MMAWeekly on Wednesday spoke to Kimo Leopoldo and his manager BrandtStebbins as they evaluated their options in dealing with a bogus news story about Leopoldo's death that was picked up by several media outlets.
MMAWeekly: What did you do when you first heard the reports?
Leopoldo: Well, at first, I looked in the mirror to make sure I was alive. Then I went downstairs and got on the computer to see a little bit of what's really going on. It took me a while to really digest it. At that point, people started showing up at the house.
MMAWeekly: Who started showing up at the house?
Leopoldo: Girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, close friends of mine. No relatives, but just really close friends of mine. They were tripping out. I just got so overwhelmed that I had to leave the house. So I went to my promoter's house, Ron Cord, to take a shower and make myself presentable for the press, and then we went straight to the sheriff's department and gave a press conference.
MMAWeekly: Why were you overwhelmed?
Leopoldo: Because I was dead, outta nowhere. All my friends were mad at me because I was asleep; I didn't answer the phone, so they naturally assumed it was true, until they saw me in person. You know how ex-girlfriends are, they're already kind of grouchy to begin with. They were just upset with me because they were hurt.
MMAWeekly: When you pinpointed the source of the rumor ...
Leopoldo: We never did.
MMAWeekly: I assumed you did given the desire to pursue legal action against the party.
Leopoldo: I mean, I'd rather handle it in the ring, or outside of the ring, old-school style, but that ain't gonna happen.
Stebbins: We had some accusations about where this source comes from, which was a blogger on mixedmartialarts.com. Unfortunately, they banned that blogger, and we haven't been able to actually pinpoint who the person is, because we have to get a subpoena to get that information from mixedmartialarts.com of who that person was.
Leopoldo: (An officer from the Orange County) Sheriff's Department said he's really gonna help us out on locating where the source came from as well. I've also asked the press to help me out as well.
MMAWeekly: Did you say what you wanted to say at the press conference?
Leopoldo: Mostly what I wanted to say was that I've been misrepresented in the press throughout my whole career. I'm not so upset for myself, but when it starts to affect my family and fans, it starts to tick me off. I can take more punishment myself, than if someone starts messing with loved ones of mine.
MMAWeekly: What were you doing personally and professionally before this went down?
Leopoldo: I'm battling some injuries that I'm currently rehabbing and healing up from. Finally I can see a light at the end of the tunnel; I'm starting to see options that are coming toward me. I'm feeling pretty good. For the last year and a half, I've been pretty depressed and pretty sad.
MMAWeekly: Are you planning on fighting anytime this year?
Leopoldo: I'm hoping on fighting this year. There's a 50-50 chance. Most of my days are spent lying down, watching cartoons, trying to keep weight off my legs so they properly heal.
MMAWeekly: Do you think there's a lesson learned with this?
Leopoldo: Yeah. The media fails to have any accountability at all. The media should have come kind of standards or rules of conduct. For example, factual, truthful, unbiased, reporting, with both sides of the story. Not painting a picture of one-sidedness, not misleading the public. The media gets away with more and more lately. They don't really have to have any accountability to anybody.
Stebbins: Not any of the media that confirmed he was dead has yet to step up and apologize to Kimo's family, who was severely affected by this. They have no respect at all for that.
Leopoldo: They're in such a frenzy to get the story out first, they approach me in a rude way trying to get me to say things out of context. They don't follow up on the stories to what is the conclusion of what happens later on. I don't know how to say it, because I get upset.
MMAWeekly: Have you or Brandt asked for a retraction from the media outlets who reported the death?
Stebbins: At this time, we're doing an investigation and leaving that up to our attorneys.
Leopoldo: It's kind of like when they report it in the beginning, it gets so much attention, that when they retract it, it doesn't have the same impact as the first one does. I almost want to say it's a waste of time, but it still is a nice gesture. It doesn't have as much of an initial shock as hearing 'Kimo's dead. That starts rumors, and it spreads like gasoline on a fire.