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United States Marine veteran, Matt Leyva (8-2 of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA), co-headlined Jackson’s MMA Series VI, which took place on Saturday, October 22, 2011, at the Hard Rock Casino Hotel Albuquerque, against the scrappy Federico “Kiko” Lopez.
Leyva is a pedigreed wrestler, having attended West Mesa High School on the wrestling team all four years, under Coach Lenny Lovato (Sr.), along with teammates and best friends (then and now) Lenny Lovato, Jr. and Damacio Page. While other kids were saving to go on summer vacations, Leyva was saving up to take himself to wrestling nationals each year.
When he finished high school, Leyva knew he didn’t want to go to college right away, but he also did not want to stay in town and “go nowhere” with his life. So, the last day of his senior year, he marched right into the recruiter’s office for the United States Marine Corps and enlisted; two weeks later he was left for boot camp. He spent the next six years in the Corps, specializing in emergency aircraft recovery, the majority of his service on combat missions in the Middle East. His platoon was the first required to participate in MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program), a regimen which is now a Corps-wide requirement.
While serving in Iraq, Leyva watched videos, sent by his brother, of The Ultimate Fighter, where he saw Diego Sanchez, someone he knew from his high school wrestling days. After seeing them, and hearing that his friends Lenny and Damacio were also cagefighting, he thought to himself, “If they can do this, so can I!” When he was done with his term of service, Leyva flew back to Albuquerque, arriving on a Tuesday. Wednesday morning, he walked into Jackson’s MMA, sat down to talk with Greg Jackson, and began his training that same day, in March of 2007. He felt that he was ready to fight right away, with his strong wrestling background, and six years of MCMAP, but he decided to take the advice of teammate and UFC fighter Damacio Page, and wait until his coaches felt he was ready. Eight months later, he had his first amateur match, and he choked out his opponent in 36 seconds. He had one more amateur fight, and then he went professional in May 2008. Since then he has gone on to win 8 of his 10 professional fights, with four wins by TKO.
Leyva felt totally prepared for anywhere his last fight may have gone, “If a submissions opens up, I’m gonna go for it, If he leaves his chin up, I’ll knock him out. I’ll go wherever the fight takes me.” But Leyva was not afraid to go the distance, with October 22nd’s win coming by decision and his last 3 wins by unanimous decision as well, “I love those fights where we beat the … out of each other.”
Following this most recent fight, Leyva would like to fight once more before the end of the year. In the meantime, he is attendingUniversity ofPhoenix, majoring in criminal justice. “I like to have options,” says Leyva, pointing out that, at any time, an accident or injury can end or severely cripple the career of any athlete, especially fighters. Father of two daughters, the last one born just before his most recent fight, Leyva is devoted to his family and his friends.