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Contender Series hopeful Jordan Williams fights for fellow diabetics

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Jordan Williams
Jordan Williams
Bellator MMA

When Jordan Williams got the call to compete on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, he had to make a tough decision.

It had nothing to do with being afraid or unprepared (Williams has dealt with much larger problems in his life than mere jitters), but rather going through the proper protocol before agreeing to take on the opportunity of a lifetime. Williams is coached by former UFC fighter David Terrell, and when Williams’s manager Jason House told him that the Contender Series was asking him to step in as a short-notice replacement on June 26 for middleweight Andrew Todhunter, Terrell wasn’t available to advise Williams on what to do.

Told on Thursday that officials were waiting for him and with time ticking by on his shot at competing for a UFC roster spot, Williams made the decision on his own to sign on the dotted line to fight Tim Caron.

As it turns out, it’s exactly what Terrell would have recommended.

“I know David’s probably going to be mad at me for this, but I’m saying yes, get to work, please,” said Williams, speaking to MMA Fighting about how his talks with his management went. “I say ‘yes’ to my dreams.”

“And then they had me work out, I talked to Dave later that day and he was like, ‘Dude, when the UFC calls, you’ve got to answer.’ So me and Dave were on the same page. That’s how the story goes with the call, is Jason woke me up to some really good news.”

That good news meant Williams would be fighting for the third time in four months and with less than one week to prepare. Fortunately for him, staying in shape year-round is imperative for both his fighting career and his health.

Williams was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 19, a condition that threatened to derail his athletic aspirations in the midst of a successful junior college wrestling career. Now 27, Williams has gone to great lengths to work through the condition, all while compiling a 7-2 professional MMA record.

Early on, Williams had to get used to listening to what he calls “a voice” that would constantly be reminding him of the fatal consequences of having a blood sugar level that was either far too high or far too low. He recently begun using a glucose meter to help monitor his condition, but the device can be obtrusive when it comes to having to remove it so that he can train.

Even with all of those precautions, dealing with diabetes is an ongoing process and complications can arise at the drop of a hat. Last year, Williams’s lone fight booking of 2017 was canceled due to an unexpected medical emergency.

“August, I was hospitalized for over 10 days,” said Williams. “They took me to the hospital and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They told me I had health problems, they told me I was going to have to quit fighting, so I’ve been dealing with some setbacks, but the possibility of them are endless.

“Everyday I could take too much insulin or not enough, everyday that’s a challenge that we do the numbers and the math and we help get through it.”

So far, Williams has approached 2018 like a man with something to prove. He captured his first title belt in March, dispatching of Alex Lopez in just 24 seconds at a Dragon House show in San Francisco:

That led to a fight at Bellator 199 against the then-undefeated Brandon Hester. Williams won that bout by second-round TKO.

Afterwards, Williams was given a six-month medical suspension, but with his recovery ahead of schedule and his body still in shape from his last two fights, he was given clearance from a physician to compete on the Contender Series.

That in itself is somewhat of a miracle given that Williams has to provide information on his diabetes to officials and regulators in addition to all the other health checks that a fighter is required to go through before being permitted to step in the cage. But all the headaches and paperwork are worth it for Williams, who is intent on becoming a more pronounced voice for those afflicted by diabetes.

“I did my first diabetic speech at the American Diabetes Association,” said Williams. “That’s the largest donator to medical research and finances to diabetes in general in this nation. They had me do a speech for them and I was highly honored and respectful to be there, because of all these people these are like the highest donators and they wanted me to do a speech. After the speech, this little girl comes up to me and her dad informs me that she has diabetes and I could see her just holding my belt, just concentrating, the look on her face, like, ‘You did this?’

“Because that’s weird, because my doctors have been telling me that I couldn’t and that I need to be careful and that I need to maybe even second guess playing tennis. And you mean to tell me that you did this? World champion fighter? I could just see the blueprints of her mind and life just changing. And when you see that, it’s just like, good luck saying every fight is just for me now.”

Williams is interested in helping the USADA work with athletes who require regular insulin injections and providing advice on how to assist them in managing their blood sugar levels in a safe manner while steering clear of potential anti-doping violations.

There’s a lot of misconceptions surrounding his condition and Williams embraces the responsibility of dispelling some of those notions.

“I’m Jordan Williams, Type 1 diabetic, I fight for kids who have already had their dreams smashed and stepped all over for whatever, not even just fighting,” said Williams. “I fight for dreams of people trying to make it in jobs — did you know you can’t be a pilot if you’re a Type 1 diabetic? You can’t be in the military if you’re a Type 1 diabetic.

“I’m fighting for everyone who’s been rejected in their life and carries that bag of rejection with them. I’m fighting for them.”

It’s another obstacle to overcome and Williams doesn’t pretend that battling diabetes is easy. But the way he sees it, that day-to-day struggle guarantees that he’s prepared for any in-cage fight that comes his way.

“Yes, it is a setback, but at the same time it’s like a slingshot,” said Williams. “It’s pulling me back, creating all this tension, but if you release it, you go so much farther.”