You could say the luck of the Irish gave Squamish mixed martial arts fighters a hattrick.
During Battlefield Fight League 54, on March 17, Saint Patrick’s Day, three Squamish athletes managed to capture victory.
Cole Smith defended his championship bantamweight title via unanimous decision; Jamey-Lyn Horth won her debut professional MMA match via TKO and Indroop Virk took the win during his first amateur MMA fight via submission.
Immediately before the fight, Smith appeared to take a more casual approach to preparing for the ring.
In the hours before the match, instead of following the general fighters’ narrative of ruminating in the locker room for hours, Smith was hanging out in the mall with his girlfriend.
Maybe three fights before his event, he got the callto come back and start warming up at the event venue, which was the Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam.
“I’m calm as can be,” recalled Smith, who can now boast a 5-0-0 undefeated professional record. “I’m the champ.”
As the 28-year-old entered the ring, a wave of cheers echoed from a big Squamish entourage.
His relaxed approach, however didn’t take anything away from his performance.
Right off the bat in the first round, Smith rammed his opponent, Carlos Galvan, against the cage and kept him there while he threw a steady stream of knees to the body.
There were moments when Galvan was able to break free and counter with flurries of punches and kicks, but each time, Smith was able to close the gap and turn the fight into a grappling match.
It was illustrative of Smith’s strategy for taking on Galvan, whose strength tends to lean towards standing up and striking his opponent.
“I’ve had a game plan the whole time, and I executed my game plan from the first minute to the 25th minute,” said Smith. “The game plan went to an exact tee. He’s a striker — I’m a great striker, he’s a good striker, but I’m good everywhere, so I wanted to take him down and wrestle him.”
Just about everything went exactly as intended, he said, save for the fact that he didn’t get to choke out Galvan.
“I did steamroll him,” said Smith. “He didn’t win one minute of that fight.”
Smith said probably the hardest part leading up to the match was cutting weight, as he had to lose 15 pounds in less than 24 hours in order to make his target of about 135 pounds.
“It’s tough to put in words,” he said. “Winning after training for so many months and dieting and putting your body through the terrible stress of cutting weight. Finally getting your hand raised after all this bull…”
Smith also added that he wanted to thank everyone from Squamish who supports the town’s fight scene.
“I’m proud of all my sons,” said Cole’s mom, Brenda Smith.
For his brother and coach, the win wasn’t a surprise at all.
“We kind of expect that — we work,” said Kasey. “We expect to win, we hold ourselves at a high accountability, and you know, it’s the result that we thought we were going to have.”
Kasey was also a key figure in developing the strategies not only for Cole, but for the other two Squamish fighters who fought in the same BFL tournament that day, all of whom fight out of The Sound Martial Arts.
Much of Kasey’s time was spent poring over tape and analyzing the best way to approach each opponent.
Kasey’s methods appeared to also work well for Jamey-Lyn Horth, who defeated Coralie Dixon via TKO after a flurry of strikes in the second round of her fight.
“It’s really exciting for me, I’ve never been more excited about a win in a really long time,” said Horth, who fought at 125 pounds in the flyweight division. “Mainly because it was my debut, but my first TKO as well….What more to start my pro debut than with a bang.”
There was also another first. Horth had never been taken down to the floor in amateur tournament fights — so being taken down in her first professional fight was something of an initiation.
However, it ended up being one of Horth’s “click moments” during the fight.
As Dixon’s opponent grappled her to the floor, Horth said she heard Jeremy Kennedy — a UFC fighter who was sitting ringside in the audience — call out some pointers on how to get off the ground.
“He leaned in and it was almost like a little person on my shoulder whispering, ‘Jamey get your leg to the cage, get the underhook and get up,’” said Horth. “It was like a lightbulb went off.”
Horth recovered and pressed the fight against Dixon.
There was another key moment during the match.
During the second round, Horth threw a kick, which was caught by her opponent. But what should’ve been a vulnerable moment for the 27-year-old turned into fuel for the fight.
“It turned up a gear for me — I was like, ‘Yeah, right, this is not happening.’” said Horth. “All of sudden I was on her. It was a flurry...I was like a tiger.”
Horth launched into a combination attack against the opposing fighter.
Throughout the match, Horth pursued a stand-and-fight approach while using sprawls to neutralize her opponent’s takedown attempts. Dixon is an accomplished wrestler, so Horth’s approach was to turn the fight into a striking game.
And it worked.
“I could see it in her eyes,” said Horth. “She was hurt like a wounded animal.”
The rest is history.
“I just want everybody to smile,” said Horth, reflecting on why she fights. “I want to put on a show and I want [the community] to have the win more than I do because their support is what fuels my fire.”
She added that she wanted to express her gratitude to everyone in town.
“I want to give thanks to everyone who’s been part of my journey,” she said.
The other big local winner at BFL 54 was Indroop Virk, who defeated Neil Sanpedro via a rear-naked choke on the third round.
This match was the 19-year-old’s first foray into the MMA scene. Previously, Virk competed as a muay thai kickboxer.
He said that he hopes to take a BFL belt before his 20th birthday on October this year, and so far, this win seems like a good way to get started.
The lead-up to the fight was a bit of a nerve-wracking endeavour for the 130-pound fighter.
“To be honest, going to the casino when I was warming up downstairs, I was just feeling super anxious to fight,” said Virk. “I know half of Squamish is there with Cole and Jamey fighting, there are so many people from Squamish — that definitely got to me a little bit.”
A lot was on Virk’s mind. He’s been dreaming of entering a serious MMA league since he was 15 years old, and he has credited the sport with turning his life around.
Prior to his involvement in combat sports, he had been prone to getting himself in trouble. At one point he found himself expelled from Don Ross Middle School.
But the emotional significance of the event didn’t prevent Virk from doing what needed to be done.
“As soon as the bell rings, all the anxiety’s just gone,” he said. “I just did my thing and basically just dominated all three rounds up until the choke.”
In the first 10 seconds, Sanpedro managed to get several punches on Virk.
However, it didn’t phase the Squamish fighter.
“I just walked right through it and just picked him up and slammed him,” he said.
After that, Virk was able to press a steady offensive until he submitted his adversary.
“At the end of the day, my parents are just happy that I’m been doing this instead of trying to be a gangster or whatever since I was 14,” he said.
Instead, Virk said he’s taking what would seem to be the opposite path. He’s a criminology student at Douglas College who’s hoping to graduate in about a year.
“I remember my mom coming up to me after the fight, and she told me she was super nervous until I got the win,” he said.