Jordan Williams will not be defeated. He will not back down. He will not ask for a timeout or someone’s hand to hold. He looks at his opponent straight-on, unblinking to the danger in front of him. Come on, diabetes, I’m ready for you.
Williams, a Santa Rosa resident, will step into the octagon tonight in Las Vegas, a mixed martial arts fighter making his UFC debut, and will do so with a huge rooting section. Some of them may even know a drop kick from a tear drop.
Williams appeals to one of our most basic instincts — courage — and he moves the needle beyond the norm, even for an MMA fighter. His opponent — while it may list Tim Caron of New Hampshire on the fight card — is diabetes. The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 100 million Americans are diabetic or prediabetic.
That he is fighting for a lot of people and not just himself, well, that became obvious to him May 5. Williams, 27, gave a speech to an American Diabetes Association conference at the Napa Marriott. The ovation he received at the speech’s conclusion has faded in memory to the silence that followed afterward.
A father brought his young daughter to Williams for a brief consult and photo op. His daughter is diabetic. She asked him how difficult it was to be a professional combat athlete with Type 1 diabetes. Williams spoke of not living his life in a shell, that everyone goes through rough patches. It was then that the silence came.
“I saw her face change,” said Williams, 6-feet, 185 pounds. “I saw what was like a blueprint coming across her face, what can be possible for her.”
Speaking by phone from his Vegas hotel room, Williams went quiet. Professional athletes — by nature of their job — have to see the world with blinders. It’s necessary for survival. But this young girl, she took off his blinders and he hasn’t been the same since.
“I want to inspire people,” Williams said. “You don’t have to sit in a rocking chair the rest of your life.”
Williams was never much of a lounge lizard. In 2010, at Sierra College, he was the state community college wrestling champion at 197 pounds. He was also urinating eight times a night.
“I was moody, I’d get outraged at my little brother for no good reason,” Williams said. His blood sugar was tested. It was 465. Normal blood sugar readings are 90-120. He was dying and he didn’t even now it. His pancreas had stopped producing insulin, causing blood sugars to rise. No cure exists for either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes but the disease can be managed. Initially, Williams didn’t like how it was to be managed.
“They told me I couldn’t drink,” Williams said. “What? I was only 19! I hadn’t even started to drink yet.”
This is when his courage checked in. Deciding to get more exercise than moving the rocking chair back and forth, Williams was intrigued by mixed martial arts. Six years ago he lost an amateur fight by suffering a cut. But to his everlasting luck David Terrell saw much more than a bleeding fighter. Terrell, 40, is a legend in these parts, having fought for the UFC middleweight title in 2005.