Jordan Leavitt’s successful UFC debut left an impression on people in a big way. While it was mostly for good reasons, others had an issue with how things played out after the victory.
Leavitt delivered one of 2020’s memorable finishes when he knocked out Matt Wiman with a ferocious slam just 22 seconds after their lightweight matchup began at UFC Vegas 16. “The Monkey King” has had a high finishing rate through his amateur and ongoing pro career, but it was the first time he got his hand raised with that method of victory.
“It took until my 12th fight to get a knockout and it was on the biggest stage; a main card in the UFC,” Leavitt told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I didn’t see it coming that way, via a ‘Rampage’ slam. I definitely don’t train for that one so that was cool.”
The knockout was as impactful as it was scary. Wiman went out cold immediately upon impact and Leavitt had the wherewithal to know his opponent was done and to not inflict any further damage.
Following the win, Leavitt dropped into his signature, post-victory split—something he has done in the aftermath of just about all of his wins. Because Wiman was unconscious, some were critical of how the 25-year-old handled himself. Bruce Buffer went on to announce the official decision and Leavitt continued his celebration with a pair of coach-assisted lifts as seen in the movie Dirty Dancing.
When asked about the negative feedback he received, Leavitt addressed it head-on.
“These are the same people that loved it when Jorge Masvidal bodied Ben Askren when he patted the ground, these are the same people that love it when there’s just blood everywhere. Just screw ‘em,” Leavitt explained. “Their opinion doesn’t mean much. They’re very fickle. I’m sure if I had gotten knocked out, he would’ve jumped on the cage, screamed into the camera. But you fall into a quick split and then you walk to the cage and realize he’s not waking up right away, and then they go to commercial break because you’re crying.
“So it’s like, ‘You’re the bad guy,’ and I’m like,’ This is an ugly sport.’ I was upset by the way I won, but, literally, there are many more brutal knockouts than that all the time and people cheer for it. So it’s like, ‘Your boos mean nothing, I see what makes you cheer’ kind of a thing. It was hard for me, not as hard for me as it was for Matt or his wife. But I waited for him to wake up before I did the Dirty Dancing lift.
“The reason I did it twice is because Bruce Buffer was like, ‘C’mon, I missed it. You have to do it,’ and when Bruce Buffer asks you something, I was like, ‘All right Bruce, I’ve been wanting to talk to you since I was 14. This lift’s for you.’ But I understand that the way it was cut, it seemed tasteless. But in reality if you’ve been watching the sport for longer than 24 hours, you see some pretty distasteful things. I’m sorry if I offended people, but also, grow up.”
The event broadcast went to a commercial break before the official decision was read, and upon return Leavitt was shown outside of the octagon consoling Wiman’s wife, who was in her husband’s corner. It was an emotional moment for both, especially knowing now that Wiman has since retired from the sport following the loss—news he first told MMA Fighting.
“I didn’t know exactly what to say. I just said, ‘I’m sorry,’ Leavitt explained. “Because I was sorry. I was sorry that I won that way and she was very composed and she said, ‘This is the fight game. It happens,’ which kind of made me feel worse. She was cool about it when I’m not cool with it. I just said I was sorry. I said, ‘Your husband is a good man.’ I’m not sure if she reached out to hug me, or I reached out to hug her, but I went back in the cage.
“But I said I was sorry. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what I should say.”
It wasn’t just an emotional night in the UFC APEX for Leavitt at UFC Vegas 16, it was an emotional build to the fight as well. The Syndicate MMA standout was ready for all comers ahead of his octagon debut. When he received the contract, Leavitt saw the second name on it and admitted that it was something that came full circle for him as a martial artist.
“It was really weird because I used to be a big fan of his when I was younger,” Leavitt said. “A lot of the tactics that he used were like 10 years ahead of the time—like dropping for leg locks, pulling guard, shooting for single legs, scrambles—a lot of stuff that I thought was interesting and that I still implement today. So when I saw his name I was like, ‘Oh, that’s weird. He’s one of my favorites.’
“I had mixed feelings coming into this fight. I went in thinking I don’t want to get knocked out by Matt Wiman, but I don’t want to knock Matt Wiman out. He’s never been submitted before so I was planning on being rugged and for me to ride out a decision. So the fight was anticlimactic. I got pretty lucky and fortunate with that slam. It was a scary knockout and I hope I don’t have to win that way again, but if the opportunity presents itself, I will slam you.”