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Jeremy Horn unsure of fighting future, but open to ‘one-off’ fights in Japan, Russia

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MMA pioneer Jeremy Horn wants to fight again, but he isn’t willing to dedicate his entire life to training.

International Fight League Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Jeremy Horn won’t commit to an MMA return just yet, but that doesn’t mean he’s 100-percent retired.

A pioneer of the sport, Horn holds victories over the likes of Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Chael Sonnen, and has a professional record of 91-22-5, 1 NC. Horn, who first competed in 1996, has fought for the UFC, PRIDE FC, and WEC, among other promotions.

Horn hasn’t fought for a high-profile organization since 2010 when he lost at Bellator 30, but he competed on the regional circuit as recently as two years ago. In his last bout, he lost to Egidijus Valavicius by first-round submission at Sugar Creek Showdown 28: Shockwave. His last victory was a submission over Brian Imes in September 2014.

Today, Horn dedicates his life to his gym, Elite Performance MMA, which he has run in Salt Lake City, Utah for more than a decade. It has been his main focus over his past two years of inactivity in the cage.

“I’ve been staying pretty busy running the gym and kind of focusing on that,” Horn told MMA Sucka. “I run the gym full time, but a lot of it is some of the marketing, some of the advertising, and just some of the logistics around the gym. And I still teach a lot of the classes at the gym.

“When I first opened the gym, I figured, ‘I’m a good fighter, I’m a good coach, all I gotta do is open the doors and people will flood in.’ And that’s not the case at all. You actually have to know how to run a business — it doesn’t matter how good you are in that industry. And that’s something that I’ve spent quite a few years learning how to do and trying to improve on. I think I’m finally getting it settled in now, so things are moving a little better.”

Horn wants to fight again. Ideally, he would fight at least two or three more times. But the problem is finding the time to train adequately — he still trains somewhat regularly, but most of his time goes towards improving his gym. And at 42 years old, time is running out.

“I don’t know if I’m officially retired yet,” Horn said. “But the way I look at it is: I’ve got a list of things that are priorities, and fighting is now moving further down the list, but it’s still on the list. I may get back to it; I’m still healthy, I have no injuries, I’m still training reasonably regularly. But I stay busy running the gym and teaching and trying to do some of the business side of things, and it doesn’t allow me the time to train like I really need to train if I’m going to fight.

“I still would love to fight. I would fight right now if I could do it anonymously, but being who I am, I’m not gonna get any easy fights. So if I’m gonna fight, I’m gonna have to train really, really hard, and that’s where scheduling comes in. So it’s not that I don’t want to fight, it’s just that I don’t have the time to take it the way it deserves.”

Horn is seemingly an ideal Bellator signing, but when asked about potentially fighting for the Viacom-owned organization, the MMA legend wasn’t too interested. Fighting for a top organization like Bellator would require his focus to be entirely shifted from his gym to training, and that’s not a career move he’s willing to make.

“I don’t know if I’ll pursue anything that big anymore,” Horn said of Bellator. “It comes down to time. I certainly would like to take a couple fights here and there. Maybe something in Japan or Russia or something like that. Bellator would put me back in a position where it’s either pursue a title or don’t fight. I guess if I could do a couple one-off, just interesting fights, that would be more interested to me than diving back into a career and pursuing a title.”

Horn hasn’t been in the MMA spotlight for years, and since he last fought for the UFC or another prominent company, the spot has undergone many changes — some for the better, some for the worse. For example, USADA and the UFC partnered in 2015 to create the UFC anti-doping program, and Reebok became the UFC’s main apparel sponsor that year, as well, creating a unified look for the fighters. Fighters have also started to slowly earn more money, and we’ve seen a bigger push for the creation of a fighter’s union.

We’re also in the “money fight” era of MMA, which was topped by a mega boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor this past August. More and more champions are wanting to jump up in weight classes and become two-division titleholders rather than cleaning out their division first. How well a fighter does in the cage doesn’t always determine whether they are next in line for a title shot, either.

Horn ultimately believes MMA is going in “a good direction.” But he said the Reebok deal is “absolute crap,” and he isn’t a fan of fighters getting big fights and opportunities solely because they can talk.

“I’m glad to see there’s more money in the sport, because I’ve always wanted to see fighters get more money,” he said. “But with more money, comes some of the other negative things — now, people are fighting only for money, so you’re not seeing quite the honesty and integrity in the fighters that there used to be. More money is good, but more money also brings a lot of bad elements, as well. So it’s kind of give and take.

“But overall, I’m glad to see [MMA] is moving into more of a limelight, more of a spotlight.”