Fresh off his eye-catching knockout of two-time BJJ no-gi world champion Bruno Pucci, Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia has been handed the biggest challenge of his career.
However, it is a challenge the American has been preparing for ever since he set foot in ONE Championship.
On Fridy, 20 April, Urrutia takes on former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov in a pivotal clash at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR, which broadcasts live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
“The Honey Badger,” who chased his dream halfway across the world from Florida, United States to Phuket, Thailand, plans on delivering another spectacular performance to cement his place as the clear number one contender for the featherweight world title, currently held by Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
“Honestly, I am just super grateful that ONE Championship gave me the exact match I asked for,” the 31-year-old Thailand-based American says.
“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’s win over Pucci opened a lot of eyes to the American’s potential as a threat in the featherweight division, as he confidently walked down the Brazilian, and finished decisively with strikes at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES this past January.
That came after an impressive unanimous decision victory over Edward Kelly in his promotional debut at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS back in August 2017. It gave Urrutia satisfaction to finally showcase his versatility against a highly-rated opponent.
“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,” he explains.
“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.”
Against Pucci, Urrutia displayed excellent takedown defense, as he shut down the Brazilian’s world-class submission game at its source, and then turned to his striking to calmly break down his adversary. He eventually finished Pucci with strikes for a highlight-reel knockout.
The win propelled “The Honey Badger” into contender status, and he then called for a shot against one of the division’s best in Gafurov. Now, he has been granted his wish, and Urrutia knows he will have to be at his very best.
Gafurov, the longest reigning ONE Featherweight World Champion in promotional history, lost both his coveted title and undefeated record at the hands of Nguyen in the main event of ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS.
The Russian is determined to defeat Urrutia, and work his way into a trilogy bout with “The Situ-Asian” for the title later this year.
Despite Nguyen seemingly writing the blueprint on how to defeat Gafurov, “The Honey Badger” is not reading too much into his opponent’s stunning KO loss.
“Gafurov has never lost a three-round decision, so you have never seen him beaten everywhere. His only loss was by a one-punch knockout, and that can happen to the best of us,” he explains, respectfully.
“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.”
Even though Urrutia is impressed by the Russian’s impeccable grappling ability, he does not fear it.
After all, “The Honey Badger” is a brown belt who has been practicing “the gentle art” for the past decade, so he will not be easily shook if, and when, the match hits the ground.
“I am a grappler also, and I have been training in jiu-jitsu every day for 10 years. 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.”
However, when pushed on how he expects to defeat “Cobra” in Manila, Urrutia says his bread and butter — his Muay Thai striking — will be the difference maker.
“I would not be surprised if I finished him early in the first round,” he states.
“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.”
Manila | 20 April | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onehonor18