By: Dustin Hill
Saturday September 12, 2015– Inspiration can come in all sorts of ways. In southern Illinois there is a young man who is defying the odds and inspiring the entire MMA community along with family, friends, and social media. His name is JP Gillespie. JP has cerebal palsy that limits his hand use and is unable to speak. He fell in love with martial arts at a young age. In 2009 he began training at Combined Martial Arts in Marion, Illinois under the tutelage of Mike Ben Avi. His level of dedication, drive, and heart has set him apart.
In 2013 JP’s father passed away due to cancer. JP made a promise to his father that one he would fight in the octagon. Fast forward to August of 2015 as JP fulfilled that promise and made his MMA debut at Prime Fight Series 4 and realizing his dream. Promoter Shane Rice and matchmaker Kain Royer wanted to assure that adaptive athletes such as JP and Alex Russo are able to live their dreams.
After a great battle with Matt Murphy the bout was deemed a draw but with such a hard-fought performance in JP’s debut Brian Higginbotham manager of operations for Fighting for Autism along with the rest of the crowd seen JP’s potential and that set up the battle with David Steffan for the Fighting for Autism Championship on October 3rd at Center St. Louis in Affton, Missouri on Prime Fight Series V Breakout.
With the championship match up set. Coach and mentor Mike Ben Avi stepped into the cage and presented JP with his orange belt. Words will never be able to do JP justice. The sheer number of people that he has inspired is truly remarkable.
Dustin Hill JP’s best friend stated
It’s not often that someone comes along with the ability to touch ones soul and for me personally he has done just that and for that I am forever in JP’s debit. OSS JP now is your time and thank you for allowing me to be along side as you go for the championship.
My name is John (J.P.) Gillespie and I am 26 years old. I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and moved to the small town of Johnston City, Illinois when I was 12 years old. I was born with a cerebral palsy (CP). It is estimated that CP occurs in about 2-3 per 1,000 births. 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 wheel chair and would not have any high functioning cognitive skills. Basically, it was believed that nothing was imaginable.
My parents decided at that time that the term ‘nothing’ could not be within their vocabulary or mine. Instead, they pushed. They wanted to see how far I could go with ‘nothing’. I was enrolled in every possible physical therapy program they could find. I received countless hours of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. My parents treated me like any other child and fought for me to be mainstreamed in a regular education schools and classrooms. My mom signed me up to play soccer and t-ball and even football. All of which I participated in successfully with the help of my step father, P.J., who worked with me and would not let me use my disability as an excuse.
My parents also endured the many times I became frustrated and wanted to quit or do it my way as I can be a little head-strong and stubborn at times. But know this; it is this very head-strong sense of pride and compassion that has prevented me to be anything more than nothing. Without an amazing support system of family and friends, I could have derailed a few times. It is these family and friends that I love for motivating me and keeping me on the right track and treating me as if nothing were impossible. The cerebral palsy does prevent me from speaking, and yes I have physical limitations, but it’s the perceptions of others that truly limit me.
I fell in love with martial arts at a young age. It has always been my dream to become a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. I began training in 2009 and became more determined to fulfill my dream after I lost my father to Pancreatic Cancer in 2013. I’m currently training at the CMA gym in Marion, Illinois under my Sensi/Coach, Mike Ben Avi. This training has developed more than fighting skills. It has developed a new sense of perspective, discipline, pride and worth. It kind of opened my eyes to who I am, and I like who I am. If you are able to put everything into perspective, nothing is a problem.
I have added ‘nothing’ back to my vocabulary, as in I will stop at nothing to be exactly who I am!
I am a MMA Fighter in mind, body, & soul.