Stout PGH’s James Lledo is 21 years old –– and he’s already more of a man than most.
In fighting, we oftentimes exaggerate the scope of somebody’s accomplishment. Close fights become “wars,” and back-and-forth scraps get labeled “instant classics” or “epic battles” almost immediately.
It’s easy to do in an emotional, intense sport such as MMA.
The Brawl in the Burgh 16 fight between Lledo and Indio Dojo’s Ken Burrs though?
That one truly represented something special –– inside and outside the fight.
On paper, we knew this fight boasted the potential for greatness.
These are two high-level wrestlers, each with a solid collegiate background, each coming from top Pittsburgh gyms, and each 1-0 via domination in his respective amateur MMA career.
Lledo and Burrs are not just top amateur middleweight MMA prospects. They’re top athletes in the Pittsburgh region on any level. When you add in elite coaching and preparation, there’s little doubt Lledo and Burrs will make waves with 247 Fighting Championships and beyond for years to come.
All this sounded great –– again, on paper. Fight night doesn’t always pan out as planned. We’ve seen hyped fights aplenty fall on their faces due to timidity, poor stylistic matchups, freak injuries, etc.
The one sure bet with MMA is that there are no sure bets in MMA.
However, from the opening seconds of this Lledo vs. Burrs fight, it was clear: We’re in for a Fight of the Night –– and potential Fight of the Year.
I’m not going to re-hash all the action. You can (and should) watch it at the link above instead. I promise it’s worth it.
Both fighters came moments from finishing the fight on multiple occasions. Neither man would back down. Neither man quit.
It was iron vs. iron all the way to the judges’ scorecards.
If we run that one back 10 times, it’s extremely likely each dude wins five. It’s that perfect of a matchup.
But all that said, Brawl in the Burgh 16 belonged to Lledo –– and that’s because he simply wouldn’t allow the night to end any other way.
This fight for Lledo was tough on the surface. Burrs is an absolute stud, and this was going to be a tough fight under normal circumstances.
Lledo, however, entered the fight under extraordinary circumstances, having lost his mother just 10 days prior. We knew about this from his head coach Mike Wilkins, and the fight hung in the balance on fight week.
Let’s be clear: Lledo 100% could have pulled out of this fight, and nobody would have questioned it at all. That is as valid a reason to back away as you’ll see.
Tuesday night, just a few days from weigh-ins, however, I got this text from Wilkins:
That’s resolve. That’s special.
“That’s man sh*t,” as 247 Fighting Championships featherweight champion Ethan Goss said during an exclusive post-fight Facebook live session at the 247 Studio.
To not only maintain his composure but to channel it into a special performance and an outpouring of effort and emotion throughout the fight shows Lledo’s character like nothing else.
As he told commentator Luke Payson in his post-fight speech:
“It means everything to me to be out here,” Lledo said. “I told myself there was one of two roads I could take: I could use it as an excuse, or I could use it as motivation. And I know that my mom would want me to be out here right now.
“And I just want to say, rest in paradise, Elizabeth Wintz. I love you forever. I’ll always miss you, and I want to make you proud.”
Safe to say: Mission accomplished.