Jiu jitsu has been a huge part of Amanda Leve’s since she was just 11 years old. When her father and brother decided to start BJJ classes, Leve decided to tag along and watch their first class. As soon as she saw the flurry of activity on the mat, she knew she wanted to train as well.
Soon after she started training, Leve’s father signed her up for her first competition.
Leve recalled, “The first match I lost in 15 seconds. I cried and wanted to go home, but my dad convinced me to stay for one more match. I ended up winning and I’ve been addicted to the feeling ever since!”
And that addiction hasn’t faded since then. Leve continued to compete and eventually made her way to the BJJ spotlight.
Leve has been an icon in the BJJ community since In 2015, when she grappled her way to first place in the purple belt no-gi division at the IBJJF Pan Championship. That same year, she took second in the purple belt No-Gi division at the IBJJF World Championship. In 2017, she continued to earn medals at both competitions as a brown belt..
A couple of years later, Leve received her black belt from James Booth and Jay Regalbuto in 2019 and promptly went on to win first place at the ADCC WC Trials. Her BJJ victories didn’t end here.
In September, Leve made waves when she called out BJJ superstar Gabi Garcia ahead of their WNO Quarterfinal match. During the pre-fight presser, Leve brought up the fact that Garcia didn’t have to weigh in for their match, stating that she felt it was unfair. Garcia simply answered that her contract didn’t require her to weigh in.
After stirring the pot a bit, Leve went on to dominate the fight. She pulled off a truly spectacular win, which is widely being called “the upset of the year.”
In that post-fight interview, Leve confirmed that the match would be her last big BJJ tournament for a while. She started fighting for PFL earlier this year, and she’ll be focusing on her MMA career for a bit.
Girls in Gis caught up with Amanda to talk about her BJJ career, her budding MMA career, and her now infamous call-out of Garcia.
What prompted the move from strictly BJJ to MMA? What makes you the most excited about the transition?
I originally got into jiu jitsu because my dad watched MMA. In 2009, 12 year old Amanda watched Cyborg & Gina Carano fight for Strikeforce. After that, I instantly knew I would eventually get into the MMA world. Jiu jitsu will always be my first love though!
Congrats on your amazing win over Gabi Garcia! Before the match you called out the fact that Gabi didn’t have to weigh in for the competition. What prompted that?
Thank you! I was already annoyed that the heavyweight division doesn’t have a weight cap. I think it’s dangerous for us to be fighting someone who is 100lbs heavier than the rest of us. I just wanted the world to know the actual weight difference to understand why she wins all the time. I don’t think it’s fair she gets to skip the weigh-ins because she’s uncomfortable with her weight when the rest of the division had to show our weights.
What are your thoughts on preferential treatment in BJJ (or MMA) in general? How have you seen it show up in your time as a competitor?
I think any special treatment is obnoxious in general. Speaking from my own experience, I don’t believe it’s that bad in the jiu jitsu community. I can’t say for the MMA community because I haven’t really been in there long enough. This is really the first time I experienced jiu jitsu.
More and more competitors are choosing not to cut weight because of the potential health impacts. How do you feel about weight cutting as a practice?
I personally hate cutting weight, and I hate that the community does it. I think if done incorrectly it can have a serious impact on the way you fight. Lucky for me, I’m fighting for the PFL who only has a 155 women’s division. I already walk around at the weight of 155-160, so being able to just worry about technical training, and not weight cutting during fight camps, is so awesome and makes me feel 100% better physically and mentally.
What would you like to see changed in the competitive BJJ and MMA worlds?
I wish there was a ruleset to make BJJ matches more exciting and to prevent stalling. I would definitely like to see less weight cutting for the future generations in both sports as well.
How can fans support you/what do you want to hype?
Give me a follow on Instagram, @amandaleve_mma and look out for T-shirts I’ll be selling!
Robin Zabiegalksi i is a writer and editor from Vermont. Her work has been published in several digital media publications and literary magazines. She’s been training BJJ for several years and she is a 2 stripe blue belt, currently training at Combat Fitness MMA in Winooski Vermont. When she’s not writing or training, she can be found playing with her toddler, hiking or snowboarding depending on the season, or bingeing her latest TV obsession.