out of here.” Well, I’m not doing that. If you’re not here because you’re interested in training– You can come in and say,”Hey, look, fighting is my goal. I really want to fight. I love the sport. I want to be part of the sport.” “Absolutely. Come on in.” If you’re like, “Hey, I think this is an easy way to make money. I just want to fight and make money. What do I got to do to make that happen?” It’s not for you. First of all, you’re never going to be good at it. Second, there’s not that much money and until you’re way, way down the road. I don’t want to deal with that. I want people to come in and go, “I watched the sport. I love the sport. I want to try it. I would love to compete someday.” Those are the guys I want.
Sonny: I hear you.
Jeremy: Honestly, I want self defense, it goes without saying.
Sonny: For that side of things, I always tell people, it’s like picking up a guitar and saying, “I want to learn to play at the stadium, down the road or something.” It’s like, “Well, you got to play a lot of open mics first.” [laughs]
Jeremy: You can go a long, long way.
Sonny: What would you think would be some of those benefits of having the love of the sport, the love of martial arts, that have carried over into the other areas of life for you?
Jeremy: Obviously, all the relationships that I’ve made, all the the people that I’ve met and the lives that I’ve gotten to change, that’s another thing, that for me has been a really big deal. I don’t see myself as anybody’s special as a fighter and I don’t see fighters as special people anyway, athletes in general. I don’t watch any other sports. I don’t care about football, baseball or basketball. I just don’t care.
Sonny: Me too.
Jeremy: It really bugs me. You’re playing the game, so am I. I’m playing a game, I’m nobody’s special. I’m not doing anything. For people that somehow think that because of their status as an athlete, they mean more to the world than then somebody else. I’m nobody’s special. I am fortunate that I have lived the life that I have and I am fortunate that I’ve been able to make money doing what I do so that I don’t have to go get a job. Because if I couldn’t make money doing this, I would go get a job and I would still do this. My life would just suck because then I would have to spend all my hours working instead of getting the train like I do. I don’t think me as a fighter or any fighter has done anything particularly special for the world. I don’t deserve any credit as a fighter. I’m nobody’s special. As a trainer, as a martial artist, as a coach, I have changed a lot of people’s lives. That I am very proud of. As a fighter, man, so what? I haven’t been good at beating people up. I’m glad people enjoy watching me do it. I’m glad it gives them some entertainment. I guess, there’s a little bit of value there because people enjoy it. I’m way more proud of, the guy that joined my gym and because of it, quit drinking, quit being a dirt bag, and now he’s married with three kids and owns his own business. I’m way more proud of the fact that, there’s a little kid that trains with me, that was getting bullied, and now he’s confident, strong, has friends, and has completely changed his personality. I’m way more proud of those things than I am that I won a world title. I said, as a fighter, none of that crap matters. It matters to me, it’s cool, but it doesn’t matter as far as like changing the world. What matters to me is the things that I’ve done in the gym with the people that you’ll never hear of because they’re not going to be professional fighters.
Sonny: I really like what you’ve said there in terms of, I guess, having the impact on the closest people around you.
Sonny: You might say that you don’t think you’re anything special as a fighter or that’s not as much value as worth. From a personal perspective, you’re an inspiration to–
Jeremy: I may be overstated that. That is very nice to know that what I have done has touched other people to make them want to be inspired. Yes, in that regard, it does matter. You get what I’m saying now.
Sonny: I do.
Jeremy: I’m just a guy in a ring beating somebody up. I didn’t do anything for the world. There is some value because other people–
Sonny: Again, I think, you’re right. At the end of the day, it is those personal interactions that we have with people closest around us who can know on that one on one level that are going to have that lasting impact as well. Just some of those impacts that martial arts can have on a personal level for people that maybe the most valuable aspect of training and competing. Would you think that the transformative power of martial arts in people’s lives?
Jeremy: Absolutely. I think that is one the biggest. I don’t want to say it’s overlooked because, obviously, that is something that a lot of people know martial arts does. It’s one thing that its losing its front page status, so to speak. It’s huge. I was a shy little kid that got bullied and I’m still a shy adult but I’m now confident. I’m shy because I don’t really like being around a lot of people, not because I’m scared to be around a lot of people. It certainly is nice to know that pretty much anywhere I am, I could kick the shit out any two or three people at a time. It makes it much easier for me to stay calm and relaxed. I’m okay just sitting in the corner watching people. I don’t have to be the center of attention. I don’t want to be the center of attention. Definitely, it has changed my life for the better massively. It does for thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands of people across the world every day.
Sonny: It’s very interesting you bring that up because, I guess, the two sides that people would look at martial arts would be like they see the UFC on television, the hardcore, competitive cage fighting side, where people think of it as a blood sport and this awful thing. Then, there’s also this other side of the power of building confidence and transforming people’s lives.
Jeremy: Yes, definitely.
Sonny: That’s something that you must have come across with a lot over the years, with being such an active fighter and knowing of this other part of martial arts. How have you dealt with squaring those two off in your life?
Jeremy: Well, I guess they really have not had a whole lot of crossover for me because I’ve always tried to help people. I see people come to the gym and I can see people that are like, they’re just broken people. I had a guy who trained with me years ago and he ended up quitting, which was really unfortunate because I think he’s one of the people that really needed it. He was early 20s, in decent shape, but not a physical superstar. I could tell that he felt like he was worthless. He was a really nice guy and he had trouble doing just a basic, free bodyweight squat. That should be a pretty the simple thing for a kid in his early 20s to do, but he just couldn’t do it. He didn’t have the balance or the flexibility. He had never done anything athletic before in his entire life and he knew it. He knew that he was not where he should be, even to the point where he would make comments about himself, he’s like, “Oh, man, I wish I could do this, like a normal person,” and stuff like that. I’m like, “Man, I hate to see that kind of thing. I hate to hear that.” I used to work with him a lot. I tried to get him to come back. I think just because he felt so self conscious being in a crowd of other people that could do it. I’m really lucky. I’ve got a great gym of people. I don’t have any jerks in my gym. Everybody’s friendly. A new guy comes to the gym and everybody comes over and says hi and introduce themselves. I know that it was just his own self consciousness that drove him away because he was very welcomed at the gym. He just couldn’t get over it. He ended up stopping training with us. I feel really bad for people like that.
Sonny: Is there anything else that you think that martial arts or the MMA could do to help bring those people in, to help make the weak strong?
Jeremy: Yes, obviously, just doing what we do. Just helping them and training them and being a friend to them. That’s all people need. It all boils down to basically your own self image and your own self confidence. I’m sure you’ve seen it. There’s people that should not be confident that are, and then there’s other people– I’ve got a guy that he actually is now training. I think he’s probably pretty close to done. He’s going to be in the Secret Service. He was a really smart guy, college football star, trained with me for a while, have a lot of good fights, with dual citizenship with Australia and the US. He went to school in Australia, trained at a gym down there. Really funny, good looking guy. He’s six foot two, 210 pounds, just abs, just the whole package. I was talking to him one time and he was telling me how he thinks he’s ugly. He’s always worried that people think he’s funny looking. I’m like, “Dude, I would bend over backwards to be built like you. You’re a good looking guy. You’ve got a great sense of humor. How can you feel this way about yourself?” Now he was a copier locally, he got accepted into the Secret Service detail. He’s bouncing all over the US doing different training things. He probably still feels like he’s not good enough. I saw a documentary with Jim Carrey, the comedian. He talked about his upbringing and obviously an incredibly funny guy. He talked about how a lot of people that are very, very funny are because they are really self conscious and abused as kids. They develop a sense of humor to make everybody like them. There’s so many people out there like that that ,man, if you could see yourself the way the rest of the world sees you, you wouldn’t feel the way you feel. I think martial arts can do that for people by giving them some physical strength and giving them some physical tools. Showing them that they have some value and showing them that they do have friends with similar interests that aren’t going to judge them. That’s what martial arts should be about. As well as, obviously, helping people to defend themselves and helping people to build stronger lives and stronger relationships. Then, real far down the list of importance, is getting in the ring and competing. It’s certainly fun.
Sunny: Great fun.
Jeremy: In the world of importance, it’s pretty far down there.
Sonny: I really like that, Jeremy. That’s a very nice way to put it. I think I’ll finish up just with one more question for you. Just for advice for any young fighters, maybe on dealing with promoters, I think might be a good angle, because I’m sure you have a lot of experience with that. Just how would you recommend or a bit of advice that maybe you could have given yourself back in the day?
Jeremy: Well, I was pretty lucky. I had good people around me. My first trainer actually took over as my manager for a little bit. Because, again, he was just a good guy that wanted to see me not be taken advantage of. He was like, “Look, I don’t know anything about the sport, but I’m a smart guy and I’d be happy to look over your contracts and make sure that you’re not getting screwed.” He was basically my manager, but he didn’t really know what he was doing. He was like, “Look, I don’t want any money, I want to help you to make it.” He looked over my first UFC contract and basically he was like, “I want to make sure you’re not getting screwed and taken advantage of.” Then I went along with Bonnie, not long after that, who obviously is a great manager. I would recommend that they get somebody who obviously has some intelligence, but who also that they really trust to help them navigate through this. Everybody wants to fight. Every fighter wants to take every fight, but you need somebody there to say “Hey, man, this is probably not the best fight for you.” If you’re a fighter, and you’re talking to a promoter directly, what fighter is going to say “Yes, I know, that guy’s got 10 fights and I’ve got one. I probably shouldn’t be fighting him.” Well, no, the fighter is like, “Yes, I want that fight.” Well, not every fight is right all the time. It helps to have somebody else to protect you from yourself. That’s what I would say is, get somebody to be the middleman because promoters will naturally take advantage of fighters. Not necessarily in a nasty, underhanded way, but it’s the promoters job.
Sonny: That’s their job.
Jeremy: [crosstalk] as much fights as I can for as little money as I can. The fighter wants as much money as they can get. Find somebody to help walk that line. That’s one thing I would say. Find a good gym. Find a good gym with people that want to train hard.
Sonny: That’s good advice. I like the idea of finding someone who will protect you from yourself. I think it’s good advice for young fighters. I think that’s a good way to put it. Jeremy, it has been really awesome to talk to you, mate. I really appreciate you giving me your-
Jeremy: My pleasure.
Sonny: -time. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Sonny: Awesome. I’ll be in touch in the future. Maybe we can do this again and again sometimes.
Jeremy: I’d love to. Awesome. Sounds good.
Sonny: Jeremy, thank you so much.
Jeremy: All right. Thank you. We’ll see you next time.
Sonny: Cheers, mate.
Subscribe To My Newsletter
Sign up for my newsletter and receive occasional updates on my articles, podcasts and videos and receive a link to my guide which lists the top 5 habits to start a martial artist's day.