MattS – Recently there have been a couple of events on the MMA circuit which have been controversial in the way that they’ve used a celebrity referee such as the WCFC event where they used Mike Tyson. What do you feel about using celebrities along to the fights do you think it detracts from the fighting and the fighters themselves or do you think that with maybe in the case of certain celebrities like Mike bring in the wrong type of fan?
LR – <Laughs>, ummmm, <laughs again.>
MattS – Get the tricky ones out of the way first
LR – Totally out of the blue wasn’t it. Right lets try to address these in order. Mike Tyson I think having him as a referee, I don’t think there’s a problem with that. Obviously he’s been fighting all of his life, he knows the game, people say ‘it’s not boxing’ it doesn’t matter, he’s a fighter, he knows the game. That’s not a problem. I think that if you had someone like Michael Barrymore reffing a show that might be different. I mean he doesn’t know … well he does know about how to take someone’s back I suppose.
MattS – Laughs, passing the guard, getting into the mount.
LR – He knows how to fight on his knees in Ju-jitsu and all that. I don’t about this going into the magazine but right. To be honest I think at the moment you can see the potential of some sports. If you look at football it’s huge, if you look at boxing it’s big, if you look at Rugby it’s big but MMA remains tiny. I think that there is the market out there and until we crack it we have to do all we can. If it’s bringing in these celebrities just on the events and that helps sell tickets and gets people to realise that MMA is a legitimate sport and it’s entertaining and gets the crowd in then do it.
MattS – Okay. You get some elements in the crowd who can’t necessarily appreciate the grappling, they start booing for example. This seems to be more and more common as they’re promoting it as bone on bone, blood, knockouts, battered and bruised and lost teeth and the general media are picking up on this and promoting it that way as well. Do you think they need a different way of promoting it so that people can understand you’re big lads who have come off the street to beat each other up but you’re highly skilled athletes, the grappling in itself is a highly skilled sport but it’s just part of your repertoire and that it’s a vital part of the sport because otherwise you’re just doing ‘bare knuckle boxing’.
LR – I disagree. I think the fans are getting more and more educated, at least in the bigger shows. In the smaller shows it still happens I think because you’ve got some less experience fighters on the show and a lot of them are maybe just the local hard man or guy that’s got a lot of local fan support and they just want to see a good scrap. But I think on the big shows a lot of those guys are proper fans who go to the events like ‘Cage Rage’, ‘Cage Warriors’, those big ones, FX3, you see the fans appreciate when they bring in these fighters like Vito Belfort when he came to ‘Cage Rage’ the audience went crazy, they all knew who he was and I think that when you see guys pulling off these super-slick armbars they do appreciate it now. I think we’re getting a lot better recognition I think the promoters are doing really well on that side of things.
And by the same token I kind of agree that if there’s two guys rolling around on the ground doing nothing I’d boo them too! (Laughs).
MattS – What actually attracted you to the ring? For anyone stepping into any sort of tournament format is a big step whether it’s semi-contact or light continuous all the way up to the big boy side of things. What actually got you into the ring in the first place?
LR – To be honest all the lights, all the fans, all the TV stuff put me off a bit. Ever since I was a little kid, before I could walk I just wanted to fight it’s the way I was. I naturally wanted to fight people. It’s just something that fascinated me. Some people are fascinated with trains or cars, just fighting, no-holds-barred fighting fascinated me. And I studied different martial arts. I was always told ‘if you enter competition you can’t do this’. I did my Tae Kwon Do and I got to black belt and I was told right you can’t punch to the face or you can’t do this.
MattS – Was that WTF?
LR – Yes.
MattS – Bad Lad.
LR – <laughs> I didn’t really enter too many Tae Kwon Do competitions I entered Freestyle Karate from a TKD background but you can’t kick to the thighs. What if I did? I could win the fight. I always used to think ‘What if I could’ or like how about if I had to fight a boxer would I be able to stop him punching me in the face? And so when the NHB came along I thought “Ah, this is fucking excellent”. I first heard of Shoot fighting in Japan I heard they were mixing kickboxing with wrestling and though that sounded really good and then the UFC was happening and you saw those sort of fights and it was NHB and I thought that’s brilliant that’s what we need to tried and do if we want to find out how to really fight, you know what really works and the techniques we were wasting our time with. I was in Vancouver visiting family and some events were being held up there and I thought I’d have a go. I did pretty good, had a couple of scraps and at the time it was NHB, the bare knuckle stuff but it wasn’t as bad as scrapping on the street because you had a referee you know and the guy was approximately your size within a stone or so.
MattS – They’re looking to hurt you rather than looking to injure.
LR – Yeah, you’re both looking to win. You knew if you were in that much trouble you could tap out. I think it would be disgusting to tap out if you’re being punched or something but you knew if your arm was going to break or if you got your arm broken you could tap out you know.
MattS – Gracious of you <laughs>
LR – <laughs>
MattS – I can just see you grounding and pounding someone ‘no, you’re not tapping out mate’
LR – I think if you’re not unconscious and nothing’s broken why would you tap? I’m not trying to sound like a hard arse or anything. No, I’m not. I think if you’re in a fight you’re in it to win and if you’re not in immediate danger why would you give up if you’ve got a chance of winning?
Anyway, I got into it that way and I did pretty well and it evolved into the mixed martial arts. You know it used to be No Holds Barred then it become the mixed and they started to bring in the rules and stuff but that didn’t really bother me too much because it suited my style anyway so having the extra rules didn’t really make a difference, a little bit but it wasn’t much of a transition so I just stuck at it and it’s something I was successful at like someone who’s good at football and they stick at it. I enjoyed, I was good at it and I stuck at it.
MattS – So what were the reasons behind you retirement?
LR – Well, we decided we were going to get married and have a little ‘un and that was it.
MattS – Family responsibilities
LR – I don’t earn enough money through fighting because I train for over two months for a fight so I fight every 3 months maximum and if I get injured then I can’t fight at all and I don’t earn enough fighting four times a year to support a family so it would mean the compromise would be (and I’m unwilling to make any compromise) the compromise would be to work full-time and train part time but I wouldn’t do that again because when I started training full-time it made such a difference and I could really start fighting high-calibre guys and the guys that I would like to fight I would need to train full-time for. Or the other option is two … mind’s gone blank actually.
MattS – It would be work part-time train full-time is the other isn’t it?
LR – Sorry, no, back on track, edit that out. I haven’t eaten much, just had that Thai food. The other option would be to fight like every month and I can’t do that. I would be too full of injuries and I want to give the fight 100%.
MattS – Quality not quantity
LR – Yeah. I want to train properly for a fight; I’m not willing to compromise on my training. That would be it. I’m not willing to compromise on the amount of time I can train for a specific fight. I want to give it the best I can do and by training full-time I can do that and anything else I can’t. It’s all or nothing is the way I see it.
MattS – So what are you actually doing now then?
LR – Err, <laughs> some people might find it a bit humorous. I’m a safety engineer. I’m working at the moment on the London Underground. If you have an accident on the Circle Line I’m to blame. <laughs>
MattS – I hear you’re going to be writing for the mags. Is it writing for Fighters or Combat do you know?
LR – Err, I’m not sure to be honest.
MattS – Have you got any angle you’re looking to follow? Was this through you being approached or was it you approaching them?
LR – Right, I’ve been asked to write for a couple of other magazines first of all so I started giving some thought and I wrote a couple of articles and they were published so I thought ‘oooh that’s quite good’ because I never really pursued writing I used to hate writing essays. I’m an engineer now that’s the path I followed I did maths and physics and sciences.
The furthest I ever did in my education towards writing was an ‘A’ in GSCE English which I was really proud of but then I dropped it because it didn’t interest me I don’t like writing but that was a long time ago and I got asked to write these articles and I thought ‘I’ll give it a go’ I’ve posted quite a lot on the internet and because it was something I enjoyed, it wasn’t like writing about something like the Romans. Because it was MMA I actually really enjoyed it. I wrote two articles and both got published and I was quite happy with that. Paul Clifton he grabbed me at Seni yesterday and we had a chat and he seemed like a nice bloke and he started talking about the magazine and said if I ever needed anything to let him know so I said well as it goes I’ve had a go at writing a couple of articles if you ever need any articles done let me know so we’ve had a sit down and he liked the idea and I liked the idea. I don’t which magazine I’m going to be writing on but I think I’m going to be doing an article or two in the near future hopefully.
MattS – Are they going to be technical, philosophical, what sort of angle are you going to take?
LR – I’m going to try to be humble and arrogant at the same time here. I know a lot about MMA. I can write pretty much anything on MMA from any angle. I know it inside and out and I know the training for it inside and out. However that is all I know. MMA is all I know so if you want anything on anything else it’s not going to happen. I couldn’t tell you much about Karate, diddly squat about Aikido but MMA is what I know so it could be technical it could be, maybe, different training articles, conditioning, dieting, who to contact when looking for fights. I don’t know, maybe a Q&A section, maybe some fight reports and maybe some interviews for other fighters.
MattS – So can you see yourself entering the ring at a later date? If the opportunity arose, someone like Kiane came along and challenged you rather than Tank Abbot?
LR – He’s pretty big isn’t he. Apparently he’s got this muscle in his jaw, he can’t get knocked out he says.
MattS – Yeah, he offered to get punched in the interview recently, he didn’t hit him hard enough the first time so he hit him again and it still didn’t knock him out. Maybe you could work on the muscles.
LR – That’s amazing but I don’t recommend he tries that in his fight with Tank Abbot but you never know. Am I going to fight again? To be honest I earn pretty well as an engineer, the writing’s a bit of fun just to stay in the sport that I love realistically I couldn’t earn enough money as a fighter to support my family I’ve had to relocate so I can a new job, we’ve just bought a new house, got the baby and that, yeah to be honest I couldn’t earn enough money. I mean, if I get offered a ridiculous amount of money to fight then maybe but \I don’t think that’s going to happen.
MattS – <turning to Leigh’s wife> How do you feel watching Leigh fight?
Mrs R – Well because I train myself, that’s how we met, I started doing a bit of grappling at the gym where he was coaching. But since I actually train I really enjoy watching him fight, I think it’s fantastic. I much prefer him to be a fighter than an engineer but as he says fighting doesn’t pay the bills. So when he did retire it was quite disappointing but you know it’s still good to see him training in a bit of judo and that but other than that I just love it when he fights and he makes me really proud.
MattS – On the coaching side of thing are you maybe going to look to coach?
LR – To be honest as far as the training goes I’ve moved right away from it. I don’t really have the time. I want to teach people really. If something came up I might start but it’s not something that really interests me that much I’m happy to if people want to do a little bit I’m happy to help out but I don’t want to dedicate myself. I think that any students I had I’d be doing a disservice to them because I couldn’t dedicate myself to them to help them train and at the moment I’m already dedicated so I wouldn’t want to let anyone down and I think that that’s what would be happening. As far as training goes I’m doing a little bit of kickboxing, a little bit of judo nothing serious, just in the evenings. Just to keep fit and to keep me sane. But I’ve totally moved away from it. It’s a shame but I’ve got to pay the bills.
Thanks for the interview!
MattS – Since we last met you’ve decided to go back into teaching. What made you change your mind?
LR – Well, I met some people at the Seni and when I saw all the martial arts, I felt I couldn’t just stop something that I’ve been involved in my whole life
MattS – How much potential do you think there is out there?
LR – In what regards? Fighter potential? I think we have some great prospects and the UK will be a big name on the MMA map
MattS – You’re very much a ‘give it 100%’ man. Are you going to test the water or just plunge straight in and go full-time?
LR – Well, I have just moved to a new area but if there is an interest I will give it 100% and really try to introduce MMA to as many people as possible
MattS – Can we expect a Remedios Gym in the near future? Will you base your teaching in Chippenham or are you looking to travel as well?
LR – I currently work full time, so I don’t really have time to travel if I want to spend any time with the family. I would love to open a full time gym – I’m happy to teach and train all day everyday – but I not really looking that far ahead yet. Just going to start a small club for now and see how it goes.
MattS – Can we expect a seminar circuit from you?
LR – I have done quite a few seminars in the past, although it’s obviously harder now that I have a full time job
MattS – Will you be able to resist the lure of the crowd once your fighters start entering events and can we expect to see you change your mind and come out of retirement?
LR – It’s already pretty hard – I almost hate going to shows now that I’ve retired!