Horn holds 59 of his 88 career victories by submission. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Horn’s world took a dramatic turn after he moved from Omaha to Davenport, Iowa, in December 1998 to work with legendary trainer Pat Miletich. It was under Miletich that Horn honed his craft. Others at the camp benefited from his arrival.
“I probably learned about 60 percent of my ground game from Jeremy,” UFC hall of famer Matt Hughes says, crediting his work with Horn under Miletich’s tutelage. “I still train with Jeremy for my fights. He’s very effective in traditional martial arts, and his jiu-jitsu is good for grappling tournaments. He’s been able to incorporate striking, submission holds and submission defense into his whole game. We’ve been working together 10-plus years, and I still think he’s one of the best.”
Hughes pauses for a moment and laughs.
“Here’s a funny training session we had,” the former UFC welterweight champion recalls. “I remember we’re working together, and I hit his knee with my mouth and it knocked out one of my top front teeth. I ran to the bathroom to look into a mirror, and here’s Jeremy all worried about it. It was killing him. I didn’t want him to feel bad, so I said, ‘The hell with it.’ I pushed the tooth back in and convinced him I was OK. It’s still pretty loose today, but it’s still my original tooth.”
An Undying Passion
Horn has fought legends like UFC hall of Famers Dan Severn, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, as well as former UFC middleweight champion Frank Shamrock, onetime Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight titleholder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and reigning UFC middleweight king Anderson Silva. Horn handed Liddell his first career loss with an arm-triangle choke in March 1999. He fought Severn to a draw in 1997. However, it is the losses that sting Horn. He lost decisions to Silva in June 2004 and Couture in October 2004.
“I lived with issues of not living up to the potential that I felt I had, but that’s what stands out in my mind,” Horn says. “I had my chances. When I fought Anderson Silva, he was very, very good but still wasn’t the fighter that he is today. I lost a decision to Silva and hurt my leg really badly 10 seconds into the fight. I was in bad shape after that. He pretty much kicked the crap out of me for three rounds. The Silva fight was very meaningful, because I felt that I accomplished quite a bit to survive the beating that I took, being half-crippled. I was hurt and I lasted, and that meant a lot to me.
“When I fought Severn, I was this kid going up against the world champ and no one expected much,” he adds. “The fight wound up going to a draw, and had there been judges, I was told I would have been given the decision.”
Now, Horn fights in the nebulous world of being too risky for any champion and too experienced and sharp for any young rising contender looking to cut his teeth against a name opponent. In boxing parlance, he is considered a dangerous journeyman. Yet, he is internationally known, and there are still certain streets in Japan that Horn cannot walk down without being mobbed.
MMA is undeniably in Horn’s DNA. He lives it. He breathes it. There has not been a situation his muscle memory has not countered. Horn, who turned 36 on Aug. 25, can offset any speed advantage with his cagey awareness. He has remained healthy. More importantly, he has remained a true student of the game, which is a reason for his competitive longevity. Time’s strictures, however, can have a binding effect and, as a silent enemy, can even zap someone like Horn.
“I still love to fight; I love the sport, and there’s nothing better than being in the cage and beating someone up,” Horn says, laughing. “I’m pretty mellow for the most part, and people today still have a tough time believing that I’m a fighter. I get it all of the time. I don’t take as many short-notice fights as I used to, but I still get the offers to jump in at the last minute.
“I can quit today and I’d be happy with what I’ve done,” he adds. “I’m not a rich man by any means, and I wish the sport had caught on when I was at the peak of my career. But I’ve led the life that I wanted to lead. I’m grateful, really, because I got to live my life doing what I love and answering to nobody. You can’t complain about that.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the Managing Editor of Ring Magazine and a contributor to Sherdog.