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XFO Champ Jose Leon Fights For More Than Just Titles


XFO Rocktown Showdown 29: Jose Leon

Jose Leon is all smiles after winning his second XFO belt. (Photo: Chicago’s MMA)

by Matt Lo Cascio

He’s got two XFO belts, a huge hometown crowd to support him, and most importantly, a young daughter he loves to pieces. To say Jose Leon is motivated to defend his flyweight title Saturday at the XFO Outdoor War is an understatement.

He wasn’t always this motivated though. “If I could tell you all the times I’ve been counted out and brought to a point of just giving up you’d probably shed a tear. I’ve taken ass whoopings for wearing the wrong color on the wrong side of town. My past is so blemished I can’t ever join the military. I have paid over $30k to courts and lawyers,” Leon told Chicago’s MMA.

But it’s all been worth it for him, as he laughs and tells us, “I’m 22 with a 7-year-old driven champion!” He’s fighting for her — and their future together. MMA has offered him more than a chance to win some shiny belts. The American Freestyle Martial Arts fighter found a special freedom in the sport.

“MMA took me out of hanging out with a gang-affiliated crowd and turned me into a father figure for my daughter. It made me strive for change and to grow as a man. Without it, I’d either be in jail or dead.”

XFO Outdoor War 13

Leon will defend his XFO flyweight title against Northern Illinois Combat Club’s Jamie Howard (5-1), formerly the XFO Rocktown Showdown flyweight champion. He offered his take on Howard and the fight. “His record speaks for itself and it’s impressive. But can he stand toe-to-toe? I’m training my ground game a lot. I’m confident I’m going to dominate the ground and get another TKO or submission finish.”

This champion vs. champion bout will be the main event of the evening, one sure to get the crowd at Sideouts in Island Lake all rowdy. The cheers for Leon will be the loudest as he’s fighting close to home, but that brings both comfort and stress.

“I’m so grateful to be able to come out with a hometown advantage. It’ll be a first! Don’t get me wrong, the stress is and should be real, but I perform my best when I’m under stress. My last fight I was too relaxed and I paid a price for it. So I’m a better person and fighter because of that lesson.”

Leon has come up big when facing his toughest opponents, great fighters like Edgar Flores and Danny Bazarek. Howard fits that mold, too. “I’m just hoping that the man across from me is ready. I hope as a man he brings his absolute best. I don’t play it safe — never will. I’m the type of man that knows why the MMA fans are there and I’m willing to give it to them. I was born ugly, man. Chicks dig scars, and I’m in a sport where a cut over the eye is glorified. So I don’t shy away from a man’s hands.”

Leon has made one other change since the last time he fought — his nickname. He was formerly known as Jose “Hide Yo Daughterz” Leon, but now he will go by the nickname “El Conquistador.” He wanted to change the nickname since his daughter is getting older and asking more questions about him and the fight game. He said the original nickname was great because it was an icebreaker. The crowd would hear it and roar and laugh, and that had a calming effect as he made his way out to the cage to fight.

But as he grows as a fighter and a father, he decided a change was in order. He opted for something more significant.

“In my understanding, ‘El Conquistador’ can be translated to an overcomer. Someone who goes in and comes out the last man standing. And I plan on overcoming anything else life throws at me with my persistence and will.”

He’s certainly not looking past his opponent for Saturday’s Outdoor War, but like most young, successful fighters, Leon hopes to have a pro career. If he wins on Saturday he will look into becoming a professional. “If someone wants to sign me I’ll take it. I’ve always been a dreamer and risk taker. I’m going to give professional fighting a good seven or eight years, then I want to open up a few gyms. Mainly in Mexico, but a sexy gym here in the states somewhere, probably in Texas.”

Win or lose Saturday night, Leon and his daughter have a bright future. He’ll fight for that both inside and outside the cage.

XFO Outdoor War 13
Sideouts Bar & Eatery
4018 Roberts Road
Island Lake, Illinois 60042


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About Matt Lo Cascio

Matt Lo Cascio is the co-founder and editor of Chicago's MMA. He is the former play-by-play announcer for the XFO and other organizations, and he has been published by ESPN.com, DraftKings, The Comeback, FanSided, and more.

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