LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — A professional MMA fighter from Lee’s Summit died Tuesday after battling pancreatic cancer.
Those who knew him say William “The Armadillo” Joplin will be missed.
“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. It’s its defense,” Joplin said, describing his fighting style in April.
It was much like his battle with stage four pancreatic cancer. Doctors gave him six months to live, and he lasted more than a year.
His mother, Janet Darnell, passed away from the same disease around a year before his diagnosis.
James Krause trained him for more than 10 years. They spent countless hours together in the ring and at Glory MMA in Lee’s Summit.
“I just don’t think that they make fighters like him anymore,” Krause said. “I think that the MMA world lost one of the last good old school fighters.”
Krause said cancer couldn’t keep Joplin down. He fought even after doctors gave him a bleak timeline.
“A few of which we didn’t know about, and then probably one or two that we did know, and then he fought once when he was in the middle of chemo,” Krause said. “So if that tells you the type of person he is — most people can’t even walk during that period, but he fought, and won I might add.”
He said even in Joplin’s last days he was living for every moment and surrounded by his friends.
“He was having fun,” Krause said. “I think that people that know him, but don’t know his last days — he was having fun, doing what he loves, watching fights and hanging out with friends. Nobody likes to talk about death, but I’d like to think the last few days he had were fun.”
Krause said giving up was something “The Armadillo” couldn’t do.
“He was one of the most coachable fighters I’ve ever had,” Krause said. “You say jump; he’ll say how high. He could be beaten, battered and bloody and he’ll still look to you and say, ‘What do I do next?’ without complaints.”
In April, Joplin said he would use his 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. If you’re still breathing and still moving, you’ve got to act like it,” Joplin said. “Just don’t stop until you have no choice.”
Joplin’s funeral arrangements are still in the works. If you would like to help his sister with costs for his care and service, you can learn more by clicking here.