Amanda Leve Opens Up on Slaying Giants, Mental Health for Athletes, and February 3 PFL Showdown

Amanda Leve has proven herself time and time again as a combat sport athlete who does it all. An MMA fighter, combat jiu-jitsu veteran, and WNO alumna who made her mark by joining a very short list of women who have defeated the famously physically imposing Gabi Garcia, Leve’s looking to grow her already impressive resume – this time by putting her skills to the test on PFL’s Challenger Series. 

“I’m still new to MMA, but my jiu-jitsu competition experience has always carried me through for MMA,” Leve tells the Jiu-Jitsu Times. “It’s similar – not exactly the same, but similar – and I already know how to compete very well. I definitely think that competing is a skill in general. Anyone can be great in the training room, but we see people all the time who are studs in the training room, but then they go out and compete, and just don’t show up. It’s not that they’re not great – it’s that competition is a whole skillset in itself, which a lot of people don’t realize.”

She grins. “So I’m hopeful that my competition skillset pulls me through on this.” 

While jiu-jitsu may be Leve’s first love, she’s fallen hard for MMA, which is her primary focus these days – and what’s brought her to the PFL stage. “I feel like I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu for so long that MMA’s more of a thrill for me,” she explains. “I’m a person who likes being scared, and likes overcoming that. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get after I compete – even if I lose, I still feel great about myself because I got out there and conquered my fear.” 

Leve’s hunger for that challenge will definitely be an asset come February, since the PFL matchmakers aren’t exactly taking it easy on her. The jiu-jitsu star is slated to face off against a highly-decorated judoka from Mongolia – which may ultimately pit two grappling specialists against each other under an MMA ruleset. 

“[My opponent] won both of her pro fights in the first round – at least one of them by submission,” says Leve. “In judo, she’s definitely more of a sleeve thrower – she’s a little taller and lankier, so she uses sleeves a little more in those matches, which probably doesn’t translate as much for MMA. She looks like she throws a lot of looping punches, which I’m trying to prep for, and she looks like she really gets after it.” Leve smiles. “Which is always nice, because it’s great having someone in there who really wants to fight, you know?”

If there’s anything that Leve relishes, it’s a good fight. After all, Leve’s not just any submission grappler – she’s a submission grappler who nearly choked out former ADCC queen and physical giant Gabi Garcia on the WNO stage. “I actually felt more pressure after [that match],” confesses Leve. “Like I had more eyes on me [after I won], and that was newer to me.” 

The sudden spike in attention gave Leve an opportunity to adjust to the limelight. “Now, I feel better, especially since I had a year off because of injury. It really gave me a chance to work on myself, and take it all in. I got to work on my recovery, and get my headspace right, so now I just feel like a better athlete.” 

As a three-sport combat athlete, Leve is no stranger to adversity, both physical and psychological. The jiu-jitsu injury she sustained last year in competition forced her to come to terms with not only her body’s limits, but the state of her mental health. The injury triggered Leve’s first major experience with both anxiety attacks and depression issues. 

“It was probably the most interesting time in my life, mentally,” she tells me. “I thought I knew what depression was, and I just realized I had no clue until I was in the recovery period.”

Ultimately, she feels that the experience made her a stronger athlete. “It definitely lit more of a fire under me to get back to [competition],” says Leve. 

Being physically injured also forced Leve to reckon with how much of her mental healthcare she had previously shunted aside. Prior to her injury, an ambitious go-getter attitude and tightly-packed training schedule had left her little space to simply sit with her thoughts. 

“It made me realize that I probably deal with a lot of the anxiety that I do have by just constantly staying on the go. So when I’m sitting by myself, now I’m thinking, ‘Maybe I should spend more time in silence before I go out in the morning – stay away from my phone, stay away from everything, and just kind of sit with myself.’”

“I feel like that’s been a big takeaway for me: just sitting with myself and my mind,” she reflects. “I felt like I was so occupied with constantly trying to do stuff that I wasn’t paying attention to my mental health, per se.”

Where is she mentally now? “I’m feeling really great,” says Leve. “I started training with Marquez MMA in Philly, and they have a ton of people in the UFC right now, so I know I’m getting very solid training. It’s not just good technically, either – we’re in there, and we’re going to war with each other.” 

She laughs. “Every day, I get my a** kicked there! So I’m like, ‘Alright, there’s no way this girl can kick my a** as bad as these guys are kicking it.’”

Don’t forget to tune into Amanda Leve’s PFL Challenger Series fight on February 3. 

Meanwhile, you can follow her on Instagram


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