At one point, the impression many got from Jordan Leavitt was that the Las Vegan was simply passing through the fight game, that there were going to be another hundred avenues he would explore as he got older.
And there probably will be. But for now, when you hear him talk about his stay in the UFC’s lightweight division, it’s abundantly clear, even without him coming out and saying it, that he’s here for a reason. Not just for the experience or to have something cool to tell his grandkids someday. No, Leavitt is here to win. Every. Single. Time.
Of course, perfect records aren’t a regular occurrence in the fight game and Leavitt has felt that sting before, against Claudio Puelles in 2021 and then last July against Paddy Pimblett. That’s okay. It’s not about taking a loss, it’s about accepting it, and Leavitt simply won’t. I joke with him, calling it his superpower.
“There was no scenario where I would've preferred to lose and have that man drop his butt on me,” said Leavitt of the Pimblett fight. “That was the worst possible thing that could have happened to me at that moment. But I made peace with that before I went out there. My worst-case scenario was he knocks me out, I break my face, I crap myself, he twerks, he drops his butt on me, everyone boos me, everyone hates me. And that didn't happen. So for me, it's like, yeah, I guess my superpower is I'm comfortable, I'm happy with whatever happens to me in my life because I feel that deep in my core, we get what we deserve. And I feel like a lot of these fighters are playing a finite game. They view every fight camp and every fight as one journey. But I'm doing my entire fight career as one giant big picture. And I just know in my bones it's going to end in a happy way. So I can go into this fight career with a sense of peace and happiness because I know that the end of the story's got to be amazing because the build-up’s been just wondrous to me.”
If you haven’t been following the journey of “The Monkey King” since he earned a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020, suffice to say that you’ve been missing out. Sure, he’s shown his potential to make some noise in the 155-pound weight class thanks to wins in three of his five UFC bouts, but it’s his personality and approach to the game that make him one of the most interesting fighters in the game, as well as the most well-read, as he logged 100 books completed and documented for 2022 on his YouTube channel.
Thankfully, the Pimblett fight did get him the most attention of his career, before, during and after his visit to the O2 Arena in London, England.
“I definitely learned a lot about myself,” he said of the Pimblett experience. “It was a mad house. I'm not sure any fighter’s ever really been booed as much as I was. (Laughs) So that was cool. And I always wondered in the back of my head, okay, I don't get nervous for fights, but what if it's a big fight with a lot of attention, a lot of stakes? I'm like, what if I'm nervous then? Because you never know until you're in that type of situation. But then I got there, I'm walking out, and I'm enjoying myself and I'm like, I'm one of those people that the pressure doesn't get to me. And that's a really exciting thing for me to know because I always wondered that if the stakes are at their highest, would I be able to pull through it? And I know that I perform and feel just as comfortable in front of 30,000 people that hate my guts as I am in front of a small crowd at the APEX. So it was nice to know.”
On Saturday, Leavitt is back in the APEX for the sixth time when he faces Victor Martinez. It’s a far cry from London when it comes to a packed house cheering (and booing), but Leavitt doesn’t mind a home game, and when it comes to attention, he will have a lot more eyes on him thanks to last summer’s fight.
“I do think in the long run that's going to be a very good thing,” Leavitt said of the exposure he received the last time out. “After the fight, and even now, I still get messages and whatnot talking about how people noticed me for that fight. And though it's not the thing you ever want to hear, I get a lot of compliments about how I handled that loss. You never want to have to show how you can handle a loss. But a lot of people really liked how much energy I put into the pre-fight hype stuff and how I made the fight a little bit more interesting. It helped create a story. So I really think, in the long run, it will help out a lot of things.”
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So maybe the saying is true, that you either win or learn. If it is, Jordan Leavitt will give it to you straight, because in a game not known for telling it like it is, the 27-year-old is quite an honest man.
“I think it's difficult to be honest,” he admits. “Because a lot of these people don't have the belief in themselves. I know when I first got to the UFC, I had a really bad case of imposter syndrome. I didn't think I really deserved everything that I got. Am I just lucky or am I good? And then as the career goes on, I've become more and more sure of myself. So I feel like I've gained the ability to be more honest with every fight because I don't need to lie to myself to go out there. I can fight, I can handle this, I can handle the pressure, he's never fought a person like me. I know those things are true. So it's not a lie when I say it. And I'm never going to try to fool the fans or fool anybody about how I'm feeling.”