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Horacio Gutierrez’s MMA journey highlights importance of Combate Americas for Latin American talent

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Horacio Gutierrez fights for Combate Americas on Friday.
Combate Americas

Horacio Gutierrez hasn’t had an easy time outside the UFC.

Since leaving the leading MMA promotion in 2016, Gutierrez has gone through some troubles in his professional fighting career. These issues have nothing to do with his actual fighting. In fact, the only time Gutierrez fought since his UFC release, the Mexican fighter only needed half a round to knock out his opponent Antonio Suarez at Valhalla FC last May.

So what issues could the season two runner up of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America be experiencing? Well, it’s been getting fights.

Earlier this year, Gutierrez was scheduled to fight three times on the regional scene and all three matchups fell through.

“When the fights are cancelled and they’re so close, you get this impotency feeling because you were already ready, you spent money in your training and your training camp, your diet, so it hurts a bit, but we’ve kept motivated,” Gutierrez told MMA Fighting.

“You always first try to talk to [the promoters] and see if they can get you someone as soon as possible for the same date, but if that’s not possible — because sometimes people don’t want to fight you on short notice — sometimes, I don’t know, it’s difficult and you have to wait.”

Soon after his cancelled bouts, Gutierrez was contacted by Combate Americas and both parties were able to reach a multi-fight agreement. The Mexican fighter was given Andres Quintana as a rival for last month’s Combate Estrellas 2, but the featherweight bout never came to fruition, as Quintana was forced to withdraw citing injury.

Although this was yet another cancelled fight for Gutierrez, this time things were different, as the 27-year-old fighter didn’t have to deal with many of the things that come with fight cancellations in the local circuit.

“Here (in Combate Americas) they’re looking out for you,” Gutierrez said. “If your opponent gets injured, they get you another one or they get you on the next card, so I’m very happy here.

“You do get a bit frustrated searching for opponents, having people talk to you, offering you (things), but now that I’m in this company, I’m happy. They tell me what to do and I do it. I don’t have to be searching or anything. They just tell me who to fight and I fight.”

Combate Americas was able to re-book Gutierrez to a co-main event fight at Friday night’s Combate Americas 20: Mexico vs. USA card in Los Angeles. Gutierrez is set to face Nate Diaz’s protege and fellow former UFC fighter Chris Avila. The featherweight bout will be part of a three-fight main card that will air live at 11 p.m. ET on Univision Deportes Network.

“I like this fight a lot because of everything you mentioned,” Gutierrez explained. “He’s a popular kid because of the Diaz brothers, he was in the UFC, so it does bring a bit more attention. He’s also the local guy here, I’m going to be on live TV in all of the U.S. and Mexico, I’m the co-main event, so yeah, I’m very excited for this fight.”

Gutierrez is happy Combate Americas has given a focus and a platform to Hispanic talent in MMA for several reasons. There are many perks that the U.S.-based company can offer that many MMA promotions in Latin America are unable to afford fighters.

“The thing is that, here, we get paid in dollars,” Gutierrez said regarding fighting for Latin American MMA promotions versus Combate Americas. “In Mexico, for how much money can you fight? And here the exposure that you get is not the same. Here we’re going to be on live television, here (in the U.S.) and in Mexico. So there are many small details that you can’t find in a local promotion. This one is bigger and we’re very happy about it.

“From what I’ve seen on TV, it looks big, almost UFC level. Everything looks great and they manage a lot of production. They’re also pushing fighters on social media, they’re having us do videos and photo shoots, they pay well, so I see a very good promotion.”

The last time Gutierrez was seen in action in the U.S., he suffered a loss to Teruto Ishihara at UFC Salt Lake City in 2016. In these past two years, “The Punisher” says he’s made many improvements to his game and expects fans to see a much more seasoned fighter.

“You can imagine, two years of training is a lot,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve improved a lot and I now feel a lot more complete. And more than complete, I learned how to put everything together. I’m not just only a striker, I’m an MMA fighter and I have a lot more knowledge. I’m a lot more calm, so I fight very composed and I feel great, you guys are going to see.”