During a glittering MMA career, he brought Anderson Silva through three rounds before losing out on a decision. Outside the octagon, he knocked-out former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz in a street fight, survived multiple stabbings, and masterminded the United Kingdom’s biggest ever bank heist. Here is the amazing story of Lee Murray.
Dana White said of Murray in 2008:
“He is a scary son of a bitch, and I don’t mean fighter-wise.”
In 2004, Cage Rage 4 was headlined by the clash of Murray and Silva. The fight went the distance, where the judges unanimously elected Silva as winner. From there, the Brazilian MMA artist went on to become perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the history of the sport, whereas Murray’s life took another direction.
Following an under-privileged upbringing in London, involving drug dealing, Murray entered the sphere of mixed martial arts in 1999.
Having had four professional bouts in 2000, Murray was gaining a name for himself, and won three of them. His loss was to Joe Doerksen, who applied an armbar to the Londoner in the second round of the Extreme Challenge 34 tournament. He would then go on to win four consecutive fights before gaining attention from the UFC.
In January 2004, Murray took part in UFC 46 against Jorge Rivera on the undercard of Vitor Belfort versus Randy Couture. Also appearing on the card were Frank Mir and Georges St-Pierre.
In truth, it was a dream opportunity in the Ultimate Fighting Championship which was experiencing a boom in popularity. Murray took full advantage in front of the packed Mandalay Bay, and defeated Rivera with a triangular armbar in the first round.
International fame was within reaching distance, but some problems came to the fore.
As the UFC came calling for a contract however, there were problems in Murray’s life which prevented him realising his true potential. Complications arose with his US Visa due to his ongoing criminal assault prosecution arising from a road rage incident where he attacked another man. This led Murray to sign with Cage Rage instead of the UFC.
A date with Anderson Silva in Cage Rage 8 on September 11th, 2004 was next. The Spider, then 14-2, defeated Murray on points. This must be contextualised, as in Silva’s current record of 33-6, 27 of his 33 wins have come by way of knockout or submission. Silva’s achievements later in his career justified Murray’s impressive performance.
His career with the Cage Rage promotion was short-lived alas, as injuries resulting from a stabbing hindered his MMA career.
However, his fighting ventures were not limited to the sporting context. In 2002, Murray was involved in a bust-up with then UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz, outside a London nightclub in 2002. Murray claimed that he knocked Ortiz unconscious. There were reports to back him up, while others varied, although his account is thought to be accurate.
As his sporting profession lay in tatters, and with limited education, Murray turned to a life of crime. He suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of a stabbing in 2005, where he was subjected to a punctured lung and a severed artery.
However, despite a reasonably successful MMA career, along with making several headlines for his extra curricular activities, Murray will be best remembered for the events of 21st and 22nd February 2006.
The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery in British history, where several men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members, before making away with a sum of £53 million. The ringleader? Lee Murray.
Murray, who is half Moroccan, was arrested in the capital Rabat for suspected involvement in the heist, and in 2010, was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.
The life of Lee Murray is a case of what might have been. At 37, he could be finishing up a distinguished career in the UFC. Instead, he sits in a Moroccan prison cell. Sport does not always have a happy ending.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena