For professional athlete Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia, mixed martial arts has been a big part of his life.
After he fell in love with the sport and competition at a young age, Urrutia took a bold step and ventured to Asia to become a professional mixed martial artist.
In Asia, “The Honey Badger” briefly taught Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Singapore, then moved to Phuket, Thailand to train at Tiger Muay Thai, where he has been ever since.
Urrutia, who now competes in ONE Championship’s featherweight division, admitted that being away from family was not easy.
“Once I got signed to ONE, I started becoming so busy competing, I just never really got a chance to go home,” he said.
“I love Tiger Muay Thai and Thailand, it’s like my home away from home. But being three years gone, it started to kind of chip away at my spirit, and with the loss, I thought a lot about family back home in Florida,” Urrutia recalled.
After three years away from friends and family in Miami, the Tiger Muay Thai representative returned home.
Reminded of the life he had left behind, the Florida native took every opportunity to reconnect with friends, family, and even his old coach.
Over the next five months, Urrutia filled his newfound free time in various ways. He played with his newborn niece, he cared for his mother, and he caught up on some father-son time by kayaking at Key Biscayne.
“Family is very important, especially my family, we are really tight. Regrouping with my family, it let my mind get back to one peace, especially after so many tough fights,” Urrutia said. “I needed to go home and really rebuild my love for the sport, and make sure to remember what I was fighting for.”
To free his headspace from the pressures of competition and training, “The Honey Badger” ran and engaged in outdoor sports away from the confines of a gym.
He leaned on his old coach Enrico Cocco, founder of Zen Jiu-Jitsu, for advice on how to improve.
Urrutia also played the role of both spectator and participant. At the gym, he sat in for classes and prepared the younger amateurs for their tournaments.
This proved to be a valuable lesson for the Floridian, as he slowly rediscovered the joy of competing and teaching.
“The students look up to my coach, and he shows character not through speaking, but by his actions and the things he does,” Urrutia explained. “He inspired me to always try my best and fight hard. I told myself I was going to instill that same energy into my students at Tiger.”
Slowly but surely, much of the disappointment and negativity that the loss brought to him subsided, and Urrutia regained a fresh sense of optimism.
Fully recharged, “The Honey Badger” is now back in Phuket and gearing up for a second run in ONE Championship.
He has set a goal to return to winning form, and he wants to achieve that by competing in Singapore – a country close to his heart.
“The Singapore card is usually in November, and that’s probably just the perfect time when I’ll be ready to compete, so right now I’m going to get better, work on some things, and really gun for that card,” Urrutia explained.
“I’d love to set that record straight and get back on the path towards gold — that’s always going to be the end goal for me.”
ONE Championship’s next event, ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH, takes place on 6 September in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Watch the main card on Toggle at 9:30pm SGT. At 10:00pm SGT, Channel 5 will cut into the live broadcast.
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