Fighter Highlight: The Most ‘Notorious’ One Before Conor McGregor
A Throw Back Thursday retrospective of one of the most intriguing men to step foot into a cage
Enter “Lightning” Lee Murray
It was Saturday night, July 13th in London, England, and UFC 38: Brawl at the Hall had ended. It was an epic night of fights that concluded with a rematch between Matt Hughes and Carlos Newton. Carlos was attempting to regain his belt he had just lost to Hughes in a controversial fight. In their first fight, Carlos sunk in a triangle choke but forgot about the power Hughes was so well known for. So Hughes, taking advantage of Newton’s failure to secure his leg, hoisted Carlos Newton off the ground (still in the triangle), walked him over to the fence, and slammed Newton to the canvas making a thud so loud, Hughes’ family could hear it back home in Iowa.
Newton fell unconscious and Big John Mcarthy declared Matt Hughes the winner. The controversy came in when it was realized that Hughes was actually unconscious as well, and would have been laying passed out beside Newton had his legs not displayed incredible muscle memory.
This night however, Matt Hughes left no doubt, as he caught Carlos Newton in a reverse crucifix and grounded and pounded Newton to victory.
It was a night for celebration.
Matt Hughes had won and now defended the UFC welterweight championship. With an entourage fit for a Colombian president, Hughes attended the UFC after party. According to Hughes’ book, Made in America: The Most Dominant Champ in UFC History, as told by friend and trainer Pat Miletich, it was about
“Four o’clock in the morning and they had everybody leave the club, right? Well, the UFC had bussed us all over there but they didn’t have a bus to take us back. It’s down to Mark, me [Pat Miletich], Tony Fryklund, Chuck Liddell, Tito [Ortiz] and Lee Murray. Lee Murray’s crew was still there, Tito’s crew was also still there. I walked out the back door to go in the alley. Tito’s buddy jumped on my back. He jumped on my back and acted like he had me in a choke hold, just messing around, you know? Then I felt him get ripped off of me. I turned around and Tony Fryklund had HIM in a chokehold, and was really choking him. The guy looked like a mouse that just got trapped in a mousetrap; his eyes were popping out and obviously he wasn’t breathing. Tony thought he was actually attacking me – that’s the only reason he did it. So I turned round and told Tony to let him go, and Tony let him go. Then Tito’s buddy turned around and basically said ‘what the f*** are you doing?’ to Tony. Well, when he said that, one of Lee Murray’s buddies, that one guy who kind of took care of us all week long, thought this guy was actually trying to fight us, so he ran out of the crowd and cracked this kid with a right hand and knocked him out cold…. The entire alley erupted into a huge brawl. I was just standing there, and there were bodies flying all over the place. I was confused how it all happened, because it happened so fast. I was standing there with my mouth open like ‘what the hell is going on?’ I looked over and Chuck Liddell was with his back against the wall, knocking people out that were trying to go after him. Then I looked over and there’s Tito directly past me, taking his coat off, going after Lee Murray, and Lee Murray’s backing up the alley taking his jacket off. Both their jackets come off, and Tito throws a left hook at Lee Murray and misses, and right as he missed, Lee Murray counters with, like, a five-punch combo, landed right on the chin, and knocked Tito out. OUT. Tito fell face-first down to the ground, and then Lee Murray stomped him on the face a couple of times with his boots.”
The story spread like wildfire. The then UFC Light Heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz knocked out by a relatively unknown Brit? Who was this Lee Murray? To the mainstream, his name may as well have been replaced with Joe Schmoe, but to the more than casual fan and the British mma community, Lee Murray was far from an unknown.
“Lightning” Lee Murray was a knockout artist known as a local British hood. If being enshrined in the underworld wasn’t enough, Lee Murray added to his lore by knocking out legendary striker, Jose Landis-Jons aka “Pele” and now long reigning light- heavyweight champ, Tito Ortiz, in a street fight no less.
Capturing Lightning in a Bottle
Well the UFC had to have him. It took almost 2 years but he was set to face Jorge River, another striker, at UFC 46: Supernatural.
The bout did not last long. Jorge Rivera looked to get the fight to the ground immediately! Apparently, he took a lesson from Murray’s destruction of “Pele”. The takedown was succesful.
Lee Murray quickly worked to show he wasn’t a one-trick pony. He transitioned quickly from half guard to full guard and from full guard to an arm bar.
At this point, Jorge stacked his weight on Murray making it difficult for Murray to extend the arm and finish the submission. Lee, however, did not skip a beat, as he transitioned yet again to a triangle choke but deceptively only used the triangle position to finish Jorge with the armbar. It was a spectacular display of jujitsu from a striker.
The entire affair lasted all of 3 and a half minutes.
The stage was now set for a rematch between Murray and the Light Heavyweight champion, Tito Ortiz. Lee called him out immediately after his bout and the antithesis was clear; Lee, who walked out to the Octagon in an orange ‘prison-issued’ jump suit, playing the role of the gangster and Tito in the crowd, in a chic leather jacket and abercrombie shades sitting on top of his head, playing the role of the sheltered champion kept safe by the UFC up until that point.
This could have been the basis of Rocky 3 if it had happened 20 years earlier.
This fight would never materialize though as visa issues prevented Murray from re-entering the US to accept a follow up fight in the UFC.
When Lightning Strikes
Lee Murray had one more appearance in a cage in a bout against none other than Anderson “The Spider” Silva. He was unsuccessful, losing a unanimous decision to “The Spider”.
With a tough decision about where to go from there, Lee Murray was left with few choices. He allegedly chose to go back to the underworld that was responsible for his notoriety to begin with.
Lee Murray is suspected of being responsible for the largest known cash heist in history. Over 90 million dollars was stolen. If not for a tin of makeup with Lee M. written across it and the infamy of Lee Murray at that time in London, he may never have been identified. ‘Notorious’ before Conor Mcgregor ever even stepped foot into the octagon, the Lee Murray story is as intriguing as it gets.
Watch the full story of the heist below: