Gene LeBell was dubbed “The Godfather of Grappling” because he popularized grappling in professional fighting circles, paving the way for modern mixed martial arts. He has worked on over 1,000 films and television shows and has authored 12 books. Unfortunately, LeBell passed away in his sleep on August 9th, 2022.

Gene LeBell’s memorial service was held on October 9th. The key speaker was Ronda Rousey, who flew in from Philadelphia after wrestling at Extreme Rules the night before. She expressed her exhaustion after the journey and mentioned meeting and training with LeBell.

From a young age, she referred to him as “Uncle Gene.” She expressed her joy at being there and spoke about what LeBell did for her in judo, MMA, and pro wrestling. It was the connection with LeBell who was Roddy Piper’s judo trainer.

Piper was a black belt in judo, training with LeBell early in his career when he spent years working in Los Angeles and feuding with Chavo Guerrero Sr. The only people who came affiliated with the Southern California promotion for which LeBell worked as an announcer were photographers Mike Lano and Dan Westbrook. Lano explained how LeBell despised his work conducting interviews for the KCOP television show.


Then Dick Lane retired, and LeBell was made into an announcer, which he hated even more. About five months later, KCOP canceled the show, leaving the promotion without English language television, causing it to focus heavily on Mexican wrestlers and eventually folding in 1982. He also told stories about people like Bruce Lee and Antonio Inoki that LeBell had told him.

Antonio Inoki, he claimed, told him LeBell was his best American friend. Magnificent Mimi Lessos and Cheryl Rusa, as well as Josh Barnett and Bas Rutten, were also present. They showed a video of the 1963 wrestler vs. boxer bout between LeBell and Milo Savage, which was one of the first important historical matches of its time.

Legends and their stories carry on forever. Gene LeBell’s impact on the work of combat sports will never be forgotten. May his soul Rest In Peace.

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Shivangini Rawat

Shivangini is a law student with a passion for writing and music. She writes for Thirstyfornews and enjoys cooking, baking, and playing various instruments. In her free time, she watches movies, TV shows, and anime, with a love for bands like Alcest and Scorpions.

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