We are very sad to learn about the passing of Gene LeBell. The Judo legend, who influenced millions after him, has passed away at age 89.

Judo Gene LeBell was famous for his catch wrestling technique that later became an influence in both pro wrestling and mixed martial arts. Ronda Rousey, Bryan Danielson, and many more idolized the man. Sadly, he is no longer with us. Bas Rutten first shared the news in a post on Facebook.

Sad news……

The great Gene Lebell, toughest man I know, has passed away and left us at the age of 89


This first picture is in October 1996 after I fought in Japan and came to the States to check things out here because I always loved America and was thinking about moving here

I was teaching at the LAPD, many more fighters were there teaching as well.

I was teaching leg locks and I had this weird guy with red hair screaming after I put my partner in a leg lock “perfect, love it!!!”

I thought: “Who is that weird guy?”

He kept shouting compliments, so I felt really good and afterwards my buddy Frederico came to me and told me I HAD to meet the legend, that is Gene LeBell.

Oh man, I had heard stories about him and now I realized it was the guy with the red hair!?

So freaking awesome, what a man, what a men’s man, everybody loved/loves Gene!

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

I have always loved Gene, every single person I know loves Gene, and I am proud to say that we always had fun when we met, always cracking jokes. (my wife would say: “Crazy meets crazy”.

Him and Gokor Chivichyan, man, Gene would choke out students, they would wait in line to get choked out by Gene?!

Then Gokor would have a glass of water with him and once the guy was out cold he would throw that water over his pants so it looked like he peed himself, hilarious!

He was always telling people a story that I gave him an El Guapo T-shirt and that he thought he could get every girl now because of the shirt. But after being sent away every single time, he couldn’t understand why? I mean, he was wearing and El Guapo Guapo T-shirt?

Until somebody told him that he was wearing it inside out.

“AAAAHHHH, he said, THAT was the reason”.

Of course this was all one big joke…..

I am still the proud owner of a very cool OTF blade (out-the-front knife), or as they also call it, a sliding knife, telescoping knife, or angel blade. He gave that to me on my birthday once, will treasure that knife forever.

The second picture is at my friends Darin’s place and the last one was at an MMA event, and man, he seem to be at every single event, didn’t he?

My deepest condolences to his lovely wife Midge, his kids and all his other family members and friends.

You will be greatly missed Gene, I love you my friend, till we meet again!




At the age of seven, LeBell started training under the legendary Ed “Strangler” Lewis, and he also learned from Karl Gotch and Lou Thesz. He competed all over the world.

He also memorably officiated the classic match between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki in 1976. LeBell won the Frank Gotch Award in 2005, and he was inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame in 2011.

In recent years, he accompanied Ronda Rousey to the ring during mixed martial arts matches. We would like to offer our condolences to LaBell’s family and friends during this sad time.

Subhojeet Mukherjee

Subhojeet is a professional wrestling fan for over 22 years. He got captivated by the sport during the Monday Night Wars and has a passion for it ever since. He also enjoys TV shows, movies, anime, novels and music, which broadens his perspective and appreciation for wrestling. He is a knowledgeable and respected voice in the industry.

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