Jake Stoneking’s dream has always been to fight in the UFC. The Oregon native was a big-time wrestler when he was younger with aspirations to cross over into MMA.
Those goals were derailed a bit when he was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a terminal form of brain cancer. The disease might have taken a toll on his body, but it never lessened his spirit.
"Even after he had cancer, he would say, ‘I want to fight in the UFC. That’s what I want to do,’" Stoneking’s father Jake told FOX Sports. "You gotta have a dream."
Jake, now 19, has had a hard time lately as the cancer has spread from his brain down to his spinal cord. He’s dropped from 140 pounds of muscle to just 104 pounds. Fighting in the UFC one day might be tough — doctors have said Jake might have as little as three months to live — but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t fulfill a part of his dream.
On Saturday night, Jake walked out with Johny Hendricks for the main event of UFC 171 here at American Airlines Center and stepped into the Octagon after the fight. For the main card, he’s sat in the front row with UFC president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. And before that, he got the full VIP treatment, hanging out with UFC fighters like Forrest Griffin, Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz backstage while watching the prelims.
"I never dreamt I’d do it in a million years," Jake told FOX Sports. "This is insane. I shouldn’t be here."
Jake is currently on experimental medication in an effort to prolong his life. Todd said there was a time he would wrestle to a draw with his much bigger brother — who weighed around 280 pounds at the time.
When doctors told them recently that Jake might lose his battle with cancer in the near future, Jake made a bucket list. One of the things on there (along with going to a strip club) was attending a live UFC fight. The Stonekings are from West Linn, Ore., the hometown of Chael Sonnen, and Sonnen and many others played a part in getting Jake here Saturday.
Todd said once the local newspaper took a picture of his bucket list, the UFC took the ball and ran with it.
"It just exploded from there," Todd said.
Earlier in the day, Todd said Jake was exhausted. Once he got to the arena, though, he was "full of energy." The hospitality by the UFC, Todd said, was "over the top."
"This is too much," Jake said. "I’m not used to this. This is awesome."