MMA Community Mourns Passing of ‘Judo’ Icon Gene LeBell

The legendary combat sport icon “Judo” Gene LeBell has died at the age of 89.

LeBell, whom many have credited for bringing judo into MMA, also served as a mentor to former UFC women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey throughout her MMA run, but his roots run deeper than that.

In addition to spending extensive time in the world of acting and professional wrestling, LeBell also trained with legendary figures such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.

Although his notoriety was partially racked out by his work as a trainer and motivator, LeBell had a decorated run as a top-tier amateur judoka in the 1950s.

LeBell even has an officially recorded MMA fight. He defeated boxer Milo Savage in a mixed-rules contest in December 1963 in what some argue to be the first legitimate MMA fight. The loss has had athletes and personalities shared their condolences on social media.

LeBell is also widely known for creating the LeBell lock which has been used by professional wrestlers Chris Benoit and Daniel Bryan throughout their career. He was awarded the Frank Gotch award in 2005 and was inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame in 2011. He will be dearly missed and remembered by the MMA and Pro Wrestling community forever.

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