By Buckley Smith 
BELLEVILLE – Jamie Herrington, 25, born and raised in Belleville, is set to make her professional debut in the sport of mixed martial arts in January.
Following a successful amateur career that she finished with an undefeated record of seven wins and no losses, as well as a gold medal at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation  world championships in 2015, Herrington is slated to fight Kelsey Andries  (0-0) on Jan. 27 in Calgary for the Hard Knocks Fighting  Championship.
Herrington began taking part in MMA in 2013 after moving from Belleville to British Columbia. She had been heavily involved in wrestling for much of her life and was looking for something similar when she got to B.C., she said.
“Moving out to Fort St. John, there was not a whole lot of options to do freestyle wrestling there,” she said in a telephone interview from her new base in Grande Prairie, Alta, this week. “I found a gym in town that offered MMA, …the closest thing … to wrestling, so I joined and quickly fell in love with it. And three years later I’m still in and around the sport and loving it.”
Her amateur career only lasted a few years, but she got the chance to take part in events that she says have helped her get to where she is now.
“To be at the world championships was an unreal experience. There are people that go there that have trained their whole life for that sport … I got to sit down and talk with Miesha Tate (the former Ultimate Fighting Championship  women’s bantamweight champion) and Tryon Woodley (the current UFC bantamweight champion). There are people who have made it and live the life every day.”
But while Herrington ended up taking home the gold medal for her weight class in that tournament, her reign as world champion didn’t last very long. A couple of months after returning home, she got a letter saying that her mandatory drug test had come pack positive for amphetamines. As a result, she would lose her medal and be barred from IMMAF fighting for four years, the letter said.
She appealed the decision, constantly maintaining her innocence, but was unsuccessful. The only reason she can think of for the failed drug test, she says, is that she took Nyquil  to combat a cold in the days leading up to her fight, which might have led to a false positive.
Since then, “it has been a long of year of being stressed and being nervous of what my future is in the sport,” she said. “It was definitely a kick in the shins. But I will presume my innocence and I will say that I was innocent for my entire lifetime, because I am. I did not do anything wrong.”
She has no regrets and is grateful that she has been given a second chance through turning pro, she said.
“I am lucky enough to have people and a promotion that believe in me.”
After the IMMAF suspension, she took a hiatus for almost a year, then moved this past February to Grande Prairie to begin training at Warrior Strong Gym  with John Stanley, a former kickboxer. It has been an amazing experience and has prepared her for the next step in her career, she said.
“The atmosphere (at Warrior Strong Gym) is more than welcoming. It’s a family when I go there. Everyone is there to help each other. Everyone is there to improve. Everyone is there to push each other. To be able to train with guys that have the same purpose and that go in there with the same idea – that they want to be champions – I love it. If someone is struggling, there (are) four people there to pick you up and show you four different ideas on how to change it and improve.”
While Andries, the fighter Herrington will be facing in her pro debut in January, is also a first-timer, she has a successful background in amateur muay thai , a style of martial arts developed in Thailand. Andries has a record of 15 wins and two losses in muay thai, and Herrington says it should be quite the battle.
“I’ve watched movies on her, and it will definitely be a war for her and I. But it will be a great fight at the end of the day for people to watch. And I don’t think I could have picked a better fighter to fight for my pro debut. She represents her record strong, and she’s very talented.”
Herrington’s style is based around her strengths in wrestling on the ground, while Andries focuses more on standing up and using her hands and feet to land strikes. Herrington says that could lead to an interesting fight.
“It will either go really good for me or it will go really bad for me,” she said. “But I have taken the last year of my training solely based on improving my standup, and I think that I will definitely give her a run for her money. There is a lot of time and dedication that has gone into this.”
Stanley, the coach who has groomed her as a fighter, says that she has been improving in the areas she needs to. He fully believes she has the ability to win the fight and succeed in professional women’s mixed martial arts, he said.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Jamie is ready for the professional fight game. The amazing thing really is she still has so much room for improvement. Her wrestling speaks for itself, with multiple national championships to her credit. Her Brazilian jiu-jitsu  is improving immensely. Her striking had been her weakest element, and that is improving daily,” Stanley told QNet News in an email interview.
“I really believe that Jamie has the potential to make it to one of the major promotions. With her talent, I expect Jamie to make a major impact within a year or so,” he said, adding that with Herrington in the mix, “the (other) women of MMA have a monstrous task ahead of them.”
Herrington says she thinks her time to shine has come, and that this is the only career path she wants.
“It’s something that I absolutely love,” she said. “I may only have 10 solid years left to fight, and I’m going to take full advantage of it. I want to be on a stage with people who are definitely better than me, who are definitely more experienced than me, and I want to be able to improve my game rather than play along. I want to be able to be seen and create a profile for myself that betters me in the future.”
And if she goes on to win a championship belt one day, she will bring the belt back to Belleville to celebrate, she says.
“My whole family is from Belleville, and I think it would definitely be a place where I could show it off. I think it would be pretty cool to be where I am now and have something to bring home.”