JORGE Masvidal’s day of reckoning will come on Fight Island, when he battles Kamaru Usman at UFC 251.
But for his dad Jorge Masvidal Sr, his coming-of-age moment came when he was just 14.
Refusing to live under a communistic rule conducted by revolutionary Fidel Castro, he fled to south Florida with men he barely knew on a self-made raft built with tractor tyres.
They got lost at sea, and were left with no drinking water after a gallon drum that was filled with fresh water became contaminated with saltwater.
On day three, floating on the ocean and starving, Masvidal Sr captured and killed a bird, drank its blood and gorged on its meat until they ended up in the Virgin Islands.
This is a story of survival that would make Bear Grylls think twice about before embarking on such a journey.
Masvidal Sr grew up middle class, for Cuban standards. His dad was a bus driver, and the family lived moderately but comfortably.
To make extra cash, he would go deep-see diving with a spear gun and catch fish.
But when Cuban President Fulgencio Batista was overthrown and the government was replaced by a socialist state in 1959, he wanted to escape.
In an interview with Vice, the UFC star explained his father’s reasons for leaving Cuba.
“My dad is one of the craziest dudes,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Man, what would make you pick up and go at the age of 14?’
“And he said, ‘They were gonna tell me what my favourite colour was gonna be, and who and what I was gonna be, so I decided to go.'”
Masvidal Sr, a friend and his friend’s uncle decided they were going to flee to the US.
They built a raft out of the big tyres found on tractors and large water jugs that they hoped would carry them on the treacherous 110 mile journey from Havana to south Florida.
However, their drinking supply was compromised after they set off.
Masvidal explained: “What they did was take a gallon drum, fill it up with water, and tie it to the raft.
“But somebody messed up and one of the tanks of water wasn’t wrapped up right, and it just got f***** up with saltwater, so their drinking supply was over with.
“But picturing my dad leaving at 13, 14, leaving with two guys that weren’t even family—I don’t think they planned too well, you know?
“I think he was just like, ‘Oh, it’ll probably take us a day to get there,’ and before they knew it, they were lost at sea.”
Hungry, tired and thirsty Masvidal Sr had to resort to desperate measures stranded at sea for three days.
When a bird landed on his paddle, he turned to his comrades and said: “Maybe we should eat this.”
But the friend’s uncle believed it should be spared, saying it was a sign from God that they would survive their ordeal.
Masvidal Sr shook his paddle, and the bird flew off. However, when it came back and landed on the same paddle, he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity for a free meal the second time round.
Recounting his father’s tale, Masvidal said: “My dad’s like, ‘We’re eating it.’ The older guy’s like, ‘No, I already told you, it’s a sign from God.’ And my dad goes, ‘Yeah, it’s a sign from God to eat it.’
“I said to him, ‘For real? You ate that thing?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we were so damn thirsty, three days out there in the sun. I drank the blood. I bit right into the raw meat.’ I was like, wow, that’s f****** survival.”
Masvidal Sr and his new friends ended up in the Virgin Islands, where they were transported to Florida.
The government moved him into project housing, and he was enrolled at a a local school.
But after two days, struggling with the language and only being able to speak Spanish, he realised school-life wasn’t for him.
“Everyone was speaking English, he was in a black neighbourhood, and nobody knew Spanish,” Masvidal said.
“He was getting into fights everyday. And school was super-tough—he said the teachers wouldn’t pay him any mind, and nobody spoke Spanish. So he was just like, ‘F*** school, and one thing led to another.”
Masvidal Sr began mixing with the wrong crowd and became a petty criminal.
He served time in prisons in California and Florida, leaving the MMA star’s mum to raise their son alone.
“My dad’s pretty f****** nuts, man,” Masvidal divulged.
“He did about five years in California for manslaughter, and then over here in Florida, he did about 18 years in prison for drug trafficking.
“So he led like a completely different lifestyle than me or than most people.
“He got here at 14 and literally didn’t have any direction—he was here for a couple months, he relocated to California, and he was just into making money.
“The only way he knew how to make money wasn’t the right way.”