The fight is an event which puts a contender in an opposing struggle for something meaningful.  For many combat sport athletes, the fight symbolizes who a person is and who they want to be. That unforgiving engagement between two parties marked with physical and mental anguish which tests one’s will to endure. Why does one go through it? Why is it worth fighting? The answer is clear: because it is for a just cause of fulfilling one’s goals to establish peace within them.

While many fights are seen in octagon cages, grappling arena mats, and even on the streets, there are some fights that are fought in hospital rooms, sick beds, and even within a person putting the individual in a battle for the most prestigious prize of all, LIFE itself. Something Liam “ Iron Man” Stark knows all too well.

May, 20, 2013 marked the first day of life into the world for the one year old boy from Massachusetts. Subsequently, it also marked the day of the first fight of his life, battling an illness known as Primary Hypogammaglobulinemia. The fight against this rare autoimmune disease has been an uphill battle for the Iron Man, dealing with multiple flus, bacterial infections, surgeries, and frequent three hour drive visits to the hospital, which has also taken an emotional toll on his family.

“It’s very hard to see Liam suffer,” said Stephanie Stark (Mother). “It breaks our hearts seeing him scream just to walk into the room or even change his clothing to put a hospital gown on. Being a parent you’re supposed to protect your child, seeing him cry and have tears down his eyes it just tears us apart inside!

Victor Cantu Photography

Victor Cantu Photography

“It takes a toll on us as parents, being stressed because of medical bills, how it will be paid, and taking time off work while losing pay. In addition, not having enough time with your spouse because we are always busy with Liam as he always needs somebody with him around the clock and trying to make time for our daughter as well.” We wish he was a healthy child and he didn’t have to endure all this pain but we LOVE him so much and we will, as a family, overcome this!”

However, Liam isn’t down for the count as he continues to persevere through these hurdles in his young life. Stark’s act of courageousness and toughness has gained him a following worldwide as his story has touched the hearts of many through various social media outlets. Stark’s story would soon catch the attention of a group of grappling practitioners from Southern California as they would rally together on September, 13, 2014 in hopes of not only supporting Stark but also to showcase the unity that exists in a competitive combat sport community.

Established in 2012, Grapplethons have been a major support system for people like Liam Stark. This charity event can be described  as an open mat fundraising training session where grapplers get together to train for a predetermined period of time, supporting individuals going through serious life troubles such as death in the family, terminal illness, and other dark periods people may be experiencing .

Held at Optimus Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Laguna Nigel, California Grapplethon: Team Liam’s Fight was no exception to past charity events, as grapplers came from all over Southern California to support Stark. From start to finish, Team Liam’s Fight held nothing back which was a fun filled day of training which included over four hours of non-stop sparring, a 300 Rolling Challenge to raise extra money, and even some lucky participants walking away with raffle gifts from various sponsors supporting the event.

Conducting two of these events at his academy, Professor Grant Collins has experienced the great value Grapplethons bring to the grappling community.

 “My overall experience hosting the Grapplethons at my academy has been a great one,” Professor Collins,” said. “I enjoy seeing different people from different schools come together for a purpose other than a competition, but to make the world better and improve ourselves.”

Dave Gieselmanof M3 Fitness has been a part of many of these charity events. With each cause hitting close to home, the Grapplethons have held a very special place in his heart which keeps Gisesleman coming to every single one.

“My overall experience with Grapplethon has been nothing but spectacular,” Giseleman said. These events really provided a great way to bring the Jiu-Jitsu community together to do something good for someone and put some great energy back into the world. I always bring my ten-year-old son and tell him that he can ask anyone with a purple belt or higher if they want to roll and he has been treated with the highest levels of respect. The Grapplethon for Liam was very personal because I have a young child and my heart goes out his family. It was a great day and cause that I could really get behind.”

Liam’s event even attracted fighters from Mixed Martial Arts. WFC veteran Russ Miura and his students of Subfighter MMA were amongst the new participants of the charity event. The group definitely got their taste of the Grapplethon experience which left quite a positive impression on Miura.

Victor Cantu Photography

Victor Cantu Photography

Victor Cantu Photography

Victor Cantu Photography

“The whole Grapplethon experience was incredible! Many gyms represented, great energy, great rolls and all for such a beautiful cause,” Miura said.” I brought seven of my guys and they all had a blast! I think total I got about 15 rounds in and was completely exhausted at the end. It’s a big deal when the Jiu-Jitsu community bands together and supports such an awesome cause. Overall it was a huge success, for Liam and also for the love of Jiu-Jitsu.”

Generating $1,300 to assist Liam and his family with medical, surgery, and other expenses “Grapplethon: Team Liam’s Fight” was a success. Most importantly the event broke down academy flag allegiance as it revealed the camaraderie that exist in the martial art community and unity amongst fighters in showing supporting for someone in need.


For more information on Grapplethon visit the Grapplethon News Facebook Page

For more information on Liam Stark and how to support him visit Liam’s Fight Facebook Page

About The Author

Monta Wiley
Staff Writer

Monta Wiley is an aspiring sports journalist that has covered the world of MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has been a regular contributor to US Combat Sports. Monta has a Bachelor's degree in Aviation Administration from California State University-Los Angeles. Outside of his writing, you can find Monta at the gym honing his BJJ technique.