James Wilks

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James Wilks
Wilks weigh in.jpeg
James Wilks in 2011
BornJames Brett Wilks
(1978-04-05) 5 April 1978 (age 43)
Leicestershire, England
Other namesLightning
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg; 12 st)
Reach75 in (190 cm)
Fighting out ofLaguna Hills, California, United States
TeamLightning MMA
RankBlack Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Full Instructor in Jeet Kune Do
Black Belt in Taekwondo
Black Belt in Kickboxing
Years active2003–2012
Mixed martial arts record
By knockout2
By submission4
By decision1
By knockout1
By submission1
By decision2
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog
last updated on: 17 October 2010

James Brett Wilks (born 5 April 1978) is an English film producer, vegan activist, a combatives expert and instructor, and former professional mixed martial artist. A professional from 2003 until 2012, he competed for the UFC, King of the Cage, and was the winner of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom


Wilks was born and raised in Leicestershire, England. He attended Uppingham School. After leaving Uppingham in 1996, Wilks went to Bournemouth University, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Land Management.[1] He moved to the United States in June 2000.[2]

Mixed martial arts career[edit]

Wilks began training Karate and Bruce Lee's martial art style, Jeet Kune Do while living in the United Kingdom. He moved to the United States and began training under Erik Paulson with Combat Submission Wrestling. Wilks moved so he could get better at his jiu-jitsu and other ground skills. Wilks holds black belts in Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.[1]

He had his first professional fight against The Ultimate Fighter 5 competitor, Roman Mitichyan. Wilks won the fight via armbar submission in the second round. After the fight he took around a year break from fighting so he could focus on training his students. He came back to have his second fight and lost to Jimmy Smith. Before going to tape The Ultimate Fighter 9, Wilks won the Gladiator Challenge welterweight title.[3]

After filming of the Ultimate Fighter, Wilks opened his own gym, Lightning MMA, in Laguna Hills, California.

The Ultimate Fighter[edit]

After starting his pro career with a 5–2 mark in local shows in California, Wilks was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom representing Team UK under coach Michael Bisping. He defeated the highly regarded Che Mills by submission in an elimination match earning him a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada to compete on the show. Wilks had his second fight against Team United States fighter Frank Lester; Wilks won by submission in the second round. In the semi-finals, Wilks faced Lester for a second straight time, after Lester returned to the tournament to defeat David Faulkner while substituting for Jason Pierce, who was removed from the competition by Dana White. In the rematch, Wilks defeated Lester by TKO via knees in the third round, earning a spot in the live finale.

Ultimate Fighting Championship[edit]

Wilks made his debut for the UFC winning against DaMarques Johnson at the TUF 9 Finale on 20 June 2009. The fight crowned Wilks as the TUF 9 welterweight champion. Wilks dominated the fight against Johnson showing off strong striking and good submission attempts. Wilks finished the fight with Johnson via a rear naked choke submission in the closing seconds of the first round.[4]

Wilks lost to Matt Brown via 3rd-round TKO, on 14 November 2009 at UFC 105. After being knocked down in the second and being saved by the bell from a submission attempt, Wilks came back early in the third round, attempting a kimura, before losing top position. Brown then, from top position, secured the TKO victory. Prior to UFC 115, Wilks revealed that Brown had broken his orbital bone with an elbow strike after just 30 seconds of the first round.[5]

Wilks then faced Peter Sobotta at UFC 115.[6] After three rounds, the fight went to the judges scorecards, which Wilks took 30–27, 30–28, 30–27.[7]

Wilks next fought Canadian prospect Claude Patrick at UFC 120 in London.[8] He lost the fight via unanimous decision.

Wilks was expected to face Rory MacDonald on 30 April 2011 at UFC 129.[9] However, Wilks was replaced on the card by Nate Diaz.[10]

Wilks was expected to replace Duane Ludwig, and face Amir Sadollah at UFC Fight Night 24.[11] However, Wilks was also injured and replaced by DaMarques Johnson.[12]


After suffering extensive injuries which included a fractured vertebra and after doctors told him he faced "significantly high risk of paralysis" if he continued to fight, Wilks announced his retirement from active MMA competition on 14 May 2012.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Wilks has a wife named Alicia.[14] Wilks is also known for his dedication to veganism.[15] James is also a combatives instructor.

The Game Changers[edit]

Wilks has a leading role in the documentary film The Game Changers (2018), advocating a primarily plant-based diet in high-performance sport and produced by James Cameron.[16] [17]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Brazilian jiu-jitsu[edit]

  • Gracie US Nationals
    • Gracie US Nationals 2008 Gold Medalist (Advanced Division, 185lbs)[18]

Mixed martial arts[edit]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Professional record breakdown
11 matches 7 wins 4 losses
By knockout 2 1
By submission 4 1
By decision 1 2
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 7–4 Claude Patrick Decision (unanimous) UFC 120 16 October 2010 3 5:00 London, England
Win 7–3 Peter Sobotta Decision (unanimous) UFC 115 12 June 2010 3 5:00 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Loss 6–3 Matt Brown TKO (punches) UFC 105 14 November 2009 3 2:26 Manchester, England
Win 6–2 DaMarques Johnson Submission (rear naked choke) TUF 9 Finale 20 June 2009 1 4:54 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Won the TUF 9 Welterweight Tournament.
Win 5–2 Mike Robles Submission (armbar) GC 85: Cross Fire 25 October 2008 2 4:27 San Diego, California, United States
Win 4–2 John Cole TKO (knees) Apocalypse Fights 1: The First Sign 7 August 2008 1 0:26 Coachella, California, United States
Win 3–2 Shawn Nagano Submission (rear naked choke) UAGF 4: Kaos on the Kampus 20 May 2006 2 4:22 Los Angeles, California, United States
Loss 2–2 Patrick Speight Decision (unanimous) Total Combat 13: Anarchy 11 March 2006 3 3:00 Del Mar, California, United States
Win 2–1 Ray Lizama TKO (cut) KOTC 41: Relentless 24 September 2004 1 1:14 San Jacinto, California, United States
Loss 1–1 Jimmy Smith Submission (kneebar) KOTC 39: Hitmaster 6 August 2004 1 1:40 San Jacinto, California, United States
Win 1–0 Roman Mitichyan Submission (armbar) UAGF Ultimate Cage Fighting 4 12 October 2003 2 Upland, California, United States

Mixed martial arts exhibition record[edit]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 3–0 Frank Lester TKO (knees) The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom 3 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Semi-finals
Win 2–0 Frank Lester Submission (armbar) The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom 2 3:06 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Quarter-finals
Win 1–0 Che Mills Submission (heel hook) The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom 1 0:30 Cheshire, England, United Kingdom Elimination bout

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b http://www.ufc.com/JamesWilks
  2. ^ "James "The Gym Hero" Wilks". Myspace.com. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  3. ^ a b http://www.jameslightningwilks.com/biograph/
  4. ^ "The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale live round by round updates and official results". MMAJunkie.com. 20 June 2009. Archived from the original on 22 June 2009.
  5. ^ "Previously spurned by lady luck, James Wilks ready for UFC". mmajunkie.com. 11 June 2010. Archived from the original on 15 June 2010.
  6. ^ "UFC 115 full card set. Main card includes Cro Cop vs. Barry; Condit vs. MacDonald". mmajunkie.com. 12 April 2010. Archived from the original on 9 June 2010.
  7. ^ "UFC 115 Prelim card recap: Dunham remains unbeaten; Wiman wins controversially". mmajunkie.com. 13 June 2010. Archived from the original on 16 June 2010.
  8. ^ ""TUF 9" champ James Wilks meets Claude Patrick at UFC 120". mmajunkie.com. Archived from the original on 16 October 2012.
  9. ^ "UFC 129: Brookins-Makdessi, MacDonald-Wilks Set for April 30 in Toronto". mmafrenzy.com. 4 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Nate Diaz meets Rory MacDonald at UFC 129". mmajunkie.com. 14 January 2011. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Injured Ludwig out at UFC Fight Night 24, Wilks now faces Sadollah". MMAjunkie. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011.
  12. ^ "UFC Fight Night 24: Amir Sadollah vs DaMarques Johnson booked with James Wilks out". mmamania.com. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  13. ^ "UFC vet James Wilks retires after docs warn of 'significantly high risk of paralysis'". mmajunkie.com. 14 May 2012. Archived from the original on 16 May 2012.
  14. ^ "Interview With James Brett Wilks (The Ultimate Fighter : Season 9 Winner)". NEELAMATIQUE.wordpress.com. 28 July 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  15. ^ "MMA Ultimate Fighter - James "Lighting" Wilks - Is Vegan". 3 December 2012. Archived from the original on 26 October 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  16. ^ Lodge, Guy (8 March 2018). "Film Review: 'The Game Changers'". Variety. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Our Core Principles | Our Philosophy". 22 August 2019.
  18. ^ http://www.lightningmma.com/instructor-bios/

External links[edit]