Lee Murray vs. Tito Ortiz. It’s one of many fights omitted from Lee Murray’s professional MMA record but one spoken and written about perhaps more than any other.
Based on eyewitness accounts, what we know for certain is that a testosterone and alcohol-fueled melee took place during the early hours of July 14, 2002. It happened shortly after UFC 38 concluded in London, England, and climaxed with Lee Murray and Tito Ortiz, then the UFC light-heavyweight champion, engaging in an impromptu Wild West showdown outside Chinawhite, a West End nightclub.
Rather than a fixed gaze, some spit on the floor, a flutter of fingers and a quick draw, however, Murray and Ortiz went straight for the jugular. Untidy and unruly, there were punches, there were kicks, and there were desperate pleas for the mayhem to stop. Apparently. Allegedly. According to so and so. Shhh.
Lee Murray, of course, tells it best.
Bloody Elbow: Tito Ortiz recently retired. What are your memories of him?
Lee Murray: The guy talks absolute shit. I heard when Bellator came to London he was there talking shit again, giving another version of what happened between me and him. This guy has more stories than Charles Dickens.
He even got his ex-Chihuahua Jenna Jameson to put her few words in. All you need to do is look at her and you can tell what type of man Tito is. Isn’t he now with another woman who takes off her clothes for money?
BE: What really happened to Ortiz after UFC 38 in London?
LM: He got smacked the f—k up, that’s what. Fair play to him, he can take a shot. He was down but still conscious. He would have been out cold, though, if it wasn’t for Pat Miletich and some of the other guys pulling me off him because I was soccer-kicking him in the face.
There was none of this “slippery dress shoes” or “sucker-punching” going on. There’s no truth to any of those bullshit stories that have come out of his mouth.
Here’s what happened. I took my coat off and passed it to my friend. Pat Miletich was holding Tito back at first, but I called him and said, “Tito, look, your pal!” I was laughing and pointing to his pal knocked out cold on the floor by my friend Paul.
Tito looked around and saw his pal on the floor sparked out cold. He went crazy trying to get to me and Pat was trying to defuse the whole situation. But, because I was taunting Tito and laughing, it re-sparked and Tito came towards me swinging punches. I slipped his punches and hit him with a three- or four-punch combo which sent him crashing to his hands and knees. I then kicked him in the face twice and Pat and some of the guys pulled me off. They said, “He is done. That’s enough.”
Then the police pulled up and everyone split.
At the time, Tito was the UFC champion and the biggest star in MMA. He felt embarrassed that he had got knocked out by someone who was not well-known on the MMA scene. Also, I only weighed 180 pounds and he was probably weighing 220 pounds.
I think Pat was quite shocked, too. I hadn’t seen Pat for eight or nine months and in that time I had started training regularly with my boxing coach, Terry Coulter, and my hands had really improved. Pat was shocked by the improvements. When Pat and the guys got the chance to do pad-work with Terry, they snapped it up. Terry is a great boxing coach and turned me into a wrecking machine.
I could have a hundred street fights with Tito and would win every single one of them. He doesn’t have a hope in the world of beating me in a stand-up fight. His only chance is getting me to the floor.
The funniest of his hundred different stories is the one where he said I ran from him. Lee Murray running from Tito Ortiz.That’s funny. He should be a f—king comedian now he is retired. The only running Lee Murray does on the streets of London is running the streets of London. So, don’t ever forget that, Mr. Tito, and thank God you got back to the USA in one piece.
BE: Do you hope to one day fight Ortiz in the cage with a referee and three judges?
LM: I would fight Tito wherever he wants. I would fight him on the f—king moon with NASA judging the fight. It makes no odds to me where it is. In a cage or ring, on the streets or in a prison yard, I’m ready whenever he is.
I know the fans have been waiting for this fight for years and I’m pretty sure Tito would jump out of retirement for it. It would be a big fight; a massive fight. As soon as I’m out, I’m ready when he is.
In the same way a magician encourages a wide-eyed child to pick a card, any card, Lee Murray, when riffing about street fights, opens his catalogue of chaos, allows you to flick through it, and then implores you to select one. Any one will do.
There are so many to choose from and each of them, each street fight, comes with an adrenaline rush – experienced first by the person involved and then by the person who hears of it second-hand – that can’t be matched by a regulated bout in a cage or ring. Hence our fascination.
Murray, aware of this curiosity, has not only perfected the art of the street fight but also the art of recalling street fights, remembering the finer details, and delivering exactly what a captive audience expect. As well as a streetfighter, he is a storyteller.
Bloody Elbow: How does fighting make you feel?
Lee Murray: I feel like I gain power and respect from fighting. Most people from the streets fight for that on the estates. They want to have some control over what goes down and what doesn’t.
That is why I started fighting. Before I walked through the gym doors for the first time, I never thought I was going to fight professionally. My intention was to train so that I could beat up some of the motherf—kers who used to try to f—k with me in the streets.
But I now know MMA is a saviour for me. It can save many youngsters and help get them off the streets. Today, it’s a lot worse than it was in my day. People kill each other at a much younger age and over absolutely nothing.
BE: What is your most memorable street fight?
The fight where I got stabbed in the heart was the most memorable. How could you forget it? But I have told you that story before so will tell you another. There are hundreds to choose from.
I was recently chatting to a friend and he reminded me of this one a few weeks ago. Mark Epstein went to Ireland to watch Charlie Ward fight in Bellator. Charlie is a friend of ours. Mark had a security company back in the day and ran a lot of doors in south-east London and often Charlie would come and help us out. He was a young, strong 20-year-old.
Anyway, my friend was telling me that after Charlie won his fight, Conor McGregor got into an argument with security. My friend then said, “Lee, do you remember when you knocked that security guard out cold?”
Here’s what happened. We were at the Circus Tavern for one of Lee Johnston’s MMA events. I can’t remember who I was cornering that night, but I remember a Brazilian fighter, maybe Ronaldo Campos, was in the main event.
I was watching the fights and noticed there was this security guard in one of the corners who was arguing with every cornerman. He was a cheeky motherf—ker. He would be grabbing people. But this prick was the only problem.
I went out to the changing area and while there, a fight erupted between that security guard and the Campos camp. I remember Ronaldo Campos came in to the changing area and his head was bleeding.
So, I went out to see what had happened. I was then told the security guard had kicked off with the Campos camp and smacked him on the head with a bottle. Now Ronaldo Campos couldn’t fight due to having his head split open. The main fight was called off. I told Paul, “If this security guy tries that shit with us, it’s on him.”
Paul and I went out to corner our fighter. Then the security guard started shouting at me in an aggressive way, telling me I should sit down. I retorted, “Do yourself a favour, mate, and f—k off.” He then rushed over and was like, “What did you f—king say?”
This guy had been looking for a fight all night. And now he was about to find one.
My response was a left hook from hell. I felt his face crush when it landed, and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. After that, I looked up and his pal came running over. I then hit him with a straight right and he went flying, too. The third security guard arrived to scrape the others off the floor.
I hit the first guy with so much anger. I knew this piss-taker had been fighting with everyone all night and then he bottled the main fighter on the card and was still looking for beef.
Lee Johnston rang me later that night and told me they had taken the security guard to hospital to have his jaw wired. “Good,” I said. “He can drink soup for a month.”
Why do heavyweights lift weights to increase muscle mass and then think it makes them tough and able to fight? Ninety percent of my street fights have been with heavyweights. That’s possibly how I managed to break my hands eight times and had three pins and two dislocations. One fight left me with an injury that meant I was in hospital for two weeks — longer than when I was stabbed in the heart. I had another fight with a pin in my finger and almost had to have the finger amputated because it was so badly infected. I needed antibiotics pumped into my veins.
Alexis, when he turned up at the hospital after my stabbing, was told by a doctor, “He is stable and we have finished operating on him, but we think his hands are badly broken so we’ll send him to get an x-ray.” Alexis told them, “No, there is nothing wrong with his hands. That’s how they normally look – like a big bag of nuts.”
BE: What’s the craziest story you have heard about yourself that isn’t true?
LM: I have heard many stories about me that are not true. But I wouldn’t say they were crazy stories. Mostly it’s the media stories that are written about me. Probably 90 percent of them are not true.
When I was stabbed, for example, they wrote that ‘Mr. Big’ sent someone to stab me. I laughed. Who is this phantom ‘Mr. Big’ the media refer to a lot? I’m dying to meet him. They should make their mind up. One minute Mr. Big is coming to get me; the next I am Mr. Big. Which is it?
I was stabbed by a f—king little maggot. A little nobody. He shit his pants, fled the country and begged for his life when he realised who he had stabbed. Hardly Mr. Big. He had also stabbed a couple of my friends that night. One person had five stab wounds, and another was stabbed in the kidney.
Probably the biggest bullshit the media wrote about me was when they wrote that I had beaten a poor old man half to death in a road rage incident on Christmas Day. This story has been repeated many times, so I’ll clear it up once and for all.
I cut in front of a car while driving and the driver of the car then proceeded to chase me – flashing and trying to ram my car off the road. When my car stopped, he reversed into me numerous times. At this point I got out the car and things went downhill for him.
He was a bully who had done this many times to other road users. It just so happened that on that day his luck ran out. Let’s be clear: this was no poor, innocent man. He had multiple convictions for road rage and had even served time in prison for road rage.
Unsurprisingly, the prosecution failed to disclose this at the trial, because it would have blown their poor, innocent victim’s story to bits. Either way, the jury didn’t buy his story and I was subsequently found NOT GUILTY of all charges.
Another regular story that circulated was one alleging I used cocaine before I was arrested in Morocco. Now, anyone who knows me knows I was always shouting at my friends for using that stuff. I hate that shit. Last time I used drugs I was 19 years old. I got out of prison at 20 and have never done drugs since.
If people need to know something about me, I will tell them the truth. There are no lies in me. Only scared people tell lies and I am far from scared. I was quite pissed off when the media made me out to be some f—king coke head. Cocaine is for the weak and weak is not in my nature.
‘The Real Notorious’ is a seven-part series with Lee Murray.