UFC legend Matt Hughes retells a story in his autobiography. Following UFC 38, held in London in 2002, former champion Tito Ortiz squared up to local MMA fighter Lee Murray:
“Both their jackets come off, and Tito throws a left hook at Lee Murray and misses, and right as he missed, Lee Murray counters with, like, a five-punch combo, landed right on the chin, and knocked Tito out. OUT.”
Of course there’s also the night Murray went toe to toe with the UFC’s greatest, Anderson Silva, and survived the full three rounds – a rare feat – only losing on points.
Lee Murray is a guy described as a ‘scary son-of-a-bitch’ by UFC owner Dana White, who makes his living in the rough-and-tumble world of the fight game.
Facing 25 years locked, languishing in a Moroccan jail; ‘Lightning’ Lee Murray – MMA bad-boy turned alleged robber – must reflect on what could have been, had it not gone all so wrong.
Murray, 35, alleged organiser of one of the biggest money heists in world history, has made waves throughout his 35 years. As a Bermondsey-bred bad-boy, who became a hoodlum and kingpin of the local drug trade, his rise to international infamy was peppered with violent incidents.
Born Lee Lamrani Ibrahim Murray in 1977 to an English mother and a Moroccan father, Murray became a troublemaker young. He had a tempestuous relationship with his father which became a general disregard for authority. He was expelled from school and took to drug dealing with a group of local friends, including long-time associate Paul Allen.
Murray was known as dangerous, and was widely feared by those came into contact with him. He wound up entering an MMA event, Millenium Brawl, in 1999, and due to a speedy knockout of his opponent in the first round, was christened ‘Lightning’. He continued to fight, and train, living a sort of double life in the gym and on the streets.
His MMA credentials grew, as he made short work of opponents on various UK based fight-nights. He eventually signed to the US-based MMA promotion, UFC. His first, and only, fight was a notch in the win column, as he dispatched Jorge Rivera via triangle armbar in the first round. Legal problems forced him out of the United States, but nine months later he stepped into the cage on home soil against the great Anderson Silva. He didn’t shy from the challenge with Silva, only losing on points; not the usual outcome when fighters step into the cage with ‘The Spider’.
The Silva defeat was the last time Murray officially fought on an MMA promotion, and his problems were to escalate. He was stabbed outside the Funky Buddha nightclub in London, and was left fighting for his life.
It was soon after that Murray’s life began to unravel, as he was implicated in the largest ever cash heist on UK soil.
On 21st February 2006, the manager of a Securitas depot was pulled over by what he believed was an unmarked police car. He was then kidnapped and taken to a warehouse, where his family were soon brought, tied up and at gun point. The entire staff of the depot were also tied up at gunpoint, while the depot was ransacked of £53 million. Murray and Allen were found, four months later, in Morocco - living the life of the rich and famous. Allen, following four months in an apparently rat-infested Moroccan jail, was extradited to Britain to face charges, but Murray, thanks to his Moroccan parentage couldn’t be removed.
Sitting in a Moroccan prison, Murray was able to smuggle a cell phone into his cell. He was contacted by a representative from MMA website Middle Easy, and described the conditions he is in.
His living conditions are basic, a room of 23 men, with beds for 16 - the rest sleep on the floor. By the time the interview took place, Murray had been inside for close to five years. His days are limited, but there’s no sign of emotional struggle. To keep the essence of Murray’s day, the message has been reproduced verbatim:
“Wake up about 8am,we have our own hob to cook food on so I make some breakfast, usually oats, fruit yogurt and protein shake, then 9:30am the door opens to go out to the yard so I usually do some cardio, interval training with sprints and stuff, train for about a one hour, then go back to the room and have a carb and protein drink, then i heat a big saucepan of water and tip it into a bucket a go into the toilet room to have a shower if that's what u want to call it. I use a pot to scoop the water out the bucket to tip over me, when I finish I have something to eat again, something light. The door closes again at 11am, I sleep a little, then the door opens at 2:30pm, there's a guy here who was a kickboxing champion Zakaria Moussaoui. Me and him do some Thai training, pad work sparring or kettle-bells, then at 5pm the door closes again till the morning.”
Murray hasn’t given up the fight. He never has.