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Ex-UFC fighter Victor Valimaki battling rare central nervous system disorder

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Edmonton’s Victor Valimaki fought almost 30 times and twice for the UFC.

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Victor Valimaki, who has 29 professional MMA fights under his belt, is currently battling a rare central nervous disorder known as neuromyelitis optica or Devic’s Disease. The disorder has left Valimaki bedridden and struggling to speak. It was only in September last year that the 36-year-old was competing in the cage.

“You can be the healthiest person in the world and this can happen to you,” said Valimaki to CBC News’ Wallis Snowdon. Valimaki was diagnosed with the disorder, which closely mimics multiple sclerosis, just four months ago.

Neuromyelitis optica inflames the optic nerve, spinal cord, and brain. Among its many symptoms are paralysis and vision loss. For Valimaki, the disease has also manifested in changes to his brain function, according to his long-time friend Terry Kopp.

“He’s the most stubborn, most amazing guy in the world and he can’t do anything about it,” said Kopp of Valimaki’s condition. “We don’t know why all of this is happening.”

Doctors at the University of Alberta Hospital, where Valimaki is currently staying, are also baffled as to why this condition has suddenly set upon Valimaki. They are also unsure why Valimaki’s symptoms, and their severity, had progressed so rapidly.

Kopp has set up a GoFundMe campaign for Valimaki to help cover his increasing medical costs. So far it has raised $6,000.

“I told them not to,” said Valimaki, referring to fundraising efforts. He revealed to CBC News that he was initially reluctant to accept charity from friends.

But Valimaki said the funds raised so far will be of great help to him. “This whole thing has been very expensive, and not being able to work on top of it has been tough. I really have some great friends.”

Valimaki, who is from Edmonton, began his pro MMA career back in 2001 on the first ever Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC) card. After that Valimaki, who fought at light heavyweight and heavyweight, was a mainstay on MFC’s cards across central Canada.

Splitting time mostly between MFC and Extreme Cage Combat (ECC) Valimaki earned an 8-2 record with wins over Dan Severn, Jason Day, and Vernon White. In 2006 he got the call-up to the UFC.

Valimaki’s UFC debut was at UFC Fight Night 7: Sanchez vs. Riggs, which was held at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA. At that event he lost a split decision to David Heath. Along with Diego Sanchez versus Joe Riggs, that event also featured Karo Parisyan versus Drew Fickett and Marcus Davis versus Shonie Carter.

Valimaki fought for the UFC one more time, in a loss to Alessio Sakara at UFC 70: Nations Collide in 2007. After that he fought for M-1, King of the Cage (KOTC), MFC, and Unified MMA. His last fight was a defeat to Teddy Ash, which moved his record to 18-11.

Valimaki was knocked out in that loss to Ash. He assumed he had suffered a concussion in that fight, but the symptoms he was suffering never went away. Then he started to lose muscle function in his legs.

These symptoms lead to numerous doctor visits, medical scans, spinal taps, and even a biopsy on his brain. After the symptoms of paralysis continued to spread he was hospitalized. He’s been in a hospital bed for the past four months.

“It’s been a long year,” said Valimaki.

Currently Valimaki is also suffering from an infection in his brain. This infection caused his condition to deteriorate further. Fortunately, while Valimaki has been battling that infection, his neuromyelitis optica has gone into remission.

Once his brain infection subsides, Valimaki may be able to return home. “He’s not there yet, but we’re hoping we can get him there soon,” said Valimaki’s mother Judi.

You can donate to Valimaki’s GoFundMe campaign, ‘Get Victor Moving’ here. So far that campaign has raised $6,095 towards a goal of $10,000.