According to Merriam-Webster, a disability is defined as:
“a lack of adequate power, strength, or physical or mental ability; incapacity.”
In the case of John (JP) “The Warrior” Gillespie, he has been shooting-in to takedown the essence of this definition since birth. Born with cerebral palsy, a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination caused by damage to the brain before or at birth, Gillespie would be the first one to weigh-in on this matter, expressing: Anything is possible. Exceeding everyone’s expectations, aside from himself and loved ones, Gillespie will create a reality for his dreams by stepping into a steel cage to fight for a title, the Prime Fight Series (Prime FS) Fighting for Autism Championship. On October 3, 2015 at Prime Fight Series V: Breakout, the click of the cage behind Gillespie will be the pinch to prove he’s truly awake when he battles David Steffan, similarly affected by cerebral palsy, at The Martial Arts Center St. Louis in Affton, Missouri.
Standing under the spotlight as the headliner of an MMA event was unimaginable for the doctors who prescribed Gillespie’s future after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In an interview with MMA Wreckage, via online correspondence, Gillespie recalled the news his parents received from doctors,
“When I was born, my parents were told that I would never walk, talk, or be potty trained. The doctors believed that I would be confined to a wheelchair and would not have any high-functioning cognitive skills. Basically, it was believed that nothing was imaginable.”
Credit where credit is due, the doctors were correct in the fact that Gillespie would never talk. Aside from a muted voice-box, the doctors forecasted Gillespie’s development all wrong, and, at Prime FS V: Breakout, he will express his learned art in a manner that voicelessly proves the physicians’ poor prognosis: making the walk to the cage from backstage; training has far exceeded any potty; and the only rolling around in a wheelchair will be the one Gillespie attempts to seat his opponent before the rendering of any judges’ scorecards.
Gillespie shared where his motivation to repel resistance stems from,
“My parents decided at that time that the term nothing could not be within their vocabulary, or mine. My parents treated me like any other child and fought for me to be mainstreamed in regular education schools and classrooms. My mom signed me up to play soccer, T-ball, and even football. All of which, I participated successfully with the help of my stepfather, P.J., who worked with me and would not let me use my disability as an excuse.”
With a will to win drilled into his psyche since childhood, Gillespie’s journey toward competing in MMA began in 2009 and was intensified when tragedy struck. In 2013, Gillespie’s father submitted to cancer and passed, but Gillespie allowed this event to fuel his fire after he vowed to his father that he would fight in an MMA bout. He told MMA Wreckage,
“I became more determined to fulfill my dream after I lost my father to pancreatic cancer in 2013.”
Capturing attention of those outside the MMA community, ABC affiliate, WSIL TV, reported on Gillespie’s story (link here).
As the segment plays, the audience bears witness to Gillespie’s focus and determination in the gym. Describing the usage of his hands as limited appears questionable with the pop-pop-pop that streams through the broadcast, showcasing the strides he’s made as a fighter. Bursting with pride in front of the camera crew, Gillespie’s coach at Combined Martial Arts, Mike Ben Avi, announced Gillespie’s readiness to heed the call of the bell,
“It takes a lot of courage, a lot of physical abilities, and he is going to prove to everyone that he is ready for that.”
Success stories as Gillespie’s can cause statues to well up, and listening to his Mother revisit the road he’s traveled may cause that well to overflow, replicating the tears she was brought to,
“When he came to me and told me he wanted to do mixed martial arts, I was very nervous. But he was very determined and worked very hard. I am just so proud of him, and he has achieved so much.”
The MMA community has caught wind of Gillespie’s story. High-profile fighters and other members of MMA raced to record their positive affirmations for Gillespie in his debut, leading us to believe that this is only the beginning of achievement as a mixed martial artist for Gillespie:
Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge, former UFC competitor and co-founder of Legends of the Cage.
Linton Vassell, a light heavyweight competitor at Bellator MMA and will be featured in Bellator MMA 142: Dynamite’s tournament.
Invicta Fighting Championships matchmaker, Julie Kedzie, and President, Shannon Knapp.
Stephan Bonnar, a former UFC light heavyweight competitor and current star at Bellator MMA.
David “The Caveman” Rickles, a lightweight competitor at Bellator MMA.
Racheal Blaze, founder of Blaze Kids and radio personality.
Dustin Hill, executive producer of The Sports Cage and JP Gillespie’s best friend.
Concluding his time with MMA Wreckage, Gillespie closed, leaving everything to chance,
“I have added nothing back into my vocabulary, as in, I will stop at nothing to be exactly who I am! I am an MMA fighter in mind, body, and soul.”
Don’t handicap yourself by not being a spectator at this emotionally stimulating event. Order your tickets to Prime FS V: Breakout online at: cagetix.com/PrimeFS.
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Continue to follow JP Gillespie on his adventure: