Another Special Life in Christ
These testimony lives are not stories of "role models". Jesus is the
These are lives wonderfully touched & changed by Jesus!
Tattoo on a Former UFC
I first saw him in the first televised Ultimate
Fighting Championship match I'd ever seen. They were announcing that he was en route to the
octagon fighting cage; and, as the camera panned the entry walk, I was shocked to see a man
acting as if he were carrying a cross on his back to his crucifixion (UFC III)! He entered
the ring in 1996, a 6 foot 2 inch, 240 pound Hawaiian scheduled to fight (and lose to) the
amazing Ken Shamrock. A large cross was tattooed on his back, and arched across his upper
abdomen in large letters was the name, JESUS.
Kimo Leopoldo was born in Munich 5 January 1968
and moved to Waikiki, Hawaii 4 months later. He enjoyed surfing as he grew up. In his late
teens, this natural athlete earned a partial scholarship to the University of Washington.
But, being unprepared for college, he quietly returned to Hawaii without telling his dad
(parents now separated). But a surfing injury to his face put him into 10 hours of
reconstructive surgery, and his dad found out about his return upon receipt of the medical
Kimo was now in dire straits, and the relationship
with his father was non-existent. Save for a few times he visited his Germanic mother (who
had a difficult time speaking English), Kimo needed to survive on his own any way he could.
Hanging out in clubs, he developed an appetite for "the life"; and, at age 21 (1989), he
became entranced by a local drug dealer. While working at a club called Pink Cadillac, Kimo
saw the popularity that surrounded his dealer friend and wanted a taste. "I went from selling
quarters of coke in clubs, to doing collections, to just surviving with him," remembered
Kimo. It didn't stop there as he quickly became slave to speed. But within 9 months, it all
crashed down amidst fights and arrests of his two dealer friends.
A 22 (1990) year old Kimo and his girlfriend
retreated to Newport Beach, California, where he sought to renew his career in football.
Orange Coast College showed interest; but first, Kimo had to make some changes to his name
and social security number. (Once someone starts playing college ball, the time clocks starts
and ends after four years. Kimo couldn't turn back the clock.) Using the name Kim Leopold, he
took Junior College All American almost immediately; and letters poured in from several
colleges, even Washington, ironically. Eventually plagued by torn ACLs in both knees, his
success only lasted till mid-sophomore year. At 255 pounds, the letters stopped coming, his
dream of middle linebacker was gone, and his girlfriend left him.
"I was depressed; and, not seeing a future before
me, I lost my focus and eventually fell right back into that same hole that I had been in
before." While making money as a collector without the drugs this time, Kimo was living in
Huntington Beach and bumming money off his ex girlfriend just to pay the bills. Working at
clubs was the only way he could make money, but at 25 years old, his maturity was about to
catch up to him. "People don't retire with that job." Once again, he needed to find salvation
and contemplated his very purpose in life. Rummaging through bookstores, Kimo began learning
about religion, wondering if that would hold the key to the mystery. "God, if you're out
there, I'm looking and need your help," he thought.
Six months later, Kimo ran into a short, stocky
Asian man named Joe Son. Son was part of an extremist Christian group who took its commitment
to God to a whole new level. Kimo gravitated toward it immediately. The two men became
friends; and, after seeing them pray inside a house laden with scriptures painted on the
walls, Kimo made a plea to God. No longer wanting to live a life where it took a half bottle
of Nyquil just to put him to sleep, he prayed, "Lord, I don't want this anymore. If you get
rid of all these things, I'll give my life to you." And from that point on, his cravings
disappeared-for drugs, club life and even sex.
As Kimo had always been an extremist as well, he
decided to inscribe "Jesus" on his stomach so that he could never turn away from it. But
people kept coming up to him saying the Spanish pronunciation, believing that was his name.
To make sure there was no doubt, Kimo inked up his back with a huge black cross. "Now there's
no mistake, and they know it's Jesus," he said. But, the leaving of one lifestyle naturally
had to produce another lifestyle; and that's when Kimo remembered a video that a former club
bouncer had shown to him. Around the time of the first UFC, Kimo worked at a club called 5902
where Royce Gracie's personal trainer also worked from time to time. He showed Kimo the
"Gracies in Action" tapes and a video from the first UFC. Kimo thought the martial arts
fighting was crazy, but the idea seemed intriguing.
Together with Joe Son, the two hatched a plan on
how this "ultimate fighting" fad could enrich their lives. "Here was something that I used to
do in a negative sense; now it would be a legit job," thought Kimo. Before long, a motley
trio entered Art Davie's WOW office to pitch Kimo. Son was dressed in a suit, and a female
carried a briefcase. As for Kimo, he wouldn't say a word and sat on the couch with the same
stone-faced grimace that he used during his old drug collection jobs. It didn't take long for
Davie to give him the go, but little did anyone realize where all of this was headed. Son
believed the exposure could get them in the movies, since the event would be on
On September 9, 1994, the audience for UFC III
would recognize Kimo as a black belt in tae kwon do-a total fallacy devised by Joe Son.
Carrying a cross on his back...something he actually did during his days with a Christian
extremist group called Holy Dome...Kimo would represent his faith. "I was calm, and whatever
happened in that octagon just happened," he said. "I was very proud at being able to carry
the cross like that." In reality, Kimo says he only actually trained one day with Joe Son,
who had a very minimal martial arts background. "To be honest with you, we really didn't even
train; we read bible scriptures instead." Kimo also wanted to show that Christians could be
strong and look strong, far removed from the stereotypical figures that most
In early 2002, I contacted the Huntington Beach
(HB) Chamber of Commerce, without any luck/response. A few months later, I e-mailed the
sports editor for a HB newspaper...no luck/response. In 2002, Carole Fields joined our
crew/team at LMC; and she and Larry made a trip back home about September 2002...no info on
Kimo. Then on 7 December 2002, I got an e-mail from a Richmond Andal who pointed me to Clyde
Gentry, III's interview with Kimo on the "Ultimate Athlete" web site...the source of much of
the information in Kimo's testimony.
At 34 years old, "It's now-or-nothing committed,"
said Kimo. "I don't have the time to play anymore." The idea of moving from Southern
California to Las Vegas to cleanse his soul doesn't seem like a viable option, but Kimo did
just that. He also hooked up with long-time friend John Lewis, whom he has known since the
6th grade. "First of all, I don't know anyone in Vegas. Secondly, John Lewis has a dojo out
here with new people to train with, and it feels good."
"People go up and down, but the heart of the
individual and their motives is what they are about," said Kimo wrapping up the interview for
UA. "You have to have faith in something that keeps you running; and, for me, that's this
sport." Does Kimo believe...in a backslide?
***give me your comments about this
[posted 6 Jan. 2002; latest update 1 February
You have just read a very brief example of the
powerful, supernatural transformation of a person's life which is possible through the
acceptance of Jesus as your savior. Are you tired of life as it now is for you? He will
accept you just as you are right this second! Consider accepting Jesus now