UFC fighter suffers burns, loses Olympic medal in California wildfires

UFC flyweight contender Henry Cejudo during a UFC press conference. (John Locher/AP)

Henry Cejudo is lucky to be alive.

The UFC flyweight contender and Olympic gold-medallist wrestler suffered burns to his right foot after jumping from a second-story balcony in the middle of the night Monday to escape flames from nearby wildfires that had engulfed the hotel he was sleeping in.

Cejudo was staying in Sonoma County in Northern California, in town for the UCSF Medical Center Celebrity Golf Classic, when he was awoken by a fire alarm at roughly 2 a.m. local time.

“I looked out the window and everything was OK,” Cejudo told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports Tuesday. “I was just thinking that someone had hit the alarm but it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong. I just went back to sleep.”

As Cejudo got back in bed, the hotel and its guests — which included NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, three-time NBA champ Byron Scott, two-time AL Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen and Olympic gold-medallist speed skater Dan Jansen, all of whom were in town for the charity golf event — were evacuated.

The next time Cejudo woke up it was around 4:30 a.m. and he was surrounded by smoke. The 30-year-old went to the balcony to assess the situation.

“I saw houses on fire and I looked to my left and half of the hotel I was staying at, my floor, was on fire,” Cejudo explained to Iole. “It was scary. And at that time, the only thing I could do was to grab my slacks. I grabbed my slacks I wore the night before, but I couldn’t see anything to do anything else. I put my slacks on, I opened the window and I jumped off. I leaped off the second story of the hotel.

“As I jumped off, I landed on a branch that was on fire. Honestly, there was fire everywhere. The fire burned the top of my right foot. I was OK, but I had to put the fire out that was on my right foot. And as I was walking toward the front of the hotel, where the lobby was, it was all going. I saw the hotel on fire, cars on fire, houses around it. It was terrible.”

Cejudo eventually made his way towards a nearby freeway where he flagged down a fire truck that drove him to safety.

He posted this photo of his burnt foot on his Instagram page Tuesday.

Cejudo is scheduled to fight Sergio Pettis at UFC 218 on Dec. 2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and, despite the burns to his foot, still plans on competing at the event. He is doing some of his fight preparation in Brazil.

Besides his slacks and cell phone, all of Cejudo’s personal items he had in his hotel room were lost. Unfortunately, that included the gold medal he won in freestyle wrestling while representing the United States at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

“I know how fortunate I am and I’m really happy and lucky to be alive,” Cejudo said. “I feel like God watched over me and he’s not done with me yet. It’s crazy. It’s like it was a movie except that this was real life and people were losing their homes and everything.”

The building burned down shortly after Cejudo had gotten away. In addition to his gold medal, Cejudo lost an Olympic ring and Olympic belt.

He continued: “You know, the medal just was an object, just a medal and that’s it. What really meant something was the blood, the sweat, the tears that went into getting that medal. I’ll always have the memories of that with me. I’m not too worried about that. This was a tragedy, just like that terrible thing that happened in Vegas. It’s awful. Losing a medal, man, I am fortunate to be here talking to you and being alive. That’s the important thing.”

As of Tuesday evening, at least 15 people had died in the wildfires with more than 100 injured and at least 2,000 structures destroyed, according to an ABC affiliate.

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