Legg finds his own path in MMA
Judah Legg was burned out on basketball.
After four years of high school and two years of junior college ball, the sport just didn’t hold the same appeal any more.
He knew, however, he wanted to do something athletically.
“I’d always wanted to compete,” Legg said.
Growing up in Silverton, he didn’t have a lot of competitive opportunities other youngsters enjoy.
After his second year of basketball at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Legg moved to Grand Junction 12 years ago.
At 20 years old and still seeking an identity, Legg was a little restless.
“At that time I was getting in a lot of trouble,” he admitted.
Legg would attend parties and invariably end up in a fight. At just a shade under 6 feet, 6 inches, he was an imposing figure, even if he weighed only 195 pounds.
Wrestling was the one contact sport Legg had tried when he was in middle school in Silverton. He’d watched a couple of jiu-jitsu bouts on television, and that fueled an interest.
He quickly adopted it as his sport of choice.
“Jiu-jitsu is an unbelievable workout,” Legg said. “It really helped me focus my excess energies in a positive light. I found a lot more balance in my life, my personality.
“Some people think getting younger kids into these martial arts fuel their anger. I think it’s the exact opposite. It really calmed me down.”
Still, he didn’t take up the martial art to compete, although he found himself gravitating toward amateur bouts.
“I still think it’s one of the most efficient forms of martial arts, and one of the less brutal,” he said.
As he got better, he began training more. At first, he trained mostly with Tom Bolger, beginning in late 1996. Bolger would later open 8th Street Gym in Grand Junction, which became Legg’s training ground.
“He was real competitive when we first started,” said Bolger, whose MMA background is also rooted in jiu-jitsu.
Bolger had more knowledge and superior technique, so usually he would force Legg to submit.
“I know Judah, and that made him mad,” Bolger said.
Over the past 12-plus years, the two have grappled for hundreds of hours.
“He’s a faster learner than me and a better athlete,” Bolger said.
“What took a while was for him to relax on the mat and let good jiu-jitsu technique work for him.”
Legg began taking his training more seriously. He cut meat out of his diet and added more protein. In the gym he adopted rope climbing, push-ups and pull-ups as his main calisthenics. In doing so, he added 50 pounds of muscle to his frame.
Since turning professional last year, Legg has won all five of his fights by first-round submission.
“I would like to compete at the highest level,” Legg said, the Ultimate Fighting Championships in his sights.
At age 32, he sees a long future in the sport.
“I really think every fighter has a different shelf life,” he said. “I’ve seen fighters who are 25 who are really worn down. I’ve seen fighters at 40 at their peak.”
In order to Legg to achieve that goal, he might have to relocate to a city with a noted MMA gym, such as Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. Bolger doesn’t believe that’s necessary.
“How good Judah can get is 100 percent up to Judah and how hard he wants to work,” Bolger said.