Thailand-based American Emilio “The Honeybadger” Urrutia is on a mission for gold, and he’s prepared to take on the very best in ONE Championship to earn it.
Urrutia faces former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR, in a matchup that could determine the next contender for the world title currently held by Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
After scoring back-to-back victories against highly-rated opposition in the form of Edward Kelly and Bruno Pucci, Urrutia asked for the toughest match possible outside of a title shot.
That’s exactly what he’s been given. Gafurov’s only loss was his one-punch KO at the hands of Australian Nguyen. Now the Russian is looking to charge back into title contention to win back his belt, and faces Urrutia in his first mixed martial arts bout since that title defeat.
“Honestly, I am just super grateful that ONE Championship gave me the exact match I asked for,” said Urrutia.
“When I signed with ONE Championship, Gafurov was the champ, and my ambitions were to be the world champion, so he was the person I was aiming to beat in the first place. So he would have been my first choice. That is the real bout.
“If I beat Gafurov — title, or no title — people will know for sure that I am for real. This is my time, this is everything I have been working for. This is it.”
Urrutia showcased well-drilled takedown defence and heavy-handed striking, as he finished fellow contender Pucci at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES to book himself into a bout with former champ Gafurov.
“It was good to go out and get the job done exactly as I said, and good to show people what I am capable of,” said the 31-year-old.
“I am finally coming into my own in my career, and in my ability as a martial artist. All the pieces I felt were always missing in the past are finally coming together, and they are coming together at the perfect time.
“When I had the opportunity to go against Bruno Pucci, I felt like it was a great match-up where I could show people my well-roundedness.”
Now he faces “Cobra”, whose career record shows a man with a devastatingly effective submission technique – the rear-naked choke.
Gafurov had finished all six of his opponents via rear-naked choke submission before falling to Nguyen’s sledgehammer right hand.
Urrutia gives the Russian due respect, saying that Gafurov is toughest non-title bout in the division.
“Gafurov has never lost a three-round decision, so you have never seen him beaten everywhere,” he explained.
“His only loss was by a one-punch knockout, and that can happen to the best of us.
“I am definitely preparing to go all the way. I think we are going to be seeing the best Marat we have ever seen, so I am getting ready for everything. I am not going to rely too much on the blueprint that Martin laid out in his win, because I think Marat is going to come out a completely different, improved martial artist this time around, especially coming after his first loss.
“He is known for his rear-naked choke, and he is known for being a specialist – and that is actually why I have so much respect for him. He is someone who goes out and does the same thing, and even though people know that is what he is going to do, they still cannot stop him [from] doing it. I feel like that is very impressive.”
Despite Gafurov’s signature submission – and his track record of finding it when it matters – Urrutia says he has the game to deal with it and come out with his hand raised in victory.
“I am a grappler also, and I have been training in jiu-jitsu every day for 10 years,” he said.
“There is nothing he is going to throw at me that I have not seen before,” he continues. “I am ready to ride the storm, and if necessary, I am prepared to go into deep waters and see how he does.”
When it came to offering the obligatory pre-bout prediction, Urrutia said he thought he could repeat the feat achieved by Nguyen, and score a stoppage win over the former champion.
“I would not be surprised if I finished him early in the first round,” he said.
“I think I am going to finish him with my striking, but I am ready to take him down, because we have never seen him have to deal with being put on his back. I am ready to put him on his back, but I might end up knocking him out first.”