Leopoldo Sets Record Straight

By Loretta Hunt Jun 10, 2009
Kimo Leopoldo feels he hasn’t gotten a fair shake.

The six-time UFC veteran’s name and face were splashed across the headlines when he was arrested Feb. 16 in a Tustin, Calif., parking lot.

Leopoldo was apprehended for two felonies and one misdemeanor, which included an allegation for possession of methamphetamine. The drug was found in the car that the fighter was standing next to at the time of his arrest.

What wasn’t reported, however, was the fallout.

In March, Leopoldo’s charges were reduced to three misdemeanors for possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and a decommissioned police jumpsuit, which had been reported as lost some 10 years prior, according to the Orange County’s District Attorney’s Office.

Leopoldo has denied ownership of the marijuana and drug pipe, as well as the methamphetamine, which was taken from the car during what the fighter called “an illegal search and seizure.” Unable to prove the drug belonged to Leopoldo, the district attorney’s office did not charge him for methamphetamine possession. He was also erroneously identified as the owner of the vehicle in the early stages of the arrest.

“I wasn’t charged with it. I wasn’t on methamphetamine and I was not tested for methamphetamine,” said Leopoldo, who was waiting for his friend and driver to return to the vehicle when two plain-clothes officers approached him.

Leopoldo, who had recently undergone knee surgery and was partially immobile at the time, said he was also held and interrogated for nearly an hour at the scene before he was taken into custody.

“They misjudged me, character-profiled me and basically wronged me,” said Leopoldo. “Everything I was accused of was wrong. None of it was justified.”

Leopoldo is confident that his day in court will lead to his vindication later this year.

The tarnishing of his name and reputation isn’t so easy to reverse, though. Numerous sites, including Sherdog.com, reported that Leopoldo had been busted for methamphetamine with little to no follow-up.

“People were quick to jump on the methamphetamine accusation with me, just linking me with this drug,” he said. “Because I’m from Hawaii and I’ve had some sort of past, they want to hold on to that past and not let you move on to your future.”

Leopoldo’s future included a campaign for the executive officer’s position for the California State Athletic Commission.

In fact, the fighter said he was wearing the policeman’s uniform for a photo shoot planned for his online campaign “Kimo Policing the Streets,” a way in which the fighter hoped to illustrate his intentions to make a positive impact on the community in the state role.

Although Leopoldo couldn’t reveal where he obtained the jumpsuit due to pending litigation, he said he certainly hadn’t realized that wearing it was illegal.

“It wasn’t an official, everyday uniform you’d see a police officer [wear],” said Leopoldo. “It was a Dickies mechanics outfit. It looked like something you could get at a costume shop.”

A longtime resident of Huntington Beach, Calif., Leopoldo felt he had ample experience and a keen understanding of the coveted position left vacant by the exiting Armando Garcia in late 2008.

“I’ve been with the sport from the beginning,” said Leopoldo. “I’ve been through a lot of the logistics. I’ve had a lot of experience co-promoting events. I’m a fan of the game, so I know what the fans want.”

If elected to the position, Leopoldo said he planned not only to drum up some of the sport’s business back California’s way, but also to concentrate on improving fighters’ economic situation.

“I was really going to focus on getting everyone’s opinions and making it more equal for everybody,” he said. “It shouldn’t be so the promoter or one person is making all the money. The fighters don’t even have retirement plans or getting a fair shake at these contracts because they have no names. They’re signing their lives away to promoters, and it just isn’t right.”

However, the 14-year fighting veteran was not named among three finalists selected from the applicant pool earlier this year. To date, the role has still not been filled.

Leopoldo, the first man to derail Royce Gracie’s run for a tournament title back at UFC 3 when the Brazilian later withdrew from exhaustion, believes the negative press helped shut that door.

“Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I’m partly –- I can’t say I’m 100 percent [blameless],” he said. “Definitely how quickly everyone jumped on it and publicized it and put it out there, it definitely didn’t give my chances a very good percentage.”

The tattoo-covered Hawaiian, epitomized for his fighting spirit in the cage as much as his easy-going attitude outside of it, is ready to move on in other ways though.

Leopoldo signed a one-year, three-film deal with a Canadian production company in May. Leopoldo, who was cast alongside Giovanni Ribisi and Scott Cain in the 2006 film “The Dog Problem,” will play a demon in the upcoming horror film. Shooting begins in early June in Studio City, Calif.

“There’s some good things coming to me right now besides fighting,” said Leopoldo. “I’ve done a few films in the past and I think I’ve had a pretty natural knack for it.”

Leopoldo won’t stray too far from his roots. He’s slated to co-promote events under the New Era Fighting banner in Mexico and Dubai in the coming months.

A return to the cage isn’t out of the question for the 41-year-old fighter either.

“I do want to fight one more time. I got one more good one in me,” says Leopoldo, who deferred his swansong opponent to the fans.

Leopoldo said fans can voice their choices at FightEngine.com, but admits he’d love to rematch Bob Sapp in MMA. Leopoldo dropped a kickboxing match to the 340-pound, former NFL behemoth in June 2006.

“It depends on what the fans want to throw at me, but I want one last one and I want it to be a freak show,” he said.

After a rocky start in 2009, the father of an 18-year-old son said he’s also finding his way back onto the appearance circuit and is currently entertaining offers.

Leopoldo, who tested positive for steroid use in Nevada in 2004 and then in California in 2006, doesn’t shy away from his indiscretions of the past. He does ask, however, that he be held responsible only for the acts he’s actually committed.

“Because of that tag that’s on me, believe me, where I go to fight, they check me once, twice, three times to make sure,” said Leopoldo. “It doesn’t bother me, because I no longer have any a affiliation with that type of lifestyle, so bring it on. I’m innocent of all the things they’re accusing me of. We cleared those felonies. We’ll clear those misdemeanors as well.”

Kimo Leopoldo can be reached at FightEngine.com or at kimo@newerafighting.com.
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