‘LIGHTNING’ Lee Murray is arguably the most talented mixed martial artist to come out of British shores, and inarguably the most controversial.
His exploits outside the ring are so colourful that they are being showcased in a proposed film project, ‘Breaking the Bank’.
Despite an MMA record of 8-2-1, which includes a host of spectacular KO’s courtesy of his super fast hands, his most famous battle is an alleged encounter on the street with the ‘Huntington Street Badboy’ Tito Ortiz.
This followed Murray’s one and only encounter in the UFC, an impressive first-round submission victory over Jorge Rivera, which took place in London.
Legend has it that Murray and Ortiz removed their jackets and went at each other tooth and nail. After Ortiz swung a left hook that missed Murray, the British fighter peppered the American’s face with a five-punch salvo, which knocked him out.
With Ortiz crashed out on the deck, Murray stomped on his face several times with his boot, before he was dragged away by a clutch of other fighters.
Although Ortiz claims this never happened, several MMA books have alluded to the incident, namely Matt Hughes’ biography ‘Made In America’ and ‘No Holds Barred’, by Clyde Gentry.
Murray’s last legitimate MMA fight was a hard fought decision loss to the current UFC middleweight king Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, in 2004 at Cage Rage 8.
Given ‘The Spider’s’ recent destruction of all before him in the octagon, Murray’s last showing, taking Silva the distance, offers some indication of just how much talent he had to burn.
He was one of the most exciting and feared strikers around, with half his victories coming by way of knockout (and that’s not including putting Ortiz to sleep!).
As well as lightning hands and a sledgehammer of a right fist, he was also capable of pulling a submission out of the bag within a blink of an eye.
Indeed, in his all-too-brief foray into MMA, he surely had one of the most exciting highlight reels on record, displaying a kind of killer instinct that was akin to a young Mike Tyson.
Way before Michael Bisping was flying the national flag in the UFC, Lee Murray could have been the bone fide superstar of British MMA.
All the more tragic then that his MMA career will always be remembered as a virtual side-note to his various out-of-ring shenanigans.
On September 28, 2005, Murray miraculously escaped death after he was stabbed several times in a brawl outside the Funky Buddha club in London during a party for topless model Lauren Pope.
He gave his account of brutal events that night in an interview with SubFighter.com:
“I was at a nightclub. I was with a few of my friends… we went to a casino and gambled and went to the club. Did a bit of partying. Come out of the club and there was a big fight that broke out outside the club between a group of guys and some guy that was with a friend of mine.
‘One of my friends got involved in the fight. I tried to help him because about six or seven guys was on one of my friends. That’s when I got stabbed. I got stabbed in the head first. I thought it was a punch. When I felt the blood coming down my face, I just wiped the blood and just continued to fight.
‘Next, I looked down at my chest and blood was literally shooting out of my chest. I looked down, and I knew I had been stabbed in the heart by the way the flow of the blood was coming out of my chest. It was literally flying out of my chest like a yard in-front of me.”
Murray was subsequently rushed to hospital suffering a punctured lung and a severed artery.
The doctor who performed life saving surgery on the MMA fighter said that Murray was resuscitated four times during the operation which saved his life, with nurses running bags of blood from the blood bank to the operating table.
This incident saw Murray’s name in the pages of many UK tabloid newspapers, a first for a mixed martial artist.
Some nine months later though, and the fighter would once again be back in the news headlines, this time involved in one of Britain’s biggest ever cash robberies.
On June 25, 2006, Murray, along with friend, so-called MMA expert Paul ‘The Enforcer’ Allen, was arrested in the Moroccan capital Rabat in connection with the £53 million Securitas raid, in Tonbridge, Kent, which took place on February 22, 2006.
Murray was later sentenced in a separate case to serve eight months in a Moroccan jail after he and three other Britons were found guilty of drug use and possession and of assaulting a police officer by the Sale criminal court near Rabat.
In addition to the eight-month sentence, Murray was ordered to pay a 10,000-dirham (900-euro).
As there is no extradition treaty between the UK and Morocco, Murray looked set to avoid the charges in connection with the robbery in England.
However in February 2007 prosecution officials held talks in London over exchanging the fighter for suspected terrorist Mohamed Karbouzi.
An extradition hearing in Morocco has been adjourned on several occasions, with the prosecution most recently reviewing a document submitted from Murray’s father proving that Murray, who holds a British passport, is also Moroccan.
‘The extradition of Moroccan Lee Murray is not possible if one respects Moroccan law, because it blocks extraditing a Moroccan citizen regardless of whatever he stands accused of,” Murray’s lawyer said.
It remains to be seen whether ‘Lightning’ Lee Murray will manage to escape the charges made against him in connection with the Securitas raid.
However, for the many that saw Murray in his pomp, the biggest crime is that he looks unlikely to take part in the sport of MMA ever again.