Whenever Emilio Urrutia competes for ONE Championship, he does so knowing he’d never be there without the support and commitment of his hero – his father.
Speaking to ONE Championship in an interview ahead of his upcoming bout with former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR, Urrutia explained how his father fled the country of his birth in order to start a new life for his family.
“My number one inspiration, and my hero, will always be my father,” he stated.
“He migrated from Cuba as part of a group of kids that were exiled right when Fidel Castro took over the country. He was able to get out on a lottery called the ‘Peter Pan’ flight (Operation Peter Pan) because the family had won a lottery ticket.
“There were church groups in America that were adopting exiled Cuban kids, so they could escape the communist regime. My dad went over at 14, was adopted by an American family, and lived in Tennessee. His mother managed to escape from the country, and they reunited when he was 17.”
Emilio Sr. got married and had two sons and a daughter, then moved from New Jersey to Miami, Florida, where he worked a plethora of different jobs in order to make ends meet.
“He gave up everything,” Urrutia said.
“He came over to America when he was young, and worked his butt off to give me and my family the best life we could have.
“My father never had the opportunity to chase his dreams, but he worked hard enough that he was able to give that to me. So I cherish him forever for giving me the opportunity to be me.”
Since Urrutia decided to embark on his martial arts journey, his father has given him great support, though he admits his father wasn’t all-in on his career choice from the very start.
“I started training, and was coming home with these black eyes all the time, and my ears were getting all mangled up. They thought I was crazy. I think he thought I was in some sort of crazy fight club,” he laughed.
“The first time he saw me compete was in my first amateur martial arts bout, and I lost. But he was so proud of me. I remember he came to me, and he grabbed me, and he told me, ’Man, at first I did not know what you were doing when you told me you were training martial arts. But watching you compete, and seeing your heart and passion, I want you to go for it 100 percent.’”
Urrutia hasn’t looked back since, and now finds himself on the verge of a title shot in the ONE featherweight division. To get that opportunity, he must get past the formidable former champion Gafurov on 20 April.
Urrutia says that he deserves a shot at the belt if he’s successful.
“If I win this bout, I want a title shot, 100 percent,” he said.
“If I beat Marat, there is no better man in the ONE Championship featherweight division. I have worked my whole life to get here, and now I am going to enjoy every minute of it. I hope Manila’s ready, because ‘The Honey Badger’ is coming.”