Preston Howell tried to kiss away his mom’s boo boos: on her top lip, both of her eyes, and the top of her head.
Sarah Howell’s 3-year-old son did a pretty good job. The only visible marks from her Mixed Martial Arts fight five days earlier were slight bruises around her eyes.
“He wasn’t there, but it was the first time I let my daughter go to a fight,” Howell said of 7-year-old Paisley. “She was on the floor a few rows back with my family. She definitely understood when I won.”
Howell, 32, hoisted Paisley up on her shoulder in the octagon after the fight, daughter mirroring mother with their fists clenched in victory.
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The 5-foot-6, 135-pound Howell earned a third-round knockout over Colorado’s Ashley Deen at the Front Street Fights 15 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise to improve to 2-1 in professional MMA fights.
“I was dishing up the left hooks and she was eating them,” Howell said. “I got her with a push kick to the body and the left hook finished it. My other fights were decisions. I came to make a statement and to finish the fight. I wanted to knock her out.
“I’m crazy, maybe.”
Making it all work
Howell, a busy wife, mother and owner of Wolfpack MMA & Fitness in Pasco, is a 2004 graduate of Southridge High School. She and her husband, Dr. Jerad Howell, have a hectic life with two kids, two businesses and her hours of training.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Jerad said. “When we lived in Texas, she didn’t have anything to do. She went nuts. She’s not one to stay idle. She has to have stuff to do.”
Jerad is a chiropractor at Elite Chiropractic and Massage in Kennewick, and he uses his craft at home to keep his wife functioning at times.
“I work on her, probably not as much as she would like,” he said. “I have a portable table and I’ll get it out and do my thing. Whatever we have to do to have her feeling good.”
Howell is up before the sun to teach classes at 5 a.m. at her gym, and she’s back at it for three hours in the evening. She also runs a women-only boot camp, Washington Women’s Wolfpack, which has programs in Pasco, Burbank and her former hometown of Mattawa.
“She is passionate and she loves what she does,” Jerad said. “She loves to help people get stronger and reach their goals.”
She also picks up Paisley, a first-grader at Maya Angelou in Pasco, from school most days, and she just started an online nutrition course.
There’s also time for braids in Paisley’s auburn hair, after-school activities and the never-ending housework created by two small kids. Oh, and ski trips with the family.
Jerad also makes sure his wife gets a little “me time” each week.
“I take Fridays off to give her a day to do what she needs to do, even it’s sleep. It’s her time,” he said. “Sometimes, when the stars are aligned, she might get a nap in with our son.
“I don’t know what the future holds. I just want her not to look back and wonder what could have been. I do what I can to make sure she takes her fight career as far as she can.”
And, he is a big fan of “Savage” Sarah Howell.
“Everyone asks how I can sit and watch,” Jerad said. “I flip a switch and turn into fan boy and hope my favorite fighter wins. I have to go home with her too, and put ice on her bumps and bruises. It’s a good relationship. I am proud that she is passionate about what she does.”
The fight scene
Howell was 10-2 as an amateur from 2007-10. She then took an extended break until June 2016.
In her first fight in more than six years, she lost a unanimous decision to Keri Anne Taylor Melendez at the Bellator 157: Dynamite 2 in St. Louis. That was a kickboxing bout.
Howell began her MMA pro career with a loss to Liz Phillips by unanimous decision in February 2017 in Spokane. She regrouped, then went out and beat Julie Daniels by unanimous decision in June at the Ultimate Cage Fighting 20 in Hailey, Idaho.
“Kickboxing is my passion,” she said. “To be at the level I want, I have to do more than the time I have to do it in.”
With MMA, Howell can incorporate the kickboxing with wrestling, boxing and a few other disciplines.
In her blood
“I started fighting so I wouldn’t look back and say ‘what if,’ ” Howell said. “It’s really challenging. You have to find time for strength and conditioning. I run 3 to 5 miles a day and train for 2 to 3 hours a day here. My legs and feet hurt all the time.”
Not even a week after her fight in January, Howell had dissected the action and made notes for the next one.
“I have watched the fight and picked it apart,” she said. “I have decided what I need to work on.”
That may come as early as this spring. Front Street Fights would like her to come back.
“They want to be my hometown group,” she said.
Sports have been a part of Howell’s life from an early age.
She was a standout volleyball and basketball player at Southridge, and played a couple of years of softball. Older brother Seth Weeks was a small-school state champion wrestler at Wahluke in 2000, and placed seventh at the Class 4A level in 2001 for the Suns.
“Shortly after high school, she she started doing jiu-jitsu and emerged into a full-fledged fighter,” Weeks said. “I have helped her a little. More so back in the day. I don’t get to workout with her as much as I’d like to.”
There are, of course, the occasional backyard brawls.
“We wrestle in the yard at family functions,” Weeks said. “I can out-wrestle her, but when she gets a hold of my neck, I’m tapping out.
“She has always been ornery.”