Last month saw 5-0 Sityodtong Los Angeles stand out Richard LeRoy treat Californian MMA fans to one of the most intense see-saw fights in recent memory (view here). A quarterfinal bout in the California Xtreme Fighting (CXF) CaliKings lightweight tournament, LeRoy faced first round KO specialist Jalin ‘The Tarantula’ Turner (4-2) in what CXF officials are already calling the ‘fight of the year’ – and with good reason.
“My last fight was insane,” LeRoy told The MMA Vanguard in an exclusive interview. “I fought Jalin Turner who is an absolute beast. He rocked me right away and put me in deep waters in the beginning of the first round. I don’t really remember much except for just trying to recover and hold on in the first two or three mins. From the video it looks like the fight was almost stopped about 3 times just in the first round!”
Richard isn’t exaggerating. Turner, who has needed less than five minutes to dispose of his first four professional opponents combined, looked on course to add LeRoy’s scalp to his already impressive résumé. Showing excellent counter striking and Muay Thai stylistics, the 6’3 Turner overwhelmed LeRoy early, landing punches and knees to score an early knockdown. LeRoy recovered, only to eat a pinpoint left-right-left-head kick combination, before being forced to cover up again after a right hook forced him into the foetal position against the fence. After recovering again, a brief flurry of offence backed Turner up, only for Jalin to drop LeRoy once more with a right hand, and follow it up with a perfectly timed head kick as Richard attempted to regain verticality.
Needless to say, many fighters would have been finished at this point and left with no case to argue. Remarkably, however, LeRoy hung tough. As he explains, the tide turned:
“After a failed flying triangle attempt by him I was able to mount him and gain some momentum with ground and pound,” LeRoy told us. On the back foot for the first time, then, Turner began to tire, and much of the style, speed and panache seemed to abandon him. Where previously his movement was outstanding, and his angles brilliantly inventive and unpredictable, Turner began to fall victim to LeRoy’s strikes on the feet. But with LeRoy having withstood so much damage, and having been fighting on sheer instinct and willpower for so long (as he’s only too happy to admit), you might have expected him to be in even worse shape. First round wars like that inevitably come at a huge cost to both fighters, but if Turner had emptied the tank somewhat, LeRoy had absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment.
It’s a testament to LeRoy’s outstanding heart and desire, then, that he took over, pressing Turner with increasing ferocity across the second and third rounds, rocking and wobbling him with rights and lefts, hurting him with knees to the body, and even scoring a highlight reel slam. Turner’s significant reach advantage, however, meant that straight punches were still a major threat, particularly after such a torrid first round for LeRoy. While he landed some good, accurate punches, LeRoy was establishing control of the fight, landing the greater volume and superior combinations, and even looked set to finish the fight with a tight armbar late on in the fight.
But now it was Turner’s time to gut it out. Refusing to tap, Turner would escape, but this time the pendulum would not swing back in his favour. Instead LeRoy established mount, hammering away with rights and lefts until referee Mike Beltran intervened with 42 seconds of the fight left to go.
It was breathless stuff, and a scintillating advert for talent in the state of California. Moreover, it was a statement of intent from the 27 year old Camarillo native, and an invite sent loud and clear to major MMA promotions the world over.
“I really had to dig deep in that fight, it was a test,” LeRoy told The MMA Vanguard. “I easily could have broken in that first round, but there was no way in hell I was going to go out like that. I work way too hard and sacrifice too much to just give up.”
Elaborating on those sacrifices, Richard told us about some of the trials he had faced outside the cage: “Leading up to the fight my Father was in the hospital for almost two weeks, so getting the win felt really good, and I know it lifted his spirits as well, so I felt a rush of emotions after the fight,” Richard laughs, probably referring to his cage-cling celebration! “It was a good feeling, but I was not feeling good about my performance. I felt like I could have done much better and avoided a lot of the damage I took. After the fight I received a lot of praise for the fight, and a lot of people told me it was the best fight they had ever seen. I still feel I could have done better, but the fight was a great learning experience and a true test of will”
While any top athlete will always have reservations regarding certain performances, what will perhaps come as no surprise is the fact that LeRoy has finished all five of his pro MMA bouts to date. Debuting in August 2014, LeRoy has established himself as one of the West Coast’s top prospects, and with the semifinals of the CXF CaliKings lightweight tournament looming large, Richard is one-third of the way to becoming one of the hottest properties on the independent scene.
His next opponent, who will be charged with the unenviable task of trying to top Turner’s performance, will be Darren “Hollywood” Smith. “I am fighting Darren Smith Jr August 19th in the next round of this tournament,” LeRoy told us. “I feel I have already beat the most dangerous person [Jalin Turner] in the mix. Darren is very tough and I respect him as a fighter. I feel I will beat him, and whoever else moves on to the final round, and I will beat them too. It was my dream to turn pro, and now I am 5-0 with 5 finishes, and I’m dreaming of having a nice shiny belt around my waist. So I will make that happen!”
So far, The MMA Vanguard sees little reason to doubt LeRoy. If he can make the adjustments he alluded to in his critical self-analysis, there’s no question he has the athletic gifts and offensive skill set to achieve that goal. But how, exactly, did LeRoy arrive at this point?
“I didn’t start training until I was 19,” LeRoy admits. “I had wrestled and played football in high school, but that’s it. I had gotten in fights as a kid and we always used to box to see who was the toughest kid around and I used to just knock them all out,” he laughs. “I was always a fan of boxing and MMA, so as time went on watching the sport, my desire to train grew stronger and stronger. I tried a BJJ class and fell in love with it and just never stopped after that. I started training my stand up as well, and it just went from there.”
Eight years later, LeRoy has a lot of respect for some of the coaches and trainers who helped get him where he is today. “The most influential people in My career are my two head coaches, Fernando Castillo and head coach Kru Walter Michalowski,” Richard told The MMA Vanguard. “Kru Walt is a former Muay Thai champion and bad ass, so he’s definitely a role model to me and someone I look up to and respect. My BJJ coach Fernando is a legit black belt and he’s like an older brother. He keeps my tools sharp and keeps me motivated in times that I feel the world is collapsing around me. We set the tone for what ‘Hard work and dedication’ really means.”
Hard work and dedication may as well be bywords for not only the Jalin Turner fight, but LeRoy’s career to date. Starting out with victories over debutants Adrian Bartree and Derion Chapman, LeRoy moved on to score a third round TKO over then 4-1 stand out Brandon Hastings. Nicknamed ‘The White Tiger’ Hastings displayed crisp stand up and useful movement, pushing then 2-0 Richard LeRoy further than ever before in his young career. LeRoy ate some solid combinations, delivering several of his own in response, before eventually meting out a TKO stoppage courtesy of a vicious overhand right with a minute to go. A couple of obligatory ground and pound punches added the exclamation point, and convinced CXF to try him out against 8 fight veteran Marlen Magee in April of this year.
3:11 of the very first round was the total time that had expired when LeRoy achieved the second submission victory of his career after the 2014 fight with Chapman. LeRoy duly received an invitation to the CXF CaliKings lightweight tournament, and the rest is history.
So what is next, outside of said tournament, for 5-0 lightweight Richard LeRoy?
“The most important moment to me as a fighter is the next fight I have. I beat Jalin, but that has nothing to do with the task I have in front of me now. And before I fought him my thoughts were… I beat Marlon, but that has nothing to do with the task I have in front of me. I just look at my mistakes, fix them the best I can, and move on to the next opponent. Keep growing, keep learning, and keep getting better,” he says, adding: “I can’t say what the future holds, but I can say that I’m dreaming big. I will win the CXF lightweight title, then I will see what the options are after that. I would love to fight for Bellator or UFC. My ultimate goal is to be UFC champion.”
So far, so good, then, for a talent that The MMA Vanguard will be keeping close tabs on going forward!