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Lee’s Summit MMA fighter fighting for his life against pancreatic cancer

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- A professional MMA fighter in Lee's Summit is battling cancer. It's the same cancer that took his mother's life a little over a year ago.

FOX4's Sherae Honeycutt talked with William "the Armadillo" Joplin in an exclusive interview about how his terminal illness isn't keeping him from fighting for his life.

The Armadillo is known for being a tough and resilient animal.

"A little armored possum that crawls up in a metal ball and you can hit it, kick it, hit it with a baseball bat, and it's how it protects itself," Joplin said. "It's it's defense."

Joplin who's been fighting in the ring for more than a decade had no clue how thick his shell really needed to be.

"I feel like everything was ripped away from me," Joplin said. "I lost my mom in February, so that was a dump, and then now the only thing really I love besides my mom - it's taken away from me."

His mom, Janet Darnell, died of pancreatic cancer in February of 2018. They were best friends later in her life after he says she helped him pull his life back together and get out of the streets. He committed to changing his life, and she got him a lawyer. They became closer than ever, and she supported him through his journey into MMA fighting. She came to all of his fights.

"I always feel her, especially when I fight, she’s one of the first people I think of especially when I fight, because she’s always there," Joplin said. "She was in my corner driving me to fights all the time. I could hear her screaming the crowd over everybody which always motivated me when I fought."

Eight months after Darnell passed away, Joplin faced the same terminal diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer that spread across his abdomen.

"It already metastasized to my liver, so surgery and everything like that is really not an option for me," Joplin said.

When his mother died he got a tattoo of her on his chest surrounded by flowers and the name "Mamadillo." He didn't know at the time, but it's where doctors would decide to put his chemotherapy port for all of his treatments.

"The fact that my chemo is literally going through her is pretty wild to me," Joplin said.

He hasn't given up, and still trains and fights at Glory MMA & Fitness in Lee's Summit. He says the friends he's gained there keep him going, and motivate him. After losing his mom he says the relationships he's made there mean more than ever.

"I know she wouldn't want me to quit and give up, so as long as I have any strength or energy in my body - I'm going to be in here," Joplin said. "To be able to come in here, and do what you watched me do. I’m extremely grateful for that. People see me do that they probably think I’m invincible, but I have my days where I’m not so great, but a lot of people I don’t tell them about that."

Anthony Gutierrez has known Joplin for years and says it's hard to see a friend go through something so difficult, but knows that he's a fighter.

"If there’s a guy that has it in him to keep pushing forward it's William Joplin. That’s for sure judging off of how he’s handled his career over the years of me knowing him," Gutierrez said. "It’s just another fight for him, and another day.

Joplin said he will use us armor to stay alive as long as he can.

"No matter how bad things are, or how crappy you're feeling, or no matter what anybody says - you've got six months to live, that doesn't mean you give up," Joplin said. "If you're still breathing, and still moving, you've got to act like it. Just don't stop until you have no choice."

Joplin is going through a difficult time with the loss of his mother, and unexpected medical costs related to his cancer. If you would like to help his family set up a gofundme for him to assist with his needs.

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