Gene LeBell, a legend in the world of combat sports, passed away at the age of 89.
When you look at the careers of many of the biggest names in combat sports and looked at the people standing behind them throughout their careers, many times you would have seen Gene LeBell.
LeBell was often called “The Godfather of Grappling” and is sometimes credited for the rise of grappling in MMA. With a background in judo and jiu-jitsu, LeBell was the mastermind behind some of the greatest fighters in the world.
Some of his most famous students were, Ronda Rousey, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, and Chuck Norris. He spent a lot of his time teaching and working on Hollywood films. The character of Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is said to be based off of LeBell.
UFC legend Bas Rutten wrote a touching tribute to his friend, LeBell.
“What a man, what a man’s man, everybody loved/loves Gene!” Rutten wrote on Instagram. “We all heard the crazy stories, about Seagal, and that he was the first guy to fight MMA in a match against the Boxer Milo Savage in 1963 (I wasn’t even born), still pulling wheelies on his motor cycle when he was like 84 years old and if you go online, you find thousand more stories.”
LeBell lived a wild and full life that will be remembered by all the people whose lives he touched. The tributes and memories continue to pour in for a man who was one of a kind.