Alberto “El Patron” Rodriguez never really intended on fighting again.
The former WWE superstar (who performed there under the name “Alberto Del Rio”) was keeping plenty busy with his professional wrestling business in Mexico as well as his behind-the-scenes work at Combate Americas.
He also hadn’t competed since 2010 so obviously it wasn’t like competing in mixed martial arts was all that high on his priority list.
So at 42 years of age with nine years gone since his last fight, what made El Patron decide to return to the sport and immediately accept a showdown against UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz?
“I keep saying this — I’m doing it for the right reasons,” Rodriguez told MMA Fighting after the fight was booked for Dec. 7 in Texas. “No. 1, because the company Combate Americas, we’re killing it. We’re killing the competition. We have amazing numbers, the ratings are fantastic. We are changing the face of the Latinos in MMA.
“I have a lot of Mexicans and Latinos looking up to me and me being a role model after all these years. I want to continue inspiring people in Latin America or Mexico or anywhere around the world.”
Perhaps the biggest factor that drove El Patron to make the decision to return to the cage came from the support he received from Combate Americas while he went through a very public and messy divorce with his now ex-wife.
“I think this is really important — the main reason was my divorce was really difficult for me, for my life. The battle for the custody of my kids took a lot from me and it was a very difficult time in my life,” Rodriguez explained. “The company, my bosses, they have been supporting me since day No. 1.
“When you go through things like that in your life, you start thinking about who are real friends, the real people that stood up for you in those difficult moments. Because I always say it’s easy to be friends with Alberto Del Rio in the spotlight, money, girls, fun, but to be Alberto Rodriguez’s friend, the real person, going through difficult times like other people out there, this company has been with me.”
In the aftermath of his divorce, Rodriguez started thinking of ways he could pay back Combate Americas for standing by his side during such a tough time in his life.
That’s when the idea of returning to fighting occurred to him because the former WWE superstar knew his name could attract a lot of attention, which then translates into a spotlight shining down on the promotion.
“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,” Rodriguez stated.
“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.”
Because he carries a highly recognized name mostly due to his professional wrestling career, Rodriguez could have fought just about anybody and a certain number of people would have tuned into watch.
By facing a former UFC champion like Ortiz, El Patron knows he’s facing impossibly tough odds for the sake of a bigger fight but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m embracing it,” he said about being the underdog. “I’m loving it because that’s the story of my life, people telling me ‘no, you can’t do this, you cannot go and become the most successful full-blooded Mexican going into WWE, you can’t go to Japan and fight MMA.’ I proved them wrong. All of them.
“I know I have a lot of supporters and I also have a lot of haters. But that’s what it’s going to be on Dec. 7 in McAllen, Texas, this is all about which side are you on?”
While the odds won’t be on his side, El Patron isn’t treating this like some kind of charged up publicity stunt just to drum up attention for Combate Americas. He’s dedicating himself to getting ready for this fight with every intention of beating Ortiz.
In preparation for the upcoming fight, he began training alongside Bellator heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader and his team in Arizona.
It’s been an enjoyable experience but El Patron admits the plan is to return for this one night only and he’s not trying to spark a full time return to fighting.
“I’m not doing this like some others out there because of money problems or because they don’t find anything to do with their lives,” Rodriguez said. “I’m lucky to have a company like Combate Americas where this is a job, this is a place where I feel at home. I don’t just work for them. I’m enjoying what I’m doing for them and I’ll continue being on TV and I’ll continue doing pro wrestling in Mexico. That’s what I want to do right now.
“It would be really hard for me to say I’ll do it one more time but that’s why they have the old saying, ‘never say never.’ Right now I’m saying yes [this is it] but that’s what I said before my very first MMA fight. Never say never.”