EXCLUSIVE: Former UFC fighter Karl Roberson is accused of targeting a childhood friend in a home robbery and stealing more than $200,000 worth of «exotic jewelry and valuables.»

Ryan Leonard was about 18 years old when he met Roberson, who was then 14 years old, as they were both from Neptune City, New Jersey. Leonard knew him as a «humble person who wanted to be a great athletic superstar.»

However, Leonard’s thoughts on Roberson quickly changed after what happened on December 26, 2022.


Former UFC fighter Karl Roberson has been arrested in connection with a burglary at a New Jersey home, where more than $200,000 worth of jewelry and valuables were stolen. (Ryan Leonardo)

Roberson, 32, was arrested March 27 after police pulled him over in a vehicle related to a burglary at Leonard’s home in Howell Township the day after Christmas.

Authorities issued a press release saying Roberson was being charged with robbery, larceny and criminal mischief, as well as possession of a controlled dangerous substance and «various weapons-related offenses.»

«During the search, officers found a defaced .9mm handgun with an extended magazine, several packages of suspected ‘crack cocaine,’ marijuana, and items related to the robbery,» authorities said.

A second man, Dathan Thompson, 32, was also arrested on March 27 following a police investigation. He was charged with theft, theft and criminal mischief and was arrested «without incident» at his home.


Leonard detailed to Fox News Digital how he believes Roberson and Thompson attacked him as he was about to finish building and setting up his home.

«We made before and after videos of the house that I sent directly to Karl…showing him the before and after thinking we’re on the same page,» Leonard explained. “We are both from Neptune, both successful. Like ‘Hey, check out the new digs.’

«He used those before and after videos to basically map out my house and know where the bedroom was. It shows the closet, the remodel, and clearly he knew I had jewelry because I wear it everywhere.»

Leonard is a US Army Veteran, founder and CEO of NJF around the world, a direct source manufacturing company that started as a clothing brand and has grown tremendously since it opened 11 years ago. Leonard has been giving back to his Neptune community and more over the years and has always looked to those close to him like Roberson, especially when he made the leap to the UFC.

Karl Roberson prepares for a fight at UFC APEX in 2022

Karl Roberson prepares to fight Khalil Rountree Jr. in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 12, 2022 in Las Vegas. (Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

«Before I had a penny to my name, I could barely afford this, but I made myself a pair of boxing gloves with my logo on it for a show and I made him a pair of gloves with his nickname, ‘Baby K, ‘to say: ‘ Hey, this is from me to you. I don’t want anything for this. This is just something I want you to have. I’m proud of you.’

«I did everything I could to support him, and lo and behold, the day after Christmas he basically lined me up.»

Knowing Leonard well enough, he said Roberson knew he had a lot of jewelry and valuables in his house. Leonard said GPS data showed Roberson had been to his house «five or six times back and forth» before the burglary.

The burglars waited for Leonard to leave his house before crossing the street and through a neighbor’s yard before entering the house through the backyard door.


In video obtained by Fox News Digital, Roberson is alleged to be the man in the brown jumpsuit.

Leonard had his $80,000 Presidential Rolex stolen along with $60,000 worth of Cuban chains each and a $30,000 bracelet, among other things. None of it has been recovered.

However, Leonard had cameras placed inside and outside his home, which caught the two men going in and out. Leonard said Thompson’s pink shoes in the video gave him away and helped authorities connect the dots.

«The same shoes were used in a rap video,» Leonard said.

Thompson later connected with Roberson, whom Leonard said «has been all over the country, all over the world with him as his right-hand man.»

Karl Roberson punches Kennedy Nzechukwu of Nigeria during a July 2022 fight

From left to right, Karl Roberson punches Kennedy Nzechukwu of Nigeria in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 9, 2022 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

However, once the authorities told Leonard that Roberson was the prime suspect, he initially did not believe them due to their friendship. However, the video evidence made him change his mind.

«The body language, everything. That’s what set it all off,» Leonard said of believing Roberson was on video in his closet stealing his valuables. «From that moment we knew it was Karl just from the body language, the build. Knowing him for 19 years, the mannerism. The little jog he did out of the closet. It was very similar to his UFC jog around the ring. Every little thing he I’ve known someone for so long, I just took it from there.

«I couldn’t stop looking at him as much as I wanted to.»

If that wasn’t enough, Leonard said Roberson had liked and responded to his social media posts and tried to «blend in» when Leonard was sharing photos and videos of the incident to get the word out about the robbery.

Roberson also visited Leonard’s store to discuss a potential brand less than a year ago.

Karl Roberson warms up before a fight in July 2022

Karl Roberson warms up before his fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 9, 2022 in Las Vegas. (Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

«I built an entire logo for him, branded him, gave him tens of thousands of dollars of my time and advice to create a brand for him, and he basically screwed me with that too,» Leonard said.

While the value of her jewelry was a great deal, Leonard’s peace of mind is something she can’t put a price on. He suffers from PTSD after his days in the military, when he was stationed in Iraq for more than 400 days between 2009 and 2010, and it has been difficult for anyone to break into his house.

That it’s someone you considered a friend makes it even worse.

«He’s not the same kid that I grew up with. He’s not the same kid in those photos,» Leonard told Fox News Digital. «I had no idea that Karl has this other side of him and I am so disappointed and feel betrayed.»

Police held Roberson for approximately «two or three weeks» before they finally released him.

Roberson made his MMA debut in May 2015 and would rise through the ranks before appearing on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series in 2017. He defeated Ryan Spann and earned a contract with the UFC.

Former UFC fighter Karl Roberson takes a photo

Former UFC fighter Karl Roberson, left, takes a photo with Ryan Leonard. Roberson was charged with home burglary after allegedly stealing $200,000 worth of jewelry from Leonard. (Ryan Leonard/Instagram)

Roberson went on to own a 9-6 record in the UFC, but after losing his last four matches, his last in July 2022 to Kennedy Nzechukwu, he was no longer on the UFC’s roster.


Roberson did not immediately respond to the comment when asked by Fox News Digital.

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.