It’s been a long road back to muay thai competition for Hawaii’s Travis Petralba. Like many during the pandemic, he wasn’t able to compete in the sport that he loves. However, Petralba’s situation was different. He was continuing to fight but in a very different way.

He was on the frontlines caring for the patients who needed it most as an emergency room nurse. During that time, Travis moved to California to help with the nurse shortage on the mainland.

“Nursing is also my passion, especially emergency nursing. I care for people and I love caring for people and helping other people out. I think that’s why I do it and why I’m so passionate about it. To be able to go in the fight game and still be able to fight is more of a blessing, yeah, more of a blessing for me,” Petralba told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida.

His first muay thai competition following the pandemic was the World Game Qualifier in April. He won gold, becoming the number-one American welterweight for the World Games that are taking place this week.

“I still don’t believe it. People keep telling me that I’m ranked. I have this gold medal but it’s just hard. It was a hard fought battle. It could have been anyone of those guys. It’s still hard to believe. I’m just doing what I can. I fight exactly how I’ve been training. Training as much as I can.”

Even though Petralba is living on the continent, he was adamant about having a portion of his training camp for the games in Hawai’i. He’s been working with Kru Rich De Los Reyes at Mango Tree in Kaimuki his whole career. The striker knew for him to best prepared for the world’s best he needed to come home.

“Kru Rich built me. He made me who I am. So obviously, coming back here and jumping in with these guys, he knows me exactly from the bottom up. It’s really important to come back and hop right back into things.”

Petralba begins his quest for World Championship gold on Friday with the medal rounds on Sunday.