Former WWE star Alberto Del Rio and ex-UFC champion Tito Ortiz will anchor Combate Americas' first foray into the pay-per-view business on Saturday in a 210-pound catchweight bout.
The fight sees both high-profile figures make a rare appearance in the cage. Ortiz, 44, has fought sparingly since leaving the UFC in 2012. He has worked primarily under the Bellator banner but was last seen knocking out old rival Chuck Liddell in a Golden Boy Promotion's bout in November 2018.
Alberto Rodriguez, who is better known as Del Rio from his WWE days, has been away from the cage for much longer. He hasn't fought in an MMA bout since 2010 when he lost to Yamamoto Hanshi in a regional Mexican promotion that is now defunct.
Del Rio previously served as president of Combate Americas in a promotional role, but he stepped down in July 2017. His return to the cage against a well-known fighter in Ortiz might be the best promotion he's done for the company, though.
Here's what both men are saying heading into the fight and what to expect from the pay-per-view.
Main Card on Fite TV PPV (9 p.m. ET)
- Tito Ortiz (20-12-1) vs. Alberto "El Patron" Rodriguez (9-5)
- Melissa "Super Mely" Martinez (6-0) vs. Desiree "Dirty Dez" Yanez (5-1)
- Dani Barez (11-4) vs. Joao Camilo (6-3)
- Levy "El Negro" Marroquin (12-3) vs. Enrique "Baby Bull" Gonzalez (8-3)
- Gaston "Tonga" Reyno (8-2, 2 NC) vs. Rey "The Warrior" Trujillo (24-27)
- "Sexy" Dulce Garcia (1-0) vs. Anali Lopez Hernandez (0-0)
Prelims on Fite TV (5 p.m. ET)
- Jose "Luke" Flores (8-1) vs. Clarence Brown (2-2)
- Ricky "El Gallero" Palacios (11-2) vs. Jose "The Ghost" Ceja (4-5)
- Victor "The Brick" Martinez (11-4) vs. Luis Luna (16-7)
- Elias Urbina (4-1) vs. Mike Tovar (0-0)
- Edmilson Freitas (8-4) vs. Raymond Banda (7-3)
Ortiz Looking to Make Del Rio a Springboard to More
Ortiz has long been washed out of the UFC. When he parted ways with the organization in 2012 he was 1-7-1 in his last nine fights. Instead of retiring, he seems to have found a second life as a draw outside of the premier MMA organization.
The Huntington Beach Bad Boy is 4-1 in five fights over the last seven years. Much of that record can probably be chalked up to some good matchmaking. Bellator only threw him to one of its best when he fought Liam McGeary for the light heavyweight championship.
In Combate Americas, Ortiz believes he has found a place to continue his career and Del Rio is a good start.
Per Mick Hammond of MMA Weekly, he said:
"I have a roadmap now for the next three years. I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to continue the ambassadorship for Combate Americas. I have another fight after this fight.
"A lot of businesses I'm doing, I'm just trying to keep infrastructure solid and lay the grounds the right way. It is about business, but I've got to make sure there is an end game to all of this, and business is that end game."
For better or worse, Ortiz doesn't seem to be in this one for one last pay day. He's looking to pick up another win and keep trucking with this second (or third?) act of his career.
Del Rio Excited to Get Back in Cage for Combate Americas
Rodriguez is clearly grateful for the opportunity he has been given by Combate Americas.
The promotion has worked with Del Rio before, and he sees the fight as not only a chance to get back in on fighting, but also a chance to repay the organization who backed him during difficult personal times.
Explaining his relationship with the company, Rodriguez told Damon Martin of MMA Fighting:
"After I put all that behind me I started thinking how can you repay these amazing people? How can you help this company that has given you so much? You pay loyalty with loyalty.
"By doing this we're going to have the first pay-per-view in the company. We're getting everybody's attention. We have the President of the United States, the President of Mexico, everybody is talking about this and that's the main reason."
Del Rio's MMA career is more than a publicity stunt, though. He had a decorated amateur wrestling career and applied his grappling skills by winning seven of his fights by submission.
The 42-year-old will look to put those grappling skills on display against Ortiz, who is also well-known for his grappling chops.
It's hard to pick against Ortiz in this spot.
For one, Del Rio hasn't been in a fight for nearly a decade. That's a long time away even for an elite fighter, something Del Rio never was.
While it could be argued the time away means he is the fresher fighter with less damage absorbed over the years, it isn't as though professional wrestling doesn't take a toll on the body.
Ortiz has picked up some damage over the years. His record is marked with several battles and losses at 20-12-1. However, he did pick up a knockout win in his last fight. Granted, it was the decaying shell of Liddell, but it was a knockout win nonetheless.
Going up against someone such as Del Rio, who may be in it more for the promotional value than an actual hunt for victory, should mean another win for the veteran.
Ortiz via second-round TKO