April 18, 2024

UFC London: How two near-death experiences ‘made’ Lerone Murphy

Murphy has won four UFC bouts with one draw.

As Lerone Murphy lay on the tarmac drifting in and out of consciousness, blood pouring from a head wound as he waited for an ambulance, he thought he was going to die.

Manchester Murphy was nearing the end of a 30km bike ride while building up his fitness following his injury, when a car turned right without looking, causing a collision.

The 31-year-old man was thrown into the windscreen before being thrown to the ground on the other side of the vehicle.

It took 40 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

Speaking at his gym, Manchester Top Team in Ashton-under-Lyne, Murphy tries to find the words to describe how he felt.

“It’s weird because someone called my mum and I’m sitting there waiting, and my mum is there, and I’m thinking ‘I’m going to die here now’,” Murphy told BBC Sport.

“I was bleeding out. I don’t know… I felt numb. Still numb, it’s strange. It’s just one of those things, for example, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen, but I don’t think I was afraid.”

It is noteworthy that the incident was not the first near-death experience in Murphy’s life.

In 2013, he was shot in the face outside a barber shop in Fallowfield, with Murphy describing the attack as “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Murphy did not know what had happened until he felt a “heaviness” in his mouth, which was “blood and bullets”.

He spent almost two weeks in hospital where he needed to be fed through a tube, before undergoing surgery to replace his teeth.

Part of the bullet is still lodged in his tongue to this day.

Murphy, who fights fellow lightweight Joshua Culibao at UFC London at the O2 Arena on Saturday, says the two incidents affected him differently, but the cycling accident “did it”.

“It has moved me in a different way in life now,” Murphy said.

“Even though I was in the UFC before, I was just taking the fights as they come, just going through life. But now it’s like a ‘boom’, I’m focused.

“I know that time is not promised, that tomorrow is not promised to anyone, so it’s like I have a purpose now.

“I think I’ve come a long way since then [the cycling accident] happened, even mentally. In my free time I’m spending it better with my family and stuff like that, I’ve changed a lot, man.”

‘I can’t waste this opportunity’

Before the shooting, Murphy says he was “living a different life, running around with no goals”.

He started MMA the following year in 2014 and made his professional debut in 2016.

Murphy describes how the sport gave him “purpose” and inspired young wanderers to follow his path.

“Especially in areas like we grew up in, Old Trafford, Levenshulme, all around those types of areas it’s full of kids like me. Literally, it’s difficult,” said Murphy.

“That’s not an excuse to go out and do anything, but a lot of kids don’t have guidance, so there’s a lot of opportunity with MMA.

“He was waking up every day with a purpose to get better. You can literally come from anything and get there. There is no politics like football. You put in the hard work, you will get good things back.”

Murphy is unbeaten in his 13-fight career, and has won four UFC fights since signing with the promotion in 2019.

Having made it in the sport against all odds – hence his nickname, ‘the Miracle’ – he is determined to make the most of his opportunity in the UFC.

“The challenge is what drives me to do this, just to wake up every day and achieve this goal,” says Murphy.

“It was always my dream to be a champion and even provide for my family, give back to everyone around me.

“It’s a big opportunity, and not everyone gets this opportunity. I came from a poorer background so if I have this opportunity now I can’t waste it.”

‘I know now that I can come back from anything’

In addition to helping shape his personality, Murphy says his near-death experience also shaped him as a fighter.

Murphy last fought at UFC 286 in London in March, winning a split decision against Gabriel Santos.

“There is nothing that anyone can do to me now that is worse than the two incidents,” said Murphy.

“Even if I get hit I know I can bounce back from that because I’ve gone to the lowest level. I know I can come back from anything.

“You’ve always been afraid because that’s how fighters operate but I’m certainly not afraid of anything now.”

Despite the win over Santos, Murphy was unhappy with his performance, citing a concussion from the cycling accident as detrimental to his preparation.

“That was a long injury, so I couldn’t train or spa for probably six months,” Murphy said.

“It’s like you’re not working. As fighters we only get paid when we’re fighting, so if you’re not fighting, you don’t get paid and you have bills and things like that, so it was quite stressful.”

Murphy says the build-up to the Australian Culibao, 29, who has won 11 of 13 fights, has been a much better experience.

“I’m feeling great, I think I’m coming into my prime now,” he said.

“My mind and my physicality have caught up now. I’m feeling good, positive about the fight, and it’s time to put Manchester on the map.”

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