UnderGround Forums The Legend of Lightning Lee Murray

2/11/20 1:13 PM
Posts: 22786

Lee Murray is the great British "What If?". His MMA career was over before we really got to see him excel at the highest levels. Murray was tall, in great shape and had devastating knockout power. I hadn't watched his fight with Anderson Silva in a long time. I always remembered it being a walkover for Anderson. But having rewatched it, Murray did much better than I initially thought. 

But before we talk about Lee Murray v Anderson Silva, we need to roll back. Murray had been training at London Shootfighters, which at the time was one of the premier MMA gyms in the UK. He was also training at a local boxing gym to have somewhere to focus purely on his hands. With his tall frame, long reach and heavy hands - Murray excelled.

While it's normal now for MMA fighters to spend some years in the gym building their skills in all areas before they fight - in the 90's and 00's, it was normal to learn as you fought. Especially in Europe, where our grappling ability lacked considerably in comparison with the US and Brazil. So it wasn't uncommon to see many top fighters lose some fights earlier in their career by submission, as they found their feet in the cage. 

Murray won his first three fights. After only a year of fighting professionally, Murray took on Joe Doerksen at Extreme Challenge 34 in June of 2000. Doerksen was a savvy grappler and submitted Murray with a kimura in the first round. A video of the fight used to be available online, but I can't seem to find it anymore. When you lose a fight, you can either cry about it or learn from it. Murray chose the latter. 

A year later, Murray would be matched up against Chris Bacon. Bacon was a 10-1 professional boxer and accomplished Judoka, medalling in the Commonwealth games. A real test for Lightning Lee. The fight would end in a draw. 

He would win his next 3 fights with ease. But it was his fight outside the cage with Tito Ortiz that garnered him some notoriety in the MMA community. UFC had come to the UK for the first time in history at UFC 38 in July of 2002. It was around this time that I started getting seriously interested in MMA as UFC began to air on television here.

At the time, Tito Ortiz was the light heavyweight champion in the UFC. Ortiz had looked unstoppable since his loss to Frank Shamrock - and had secured wins over Wanderlei Silva, Yuki Konda, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic and Vladimir Matyushenko. There were lots of debates at the time on who was the best light heavyweight on the planet, but very few arguments could have been made against Tito being the man. 

Events of what happened vary depending on who you ask. The general story is that Pat Miletich and a member of Tito's crew were play-fighting outside with some grappling exchanges. What started as as a friendly wrestling match quickly turned serious. The fight spiralled out of control, with one of Tito's friends getting knocked out by one of Lee Murray's friends. 

At some point in the madness, Tito Ortiz and Lee Murray were taking off their jackets and squaring up to each other. According to Pat Miletich, Ortiz swing at Murray - which missed. Murray responded with a 5 punch combo that put the then Light Heavyweight Champion of the UFC out cold. 

Tito Ortiz's recollection of the events are different. According to him, he chased Murray and as Murray turned to face him to plant his feet, Ortiz slid on the concrete and took a punch to the head which momentarily dropped him, but didn't put him out cold. 

We'll never fully know what happened, but the story was enough to make Lee Murray infamous in the MMA community. Threads popped up everywhere trying to find out more about the fight. Potential bouts in the UFC were brought up, but up to that point - Lee was not signed with the UFC, so it just was fantasy matchmaking as per usual.

It's one thing to make a name through the rumour-mill, but it's another to actually do it in MMA. In July of 2003, Lee Murray would face his biggest name opponent in MMA to that date. The legendary Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons. The original bad boy of Chute Boxe. 

Pele had an impressive resume - with wins over then UFC Weltwerweight champion Matt Hughes and former WW champion Pat Miletich. He was a striker, and a particularly good one. But not good enough as Murray knocked him out cold in the second round. 

Lee was now regarded as a legit contender in MMA. Something that was a rarity in British MMA at the time, given they were still in their infancy stages of the sport. After his win - the combined hype of the Pele win and the street fight with Ortiz, Lightning Lee Murray was signed with the UFC. 

Edited: 2/11/20 1:14 PM
Posts: 22787

His first and only fight in the UFC was at UFC 46 against Jorge Rivera, on the undercard of Vitor Belfort and Randy Couture. The event included a who's who of names. BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, Carlos Newton, Frank Mir, GSP and Matt Serra. But few could argue that the debut of Lee Murray was one of the most hyped discussions surrounding the event. 

Murray's opponent, Jorge Rivera was a tough brawler from Boston who had made his own UFC debut a year earlier, with a win over David Louiseau. The win over Louiseau at the time was considered a solid win for Rivera. There were many questions surrounding Lee Murray. Yeah, he had knockout power - but as a Brit in the early 2000's - how would his grappling hold up? Rivera was determined to test it. 

As the fight began, Rivera was clearly cautious of Murray's hands. He threw a punch at Murray and then lowered levels to try take Murray down, pushing him up against the cage. He would eventually secure a bodylock and put Murray on his back, ending up in Murray's half-guard. Murray regained full guard as Rivera put on the pressure. As Lee Murray pushed Jorge Rivera back with his feet to make space, Rivera dived back into his guard - where Murray setup an armbar. He then transitioned to a triangle-armbar tapping Rivera out at 1:45 of the very first round. "Well-rounded Lightning Lee Murray shows he's got ground skills!" screamed Joe Rogan, as Lee climbed the cage to celebrate his victory. 

What should have been the start of a long UFC career for Murray was over as quickly as it began. Due to issues from an ongoing criminal prosecution, Murray was unable to secure a visa to return to the UFC. Released from his UFC contract, he signed with Cage Rage, which was then the premier MMA organisation in the UK. On September 11th of 2004, he squared off against Anderson Silva at Cage Rage 8. While Anderson was well known and respected by most hardcore MMA fans, he was still not the big name he would become in the UFC years later. 

Anderson was another protegé of the infamous Chute Boxe academy, but had recently switched to the Brazilian Top-Team after becoming disillusioned with MMA following a loss to Daiju Takase. Under the wing of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Anderson's skillset became more complete. 

The fight was a difficult one to predict. The purists gave the edge to Anderson, while the casuals thought the power of Lee would be too much. I remember edging towards Silva, after his win over Jeremy Horn. 

As the fight began, both fighters took the centre of the cage. They were clearly cautious about each other's standup ability, with neither committing at the opening of the fight. Murray started to close the distance, swinging a wild punch that missed. Anderson soon returned with a powerful kick that sent Murray flying back, following it up with an outside reap to take Murray down. The fight returned to its feet, with Anderson pressing Murray with a body lock and throwing foot stomps against Lee up against the cage. 

As the round progressed, Murray tried to find his distance - unable to land anything meaningful on Silva. Anderson again landed another powerful kick, followed by a knee. He then secured his infamous clinch against Murray, driving another knee into Murray. Murray swung a hook, to try retaliate, but Anderson sucked under and pressed for a takedown, eventually pulling guard when he was unable to secure it. This is probably the first time I've ever seen Anderson Silva pull guard in a fight. As Murray was in Silva's guard, he would eventually pick Anderson up into the air and slam him back to the mat - much to the delight of the British fans.

As Anderson worked to try secure a leg or a sweep, Murray pulled back cautiously to make some distance. Anderson followed him to his feet and put Murray back on the mat with a double-leg. The round ended with Anderson on top of Murray, but both fighters had each other's respect. We had a true fight on our hands.  

The second round began similar to the first, with both fighters weary of each other's power on the feet. Both fighters traded leg kicks, following by a high kick by Anderson which was blocked. Murray was gaining his confidence. Any questions about him being good enough to be in a cage with Anderson Silva faded as every second passed. Murray pressed the action with some punches, which turned into a war with both fighters swinging for the hills at each other, with Anderson eventually pulling-guard from another failed takedown. As Anderson tried to setup some submissions, Murray once again stood up to make distance. Anderson seemed content laying on his back, but was stood back up at the referee's request. 

Anderson regained some points later in the round with some strikes, but as the bell rang - it could have gone either way.

As the bell for the final round tolled, Anderson seemed to have a better command of timing and distance. He hit Murray with a kick-punch combo that hurt him, sending him to his back. Anderson pressed Murray with strikes from the top as Lee tried to regain composure. The referee eventually stood Lee up. As the time counted down, Silva became more confident - ducking under a Murray combo, to secure a takedown as the buzzer sounded off for the end of the fight.


And while Anderson would go on to get the decision, Lee Murray gained a lot of respect in the MMA community for his performance. It would be his last fight in MMA, but certaintly not his last ever fight. Murray was known as much for his brawls outside the cage as he was inside the cage. In September of 2005, almost a year to the day of his fight with Anderson - Murray was stabbed during a brawl outside a party in London. He had sustained a punctured lung and severed artery and was fighting for his life in an intensive care unit. Murray almost died from his injuries, saved only by the hard work from the doctors and nurses that tended to him. 

A few months later in February of 2006, having recovered from his attack - Lee Murray took part in one of the largest heists in history stealing £53 million ($92 million) from a Securitas cash depot in Kent. Murray who had Moroccan citizenship through his father fled to Morocco a few days later, but was eventually apprehended and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His sentence was later lengthened to 25 years. At 42 years of age and 15 years left of his sentence - it's safe to say that Lightning Lee Murray will never compete in MMA again. His career will be remembered as the great British "What If". How far could Lee Murray have gone? I guess we'll never know. 

2/11/20 1:15 PM
Posts: 22788

2/11/20 2:13 PM
Posts: 6165

Oh. THIS thread again. 

2/11/20 2:13 PM
Posts: 6166

Kidding aside, this is well done Job. Nice work. 

2/11/20 2:22 PM
Posts: 1727

If the money in the UFC was as it is now he would have never done that robbery. He was legit skilled fighter back in those days.

And yes he did knock Tito out

2/11/20 2:24 PM
Posts: 1959

I was at both the Anderson and Pele fights. The Pele fight in particular was INTENSE.

2/11/20 3:03 PM
Posts: 109312

Great post but I can't believe you described the Tito fight without mentioning dress shoes or the filthy streets of London :) 


Skelboy, we miss you. 

2/11/20 3:26 PM
Posts: 6167
ferox -

Great post but I can't believe you described the Tito fight without mentioning dress shoes or the filthy streets of London :) 


Skelboy, we miss you. 

Am I crazy, or have I not seen a ferox post forever. I might be wrong. 

2/11/20 3:41 PM
Posts: 2906

The Crime in Sports podcast Episode 39 on Lee was top notch!!



2/11/20 4:46 PM
Posts: 7673

Subbed....op is on fire lately.

2/11/20 5:10 PM
Posts: 1436
ValeTudo 1 -

If the money in the UFC was as it is now he would have never done that robbery. He was legit skilled fighter back in those days.

And yes he did knock Tito out

I think it was Chael Sonnen that I heard talk about it, he said Chuck Liddell told him the story about that night, as he was there too. According to Chael, Chuck said that Tito didn't get knocked out that night -- that he got hit and slipped in his fancy dress shoes, and popped right back up.

Which makes me ask, why would Chuck lie for Tito, when they don't really like each other? Perhaps Tito really didn't get knocked out, just knocked on his butt for a second.

Or, maybe Chael was lying about Chuck lying about Tito lying about his fancy dress shoes.

2/11/20 5:13 PM
Posts: 798

Hope he gets out, don't like seeing people in jail with a solid future. 


2/11/20 5:14 PM
Posts: 22789
ferox -

Great post but I can't believe you described the Tito fight without mentioning dress shoes or the filthy streets of London :) 


Skelboy, we miss you. 

If it isn't Mr. Pikeys in Nikes himself. Long time no see Ferox. How's she cutting?

2/11/20 6:50 PM
Posts: 6169
Tigerbythetail -

Hope he gets out, don't like seeing people in jail with a solid future. 


A solid future of crime. Fuck that guy. His MMA career wouldn't have gone much further, imo. He was talented, but never champ material. 

2/12/20 1:27 AM
Posts: 13281

Could you imagine if the UFC set up a fight with  Murray and "prime" Nick Diaz?!

The pre-fight hype would've been out of this world! It would've been Conor/Nate looong before Conor/Nate. And I'm sure the fight itself would've been absolute fireworks!

2/12/20 4:25 AM
Posts: 488

He was exciting for sure 

2/12/20 6:47 AM
Posts: 1595

He was also well known here in the UK for being a bona fide fucking animal in the criminal underworld, every cunt was terrified of him, and not just for his hand to hand capabilities.

2/12/20 7:01 AM
Posts: 109313
ferox -

Great post but I can't believe you described the Tito fight without mentioning dress shoes or the filthy streets of London :) 


Skelboy, we miss you. 

If it isn't Mr. Pikeys in Nikes himself. Long time no see Ferox. How's she cutting?

Tá mé go maith. 

2/12/20 10:08 PM
Posts: 755


2/12/20 10:10 PM
Posts: 20158

In for later....love your write ups JOB. thank you very much for posting

2/12/20 11:12 PM
Posts: 3305


2/13/20 12:44 PM
Posts: 4823


2/13/20 1:17 PM
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Edited: 2/13/20 2:40 PM
Posts: 24348

Story isn't complete without a picture of Lee's UFC mural: