Mixed Martial Arts Part of American Dream for Young Guatemalan Immigrant

By Andy Soth | December 12, 2019


Felipe Martinez Donis tells the story of how he came to the United States. In 2005, Donis’ father had taken on a lot of debt to plant crops. A hurricane struck Guatemala destroying the crops and leaving the family with nothing.

Unable to pay back the money, Donis’ father crossed Mexico by bus and by foot to the U.S. Seeking refugee status, Donis says, “The judge granted him an asylum.” When Donis was fifteen, his father sent for him.

During a snowy February, Donis moved to Arcadia, Wisconsin. His dad said, “Ok, you guys came here for a reason. You guys came here to better yourselves.” Donis worked hard to adapt, learn English and compete at wrestling in high school, even though he admits, “I didn’t know a single thing about what the sport even was.”

With the help of coaches, he learned an important lesson. “I was always asking for help. If you’re afraid to ask for help, then you’re not going to get anywhere,” says Donis.

It’s still that support from others that drives Donis to succeed. He’s on a management track at the local furniture factory and lives in his own home with wife and young daughter.

Donis is pursuing an even bigger dream as mixed martial arts competitor. Currently ranked 6 and 0, number one as an amateur in Wisconsin, he works out and practices with his teammates at a gym. Donis says, “Just to feel your hand being raised, after everything you’ve done, you’ve worked through. All the work that you’ve put in with your coaches and your teammates. To get that reward from all the work that you’ve put in.”

Andy Soth

Andy Soth

Andy Soth is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who grew up in a neighboring state but now loves Wisconsin because it’s like Minnesota without the smugness. 

Related Links for this Article

La Crosse Tribune article about Mixed Martial Arts competitor Felipe Martinez Donis

2019-12-13T17:01:37-06:00Tags: |

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