There are certainly more and more athletes opting for mixed martial arts as a career path over other pro sports, but former Denver Bronco Demetrin Veal, who now goes by the name Leandro, doesn’t exactly fit that mold.
A hippy at heart, Leandro is just following where his interests take him through life, exploring MMA following a modest career in the NFL.
After one year, yes, that’s right, one year of high school ball, Leandro received a scholarship to the University of Tennessee, one of the most highly respected college football programs in the country.
He played four years for the Broncos and one year each for the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted him, and the Tennessee Titans, before a knee injury and the demands of the powers that be for the then six-foot-three, 300-pound tackle to put on an addition 20-30 pounds influenced his decision to leave the game.
With the competitive fires still burning inside him, a few friends that workout with the same strength and conditioning coach as him – namely Brendan Schaub, Cody Donovan, and Nate Marquardt – influenced him to try his hand at MMA.
And although he’s spent the majority of his life in America, fighting isn’t far off from Leandro’s Brazilian roots. He was born in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
“Brazilian by blood, American by coaching,” he quipped in a recent interview with MMAWeekly.com.
Leandro’s first bout will be Saturday night against WWE wrestler turned mixed martial artist Chad Wicks at Ring of Fire: Bad Blood at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo.
Leandro is a lifelong practitioner of his home country’s native martial art of capoeira, although he’s been training specifically for MMA less than a year.
“You can train for so long until you get in the real gun and fire,” said Leandro, who believes in taking the things in life that interest him and exploring them to their fullest.
What the result is doesn’t matter to him. It’s the journey that entices Leandro.
“When I started football, it was just something that came to me and I liked it and I just took it as far as it took me,” he recalled. “So I’m just gonna work hard at (MMA); if it takes me to the top, it takes me to the top. I’m gonna give it my all and see how it goes.
“That’s how it should be with anything. You go out there with that stuff and have fun with it and take it as far as you can.”