From the brink of self-destruction, Chris Gutierrez has ‘no other option but to win’

By UFC bantamweight Chris Gutierrez

The following content is from an interview done with UFC Uruguay’s Chris Gutierrez, who will compete this weekend at UFC Uruguay against Geraldo de Freitas. Gutierrez is in the middle of a custody battle for his 2-year-old son and it has been a daunting and spiritual path to get to where he is.

Of course, there are two sides to every story. This is Chris’, and all of us at The Scrap hope for an amicable resolution.

March 3, 2019, I picked up my first UFC win at UFC on ESPN+ 6

It was amazing. It’s a feeling you can’t explain, but I’m happy. I’m happy that I got my first win under the UFC banner and I’m keeping that same energy and momentum going for the next one in Uruguay.

In a way, there was a weight lifted off of my shoulders to get that win. Some of the problems that I have been dealing with over the last couple of years I’m still going through. I’m still going through a nasty custody battle. But anytime you win, it alleviates a lot of things off of your shoulders. The best thing that I have done is I’ve been at peace with what’s been going on. I’ve accepted it and I feel like I’ve come leaps and bounds from where I was.

When it comes to the custody battle, things were starting to turn the corner. Heading into the fight at UFC on ESPN+ 6, things began to shift. I haven’t seen my son in five months.

There are some evil people in this world. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to put away their grief. They take it out on the kid, and that’s essentially what they’re doing — they’re taking it out on the kid. Not me. They’re stripping the kid, she’s stripping her son from a relationship with his dad. I feel sorry for my son in that aspect. Anytime I get in that cage and go to war, I always think about my son and my family. Those are the top two things that are on my mind. Aug. 10, they will be on my mind and I will get the job done.

My son just turned 2 in June. Two weeks before my fight with Ryan MacDonald in Nashville, I lost all visitation Two weeks before that fight, I lost all visitations, all forms of contact. I was going to see him at visitations. The following week, he went in there excited, “Dada!”, he came up to me giving me hugs and kisses. Everything was wonderful. I was about 12 visits away from being able to have him unsupervised for three or four hours. I was moving up in the plan.

The next week, he was scared shitless to go in the room. He was scared to even leave his mom’s side. So I thought to myself, “maybe he’s not having a good day.” They asked my son if they want to see his dad, or if he wants to go home. He said he wanted to go back home and they cancelled the visit. I thought, “they gave the kid the option to choose?” That’s weird. The next week came around and it was the same thing, but this time it was more “no, no, no, no!” It was like he was afraid to go past these doors. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even be called dad. He was asked, “do you want to stay with Chris, or do you want to go home?” The way it was being worded, there was manipulation going on. I even told the facility to switch the way it was being worded. Say, do you want to go home, or do you want to stay with dad? Kids are prone to repeat the last thing they hear. It was refused.

That added a lot of extra weight.

Coming back from rock bottom

I have a big family at Factory X. Coach Marc Montoya and Ian Heinisch, and a couple of others, they’ve helped me. I started going to church religiously. Coach has always said, “People always seek God in times of need, but they never seek him when things are going good.” Of course, I was going through a lot of things.

In February of last year, I almost committed suicide. I knew I was on the wrong path. I had to change it. I was either going to end up in jail or dead. I was going to fade into oblivion. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had to turn my life around and I was able to do that because of the relationship I had with God.

If you tell yourself enough lies you’re going to believe it. People got it into their mind that I was this bad person. After a while and hearing it so much you start to question yourself, “Am I really this bad person?” If I’m showing the courts everything that they want me to show them with the custody battle, I’m doing it, but I’m getting further and further away from my son. What is it they see that I don’t? Am I really this bad of a person?

Things were just not going good. It was a moment of weakness, honestly. The devil has a way of sneaking in whenever you’re very vulnerable. He did. It was a crazy night, that night.

That night was a big turning point for me because I actually felt the presence of God hold me. I actually felt him hug me. I kept hearing this voice in my head say, “You’re loved, it’s not going to end this way.” It just kept echoing in my head. I have two pictures in my room: a picture of my family and a picture of my son. Those two pictures had a little aura around them, almost like a light. They caught my attention and I started crying. I told God, “I’m yours. My life is in your hands. Please help me!”

The last thing that went through my mind was my parents, I knew I was going to hurt more people than just myself. It’s a chain reaction when that happens. Most importantly, I didn’t want my son growing up without knowing the truth. In reality, it would’ve been put in his mind that I was really this bad person. He would’ve been 30, 40 years old before he realized that his dad was not this bad person.

I wouldn’t have been there to defend my honor, my love for him. Those are the biggest things that kept me from doing that.

I realized that I’m not the only person who goes through this. A lot of people are hurt internally and we can’t see that. A lot of people are afraid to talk about it because it’s embarrassing. It is embarrassing, especially as a man. We live in a society where you are called weak if you speak on it. I flipped my mindset. If I know what I went through and I talk about it, I wonder how many other people will open up, too.

Believe it or not, I’ve actually helped two people who were on the verge of committing suicide themselves just by telling my story. They were able to relate and, essentially, I was able to talk them off that ledge. I’m happy with that.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out what you’re meant to do. I used to think I was this fighter, mentally. That was selfish. It was a self-fulfilling thing that I wanted to feel. It wasn’t true. My real purpose in life is to help inspire other people. I get warm inside even saying that. That’s really my calling. Yes, God has blessed me with the talent to compete at the highest level, but it’s really because he wants me to help people. He’s giving me the opportunities and the blessings to do that. I fully believe that. I’ve actually went to a school and talked. We did something at the Denver Hope Center where we talk to and help kids in a rough neighborhood. I like doing stuff like that. Our whole gym came together to do this.

I have no other option but to win

Geraldo de Freitas is a good opponent, but I’m going to get the win. That’s the only option I have. I don’t have any other option. When you are left with one thing, and you know, you’re a dangerous person. There is no other option but to win. I’m going to win, or I’m going to die trying.

I think he’s a very respectable opponent and comes from a very respectable camp. At the end of the day, he hasn’t been tested. He’s never fought anybody like me while I’ve fought many other people like him. I respect him, but I’m going to run through him. I’m going to break him, physically and mentally. I’m going to get the job done.

He’s very sloppy. He comes in very recklessly on a lot of things and he doesn’t really know how to transition. He just explodes into them and I’m really good at capitalizing on those mistakes. I think I’ll be able to catch him with his sloppiness.

His aggression will be his downfall.

I’ve never been one to really predict anything. I just let the fight come and I just fight. I’ve been feeling that we’re not going to need the judges for this fight — from the way he fights and the way that I fight. We’re not going to need the judges. I don’t know how my hand will be raised, but it will be raised. What happens to get it raised? That’s a surprise for all of us.

Family ties

My family is from South America. My dad is Columbian and my mom is from Guatemala. Ultimately, I’m South American and I feel like I’ll be fighting in my own backyard. It’s my land and my people and this win is going to be for all of us. It’s a very good feeling.

It feels even better because of my last fight: I became the first Guatemalan fighter ever to step foot in the UFC and then get a win on top of that. I’ll be making history on Saturday, also. I’ll be the first fight of the night and the first fight ever in Uruguay for the UFC. I’m excited to be making history and breaking records as we go.

Business will be handled on Saturday, but I would definitely like to fight again before the year is up. Christmas is coming up so I want to be able to get my son and my family some nice things. Before the end of the year is up, I’d like to have my son.

That’s my goal: win this fight, get my son, win the next one.

The message

To my son, Adrian: I love you. I know you’ll see this someday and I want you to know that I love you. To all of the people out there that are fighting, don’t stop fighting.

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The Scrap’s Mike Heck is an interviewer and features writer for FloCombat, The Body Lock, MyMMANews and Happily married and a proud father, Mike also hosts a weekly podcast called Between the Links on the Loudmouth MMA Podcast Network and YouTube page. Follow all of Mike’s exclusive video interviews at Mike Heck MMA on YouTube and follow him on Twitter (@MikeHeck_JR).

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