Jordan Leavitt didn’t expect the biggest opportunity of his MMA career to just land in his lap, but that’s exactly what happened when he got the call to fight Paddy Pimblett in the UFC’s return to London on July 23.
“I actually initially was saying no,” Leavitt said with a laugh on Wednesday’s episode of The MMA Hour, “because they were like, ‘Do you want to fight in July in England?’ I’m like, ‘No.’ And then like an hour later, they’re like, ‘Are you sure?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I hate the travel, and I fought like four weeks ago, I’m fine.’ [They said,] ‘But it’s Paddy Pimblett.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, I think I can travel. I think I can get that done.’
“Then I thought about it a little bit more, I’m like, he’s been kind of picking easy fights — or at least his team has, or the UFC has for him — and I’m like, ‘Oh, I think they think I’m the easy fight.’ So it kind of offended me, but it’s all good. I think I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I’m pretty excited for this matchup.”
Just two bouts into his UFC career, Pimblett has already proven to be a breakout star of the promotion’s lightweight division. The brash Liverpudlian has a sizable following both online and in his native England, and that showed when he blew the roof off London’s O2 Arena in March with a raucous come-from-behind submission win over Kazula Vargas.
Considering Pimblett’s early momentum, Leavitt is well aware of the setup he’s walking into when the UFC returns to the O2 Arena in July. He’s not naive enough to think the promotion isn’t hoping for another highlight-reel moment to unfold on Pimblett’s path to stardom.
“One-hundred percent,” Leavitt said. “If I was trying to push Paddy Pimblett, who I think is talented and I like him, fan of him — you know, sorry, I’m going to beat you — but if I watched this kid get chinned by two guys who were not the best, almost lose, and then kind of take victory from the jaws of defeat, I would want him to fight a guy who doesn’t like to power punch. And if you watch my fights, it just seems like I don’t like to punch very hard to the head, and it would give Paddy a lot of chances to make up for a lot of technical weaknesses. But I think I’m not too worried about it.
“I think I’ve fought better strikers and I’ve fought better grapplers. I just haven’t fought Paddy Pimblett and he hasn’t fought me. And yeah, I think this is going to be a little bit of egg on people’s faces when the fight comes — I think I’m going to handily beat him.
“If you take away all the flash and social media, which I don’t really take a part of, I don’t think there’s too much to worry about,” Leavitt added. “I feel like if I just focus on the fight and I don’t let the crowd get to me, I think I have no worries. I’m very excited. No concerns whatsoever. I think he has to get lucky.”
Leavitt is no slouch, though. The 26-year-old American is 3-1 in his four UFC appearances and has already made an impact on fans for his memorable post-fight celebrations after his wins. Most recently, Leavitt caused a stir when he twerked inside the octagon following his victory over Victor Martinez in April.
“The Monkey King” doesn’t plan on changing his ways at UFC London, even if he’ll be in the heart of enemy territory.
“They could think whatever they want about me. This will be my hometown after I win,” Leavitt said of the English crowd. “They’re going to love me. They don’t they just don’t know it yet. After 15 minutes of combat, I’m sure they’ll like me. And I’m used to flying to people’s hometown, beating up their cousins, having things thrown at me, booze, all that jazz. I fought a guy where his coach was the ref. I don’t care about enemy territory. I do a bunch of flamboyant stuff after I win, I get plenty of hate. I don’t fit the typical fighter mold.
“I’m not scared to do something stupid or look a little silly.”
To that point, Leavitt teased that he may already have a celebration in mind if he’s able to upset the apple cart and defeat Pimblett in the way he expects.
“I have a few things planned,” Leavitt said. “It all depends on how the fight goes, but we’ve got a few celebration things to pull out of my hat.
“I’m pretty sure if I win the way I want, I might get in trouble for what I’m going to do. But we’re going to see, we’re going to see. ... Luckily I have good head movement so when they start throwing things at me, I’ll be bobbing and weaving and dodging the beer cans. But yeah, I am excited to cause a riot. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.
“He’s the golden boy, but I’m the platinum boy. I think I’m going to prove it on July 23.”