Dead or Alive Amid Rumors
07-21-09: News sources first confirmed that former UFC veteran Kimo Leopoldo is dead at age 41. Several MMA websites were reporting Leopoldo died at Saint Francis Hospital located somewhere in Costa Rica.
Leopoldo was reported to have died from complications from a heart attack, although the reports of the exact cause of his death were still unconfirmed.
Leopoldo's publicist immediately refuted reports that Kimo was in Costa Rica and instead was seen alive in Orange County the night before. Soon after the initial death report, the news wires were jammed with counter statements claiming the earlier reports were also untrue. Witnesses began to claim they’d seen Leopoldo alive and well in California.
“Kimo Leopoldo is not dead, I’ve been told by his attorney,” says Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. “I just spoke to his attorney a few minutes ago. He suggested I call his manager, whose voice mail is full. Attorney says he’s alive! From what I’ve been told, and this is not finalized, Kimo will hold a conference call tomorrow.”
Also, Kimo’s publicist states, “Apparently he was sleeping and woke up to learn of reports of his death.”
(Born: January 4, 1968 in Germany / moved to Waikiki, Hawaii as an infant), a retired mixed-martial artist who was more often than not billed simply as Kimo, made his official MMA debut at UFC-3 in 1994.
Kimo always had a love for surfing in the ocean and sports as he grew up. In his late teens he earned a scholarship for American Football to the University of Washington. On a return visit to Hawaii, Kimo suffered a horrible surfing injury to his face, which required more than 10 hours of reconstructive surgery.
This was to be the start of learning how to deal with his physical pain and endure the inner strength that entails. Furthermore, around this time he tried to deal with many additional emotional pains too.
Kimo’s fighting style has been described as freestyle, with a mixture of striking and grappling techniques. He continued to cross-train and was erroneously credited with a black belt in Taekwondo during his first Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Kimo is well known for his devotion towards his Christian beliefs; he sports many religious tattoos, often entering the arena carrying a large cross on his back.
A tall and imposing looking Leopoldo began his MMA career over 15 years ago, losing a brutal battle to Royce Gracie by submission. Still, Kimo became the first man to truly challenge the seemingly invincible UFC Champion Royce Gracie.
Gracie, in fact, was so fatigued from the fight with the much more heavily-muscled Kimo that he had to be helped out of the ring by family members and was unable to continue on in the night's tournament.
To many MMA fans he was the first old school fighter that showed the world that the legendary former UFC Champion Royce Gracie might be beatable.
Leopoldo won six of his next seven bouts fighting primarily for the UFC and PRIDE.
Kimo returned at UFC-8 and fought Ken Shamrock for the UFC Super-fight Championship, but lost early in the fight via submission.
Kimo would then go on to victories over Paul Varelans, professional wrestler “Bam Bam” Bigelow and Brian Johnston. Returning to the UFC at “Battle in the Bayou” where Kimo would lose a decision to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and then did not fight again for four long years.
Kimo fought a lackluster warm up fight against Tim Lajcik for the WFA in 2002. Kimo again returned to the cage at UFC-43, where he quickly defeated David "Tank" Abbott by arm triangle choke. Kimo went on to fight in the main event of UFC-48, where he fought Ken Shamrock in a rematch. Kimo was knocked out in the first round from solid knee strikes to the head.
In his two most recent fights, Kimo lost to Dave Legeno by submission. He then lost to Wes Sims, quickly suffering a first-round TKO loss to Wes Sims at the 2006 X-1 Extreme Wars show.
Leopoldo's last fight was in October 2006, finishing his career with a 10-7-1 record, which included a 2-5 record in the UFC.
Years ago, during an informal discussion with Leopoldo at an event we both were attending, this observant writer found Kimo to be disoriented and easily distracted, his pupils were dilated and he was sweating. He admitted to being a bit “punch-drunk” yet it seemed obvious that he might have been feeling the effects of a drug while we spoke.
Rumors began to circulate that Kimo indeed was using some sort of substance.
Kimo fought some noteworthy opponents of early NHB, including Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Tank Abbott, Dan Severn, Wes Sims, Kazushi Sakuraba, and…apparently struggled against one hell of a cocaine, meth and steroids habit.
During his career, Leopoldo failed drug tests due to performance-enhancing drugs and banned stimulants.
And through it all he did his constant best to spread his passion for the message of Jesus Christ from his MMA platform.
This year, he launched an unsuccessful bid to become the executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission to "end corruption" in the regulatory body. However, he was arrested just a few weeks later on possession of marijuana (though charges for possession of methamphetamine and possession of stolen property were later dropped) and was sentenced earlier this week to community service and a drug rehabilitation program.
Kimo's past few years were riddled with a list of legal problems, including arrests for drugs, assault and battery and domestic violence...
In July 2006, Leopoldo was slated to fight former UFC heavyweight champion and “King of Pancrase” Bas Rutten in the World Fighting Alliance. Two days before the match was scheduled to take place, Kimo tested positive for the banned substance Stanozolol, a form of anabolic steroids, and was suspended.
Earlier in his career, Kimo had been handed a six-month fight suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission following his match with Ken Shamrock at UFC-48, after testing positive for Stanozolol and illegal stimulants.
On February 16, 2009, it was reported that Leopoldo was arrested in Tustin, California on charges of possession of a controlled substance. Leopoldo was standing by his car, wearing sandals, playing with a yo-yo, and donning a Long Beach Police Department jumpsuit, which included a stitched-on badge that can only be worn by sworn officers. The cotton jumpsuit was designed for officers in the 1990s to wear in the event of major disaster response, such as a massive earthquake.
Upon arrest he was also found to be in possession of marijuana.
Rumors of his demise:
07-22-09: The day after all the news reports of Kimo’s passing were released by media sources, the veteran MMA fighter emerged from solitude in a special press conference to personally announce to the public and his many fans that the rumors of his death were indeed completely untrue.
Denying any involvement, Leopoldo showed his clear distain for all the hype involved, claiming that it was a prime example of the “power of the media” to make such terrible things up. “It’s sad,” he stated.
“I stand here today to prove to you that I am not dead,” defends Kimo.
Although Kimo has been plagued by certain inner demons in recent years, whether dead or alive, he will most likely be remembered by MMA and UFC fans for his ability to put up a good fight in the octagon, his flamboyant persona, his devout individual beliefs and…perhaps for his many tattoos.