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Jordan Leavitt reacts after his TKO victory over Victor Martinez in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 25, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Jordan Leavitt Is Always Looking At The Bright Side

Thoughtful Lightweight Jordan Leavitt Hopes To Continue His Climb Through The Division At UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig

The wait to get back into the Octagon has been a long one for Jordan Leavitt, but when it comes to timing, the endlessly positive Las Vegan is choosing to look at the bright side of things.

“It was very frustrating, but the opponent I was supposed to fight, he had a really crazy, great performance, so maybe I got lucky,” Leavitt laughs, referring to Brazil’s Elves Brenner, who scored a Performance of the Night knockout over Kaynan Kruschewsky earlier this month.  

Leavitt was supposed to square off with Brener on July 1st, but “The Monkey King” was forced to pull out of a fight due to injury for the first time in his career. That made it a lousy summer for him professionally, but in life, he admits to needing some time off. And hey, if he’s going to hit his mark of 100 books read in 2023 (he was at 81 at press time), that time away from the sport was certainly necessary.

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And while his literary pursuits are blooming, so is his career after he picked up his own Performance of the Night bonus for a first-round knockout of Victor Martinez in February. That put the 28-year-old at 4-2 in the Octagon heading into Saturday’s matchup with Chase Hooper, and it’s also a sign that the lightweight prospect is not a flash in the pan, but someone gearing up to make some noise in one of the UFC’s historically toughest divisions, even if everyone isn’t convinced yet.

Jordan Leavitt reacts after his TKO victory over Victor Martinez in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 25, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jordan Leavitt reacts after his TKO victory over Victor Martinez in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 25, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“On one hand, I do think I'm finally getting some respect from my peers, but, on the other hand, with this matchup, I feel like me and Chase are both in this category where a lot of people don't take us seriously because of all the flash around us. So it's like, if I win this fight, does anyone change their opinion about me or am I just the best of the meme fighters that no one thinks are really fighters? I feel like for me and Chase, we're viewed very similarly. So it's kind of like the only thing exciting about this fight is the fight itself. I'm not exactly sure what either of us have to gain from it, honestly, but I think it's going to be a good time. I'm very excited and I'm happy to have the matchup because this is a matchup that's very intriguing. And I'm not sure how many other grappling specialists I'll be slated to go against in my career.”

We could end this story right now after that “meme fighters” mic drop from Leavitt, but we won’t because this is one of the best matchups on this weekend’s card at the APEX. Both Leavitt and Hooper have made headlines for social media antics, but on fight night, they’ve each shown glimpses of the talent that can take them far at 155 pounds. And yes, on paper, this is a grappling lover’s dream fight, but when that’s the case, sometimes a fistfight breaks out, and that’s just fine with Leavitt.

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“I'm never going to forget what I'm really good at, but I will say knockouts are way easier on the body than 15 minutes of the grappling exchanges and weird scrambles,” he said. “I was dancing after my fight with Victor. I went out to dinner with my corner and felt great. My knee hurt because I kneed him in the head, but I was like, he probably feels a lot worse than I did. So yeah, I see why a lot of grapplers are like, yeah, forget this grappling nonsense. It's way easier to go out there and get a knockout.”

Jordan Leavitt Scores TKO Win With First-Round Barrage | UFC Fight Night: Muniz vs Allen
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Jordan Leavitt Scores TKO Win With First-Round Barrage | UFC Fight Night: Muniz vs Allen
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So is this what Leavitt is chasing (pardon the pun) on Saturday? 

“I feel like me and Chase have had a very similar career trajectory,” said Leavitt. “We got to the UFC very early. We were both really known for just doing one thing and imposing our will in that respect, and then we're both coming off our best striking performances. So it's just really weird because I'm not sure if he's thinking, ‘Oh, this would be a fun grappling match,’ or thinking, ‘Oh, this is the time for me to get a knockout.’ So I don't know what he's going to plan to do and he doesn't know what I'm going to plan to do. And I like him. Chase is a really good guy. We make conversation whenever he is in town at the PI, and we're not close or anything, but I like him.”

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That doesn’t mean the two won’t get after it when it’s time for that business, and that’s what has many people following Leavitt’s path in the UFC and not just looking at him as a “meme fighter.” And yes, I will use that phrase as much as I possibly can for as long as I can.

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“As long as I can just be myself, people will think what they're going to think,” he said. “And they can think about me however they want to as long as my opponents take me seriously. And I promise they take me seriously because even if they think I'm a meme fighter, they know I'm a serious athlete, and they don't want to lose to someone who's not a serious athlete.”

Four wins in the UFC is as serious as it gets. And Jordan Leavitt wants more. 

“There's not too many people from my season of the Contender Series really left, especially in my weight class,” he said. “It's me and Natan (Levy), but a lot of people are already out of their contract and I'm still here, so it's kind of cool. I'm outlasting all my haters.”

Don't miss a moment of UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prelims start at 2pm ET/11am PT, while the main card kicks off at 5pm ET/2pm PT.