Henry Cejudo, 2008 Olympic champion wrestler and UFC contender, escaped the northern California wildfires with minor burns to his right foot -- but lost his gold medal and other Beijing Games treasures -- after fleeing from his burning Santa Rosa hotel early Tuesday morning.
Cejudo, 30, had been in northern California wine country -- site of numerous wildfires that have killed at least 15 -- for a charity event featuring a number of star athletes Monday.
Fire alarms went off in his hotel just after 2 a.m. Tuesday as other guests evacuated the hotel. However, Cejudo stayed in his room, telling Yahoo Sports, "I looked out the window and everything was OK. 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."
A couple hours later, Cejudo awoke to find his room full of smoke. He went to the window, saw the surrounding area in flames, and decided to evacuate the hotel, climbing down from his second-floor room to the ground, using a branch of a tree that was on fire.
The mixed martial arts star fled the hotel wearing only the slacks he had worn at the charity event the night before, without shoes or shirt ... or, sadly, his Olympic gold medal, Olympic ring and belt. (Cejudo managed to grab his phone on the way out.)
In escaping the burning hotel, some flames landed on Cejudo's right bare foot, which he was able to extinguish, suffering some minor burns.
At this point -- about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday -- much of Cejudo's hotel was already on fire. Much of the surrounding neighborhood was in flames.
Cejudo was able to flag down a fire truck, which drove him ten miles to safety.
"First of all, I know how fortunate I am and I'm really happy and lucky to be alive," the Olympic gold medalist told Yahoo Sports. "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."
Cejudo was a four-time high school state wrestling champion who decided to forego college to concentrate on freestyle wrestling at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. That decision paid off, as he won the gold medal at 55 kilograms/121 pounds at age 21 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, becoming the youngest U.S. wrestler at the time to be crowned an Olympic champ. (Kyle Snyder was 20 when he earned gold at the 2016 Rio Games.) After an attempt at qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, Cejudo officially retired from wrestling to launch a mixed martial arts career. He had his first pro MMA fight in March 2013; in July 2014, Cejudo signed with Ultimate Fighting Championships where he now is ranked second at flyweight (125 pounds). Cejudo now 11-2 overall in his pro career.