Jose Rodriguez, best known to pro wrestling fans worldwide as “Alberto Del Rio” (his WWE moniker) and more recently “Alberto El Patron”, has done it all in the world of combat sports, and he’s circling the wagons back to the realm of MMA once more.
Appearing on The MMA Hour on Monday alongside Combate Americas CEO Campbell McClaren, Del Rio announced that he is planning a return to MMA competition to fight for the promotion sometime next year. The 41-year-old has not fought professionally since a Cage of Combat show in Madrid, Spain, back on Feb. 27, 2010, where he lost to Yamamoto Hanshi by second-round TKO.
Not only will Del Rio be fighting again, he’ll be taking on a fresh challenge as he makes his first steps into an MMA cage.
“I’m going to jump back in the cage — or in the cage for the first time — because I used to fight in rings in Mexico and in Asia, but never inside the cage,” Del Rio said. “So for 2019, I’m going to be doing that. I’m going to be fighting in the cage for Combate Americas, mi familia, mi casa, and I’m not just saying this because my boss is here and he writes my checks.
“I really love this company as many people know. For the ones that don’t have a clue about this, I’m a very passionate man in everything I do and I have invested my heart in this company because they have invested their heart and money in me. And it’s not just giving something back to the Latins and the company, it’s giving back something to myself.”
According to McClaren, he initially wanted Del Rio to fight for Combate Americas when they first started forming a relationship, but Del Rio wasn’t as “hungry” to return to the sport back in 2016. Coming off of his second stint with the WWE, Del Rio continued to work on the independent and international pro wrestling scene, but he also worked with Combate Americas from 2016-2017 as a figurehead president to help promote the company globally.
However, seeing the young up-and-comers battling it out in Combate Americas recently lit a fire under Del Rio and that was one of the major reasons he decided to come back.
Del Rio comes from a legitimate amateur wrestling background, one that almost landed him a spot at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney (Mexico did not end up sending a wrestling team that year). He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a pro wrestler called “Dos Caras Jr.” while also dabbling in MMA under the same name. He went 3-2 in Japan’s Deep promotion before signing with Pride for a high profile bout against Mirko Cro Cop.
The Croatian heavyweight made short work of Del Rio, who was competing in a luchador mask at the behest of officials, and the future WWE star would next go on to lose a unanimous decision to Pride and UFC fighter Kazuhiro Nakamura. Del Rio then won six straight before losing to Hanshi in what was to date his last MMA fight and currently holds a pro record of 9-5.
For his comeback fight, he plans to leverage his fame into a matchup with a big-name MMA fighter, though neither he nor McClaren could confirm who they’re targeting yet. Del Rio is hoping that the promotion can book a date for the Arena Ciudad de Mexico and make history with the first-ever Combate America’s pay-per-view.
“That’s the plan, have a big pay-per-view because I’m going to be facing a former super champion, well known in Mexico and United States,” Del Rio said. “We don’t have the name yet because he hasn’t said, ‘yes,’ but we’re working on it, if we get him it’s going to be a super fight. A fight that all the Latino fans are going to love because these are big names for all the Latins and also for the Americans here, so it’s going to be something amazing that will bring that pay-per-view for this company.
“We don’t know where we’re going to do it, but if we do it in Mexico City — and (to McClaren) I’m not putting any pressure, amigo — hometown advantage, altitude advantage. ... We could do it in Arena Ciudad de Mexico in front of 28,000 people. Two years ago, I drew 28,000 people for a pro wrestling show, defending a pro wrestling world title.”
Asked if his MMA return would be a one-off event, Del Rio couldn’t confirm his exact plans, but he brought up the fact that his first MMA fight was supposed to be his last, so there is no telling what the future holds.
“That’s what I said for my first MMA fight,” Del Rio said. “I was doing $50 per wrestling match at the time, then (Deep president Shigeru Saeki) came from Japan and was like, ‘Hey, here’s $25,000, will you fight Kengo Watanabe?’ I said, ‘For $25,000 I’ll go in a boat to Japan and I will kill Kengo Watanabe.’ I remember myself in the locker room telling my dad, ‘It’s this one and I’m done.’
“Saeki came after the fight, I won in the first round, and he said, ‘Here’s $50,000. Do you do another one?’ ‘Of course, yes.’ So we’ll see, we’ll see.”