Last year, one of Alberto Del Rio’s first gigs following his departure from WWE was accepting a role as president of Combate Americas. He later stepped down as president, but is still very involved with the MMA promotion, and currently serves as an announcer and ambassador for the company.
Combate Americas is currently gearing up for the Copa Combate one-night tournament on Nov. 11 in Cancun. In preparation for the event, Alberto Del Rio sat down with us to talk about his new venture, the difficulty of living a life in the public eye, and a whole lot more.
WITH SPANDEX: How did you first get involved with Combate Americas?
Alberto Del Rio: The way we started out was friendship … working relationship was because Campbell McLaren wanted me to fight for the organization. He was trying to find a big name to draw attention from the media and draw attention, and he offered me to fight, he actually gave me an amazing contract, big big money, that made me think of going back inside the cage, but because I’m an honest man, I told Campbell, I said, “I started fighting because I needed the money, I was younger, I was not making too much money at the beginning of my career. But those days are gone, now I’m a big name, I make good money so I don’t know if I’m hungry anymore for fighting, but I guess I can give it a try.”
So I went back to the gym for about two to three weeks then I realized that it wasn’t there anymore. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t needing the money, I’m a father now. I remember my little boy telling me, “Daddy, when we go home? When we go home?” So just like Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Durán, I said, “No Mas” in a sparring session. I told my trainer, I said, “Marco, I cannot do this anymore, I don’t think I want to fight.”
So I immediately called Campbell and I said, “Amigo, I don’t think I can do it, I’m sorry. Thank you for trying and thank you for the offer but fighting is not in me anymore.” And he said, “Okay. Don’t worry, I will call you in the future, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to find the right spot for you here in Combate Americas,” and he did.
So what’s your involvement now with Combate Americas?
Alberto Del Rio: Well, I used to be the president of the company, I was helping them finding places, finding fighters, hiring fighters. Unfortunately because of all my activities, because I travel all the time and I have to come back — my professional career with my projects in Mexico and my family — it was being impossible for me to maintain the pace or to be on top on the demands that the company was needing for me.
So because Campbell McLaren and I are friends above anything, I talked to him and I said, “Listen, I don’t think I can do this for you the way you want it, and the money for me is better — even though you pay me fantastic money, the money I’m doing here is really good and one of these projects that I have in hand right now in Mexico are something that I really want to do, because that’s the transition that I’m planing on doing; from a pro wrestler to being a TV host or TV entertainer or TV personality.”
And of course he said yes, but he asked me if I could still help them in certain moments when they needed to hire someone like [Érik] “Goyito” Pérez, or if they needed to find a new place to bring the sport, or if I could help them just with stuff like this, just promoting the company, promoting the events.
Have you been able to keep up with MMA, even through the past years of heavy travel with WWE?
Oh, yeah, I’m a big fan of MMA, I have always been watching, so I know everything about MMA; who’s fighting, who the next fight is going to be, who the champions are and everything, and especially the fighters in this organization, because the company is growing and it’s growing in a fantastic way.
I’m pretty sure all those haters that saw us a year and a half, two years ago when we started doing business, they never thought we were going to get that far. And even us, I mean, we always knew that Combate is going to be something big, but we never imagined that it’s going to be that big that fast.
I know that it’s not exclusively a Latino/Chicano fighting organization, but what does it mean to you to have that representation of an entire promotion?
Oh it’s amazing. And I want to clarify that: not because the name is in Spanish [does] it mean that this company’s solely for Latinos, we have fighters from all over the world. If you have the talent, you can come and fight for us. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Russia, China, Africa, we don’t care as long as you have the talent.
My boss and friend Campbell McLaren has this saying, “You can be part of Combate, fight for Combate, if you fight like a Mexican.” And I love that quote, but to me it makes me really happy to have an organization that is really giving the Latino athletes a place to showcase their talent, because we’ve been doing this for years and years, and it’s not just in sports, it’s in any other type of work.
We Latinos, we don’t have to knock doors, we have to kick them in order to get an opportunity from companies or sports organizations, and this company is like wide open, like the doors are open for Latinos, Mexicans, for anyone who wants to come and prove to the world that they have something to offer in this sport.
What does that mean to you, because I heard Campbell say that to me as well, what does it mean to you to fight like a Mexican?
Alberto Del Rio: Well, it means you fight with a heart, that you always go forward and you’re not afraid of trading punches in order to get the victory. That doesn’t mean that we don’t fight smart, that doesn’t mean that we just go and swing for the fans without caring about doing a smart fight, but for us there is no leaving anything on the table. You know, in other organizations they go out there just to get the result because they don’t want to lose and they make it a boring fight, here in Combate all of our fights are entertaining.
We have the highest percentage in submissions and knockouts in any company out there, so that’s what Campbell at least tries to say when he says “fight like a Mexican.”
That’s what it means to you when you hear that?
Yeah, definitely. That you go for everything, not leaving anything on the table, put in your heart, your soul, your mind knowing that you are representing your family, your country, and everything you have and that’s pretty much it.
Do you recommend that anyone, if they want to, do you recommend people fight in a mask, or not?
No, not at all, that’s really difficult to be on this, I only did it because again, I was younger, I was needing the money, and back then when I did it, they said, I said, “It’s impossible to fight with a mask.” And they were like, “Okay, we’re going to give you $10,000 more if you do it with a mask.” So I was like … f*ck, yeah I’ll do it, it doesn’t matter, and I was doing a hundred, two hundred dollars per wrestling show. We’re talking about 17-18 years ago, that was my check. Pro-wrestling shows back then in Mexico, a hundred, two hundred dollars per show, so imagine how it was for me when a Japanese guy came and said, “There’s $20,000 for an MMA fighter.”
I said, “Of course, tell me who I need to kill” and then when he said, “Here’s another ten if you do it with a mask.” So that changed my life and of course I did it because of the money, but now the situation is different, I just told you the story about Campbell wanted me to fight, and it was without the mask, it was without anything, it was really good money, but it’s just, now the situation is different, I’m not saying that I don’t need the money, but I just don’t have to do it the way I did it 17-18 years ago.
I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with it, if you follow it or heard about it at all, but do you have any thoughts about the Sexy Star situation?
Well, I heard something about it, I cannot tell you in full detail because I wasn’t there. I asked some people, and some people was just giving their opinion without even being there that night, some other people, people that I trust, they said wrestlers or media or fans, they blew everything out of proportion, I just know that something happened, somebody complained, I cannot tell you anything else. I just, the part that I don’t like is that these days, everyone can get involved in people’s life just from having one person give their opinion or saying something they probably don’t even know.
I’m still old school, my family’s old school, we respect everyone, of course in situations we want to say stop, but my life is my life and only concerns to me. Of course, there are other people that don’t think that way, they want to have their five minutes of attention, because they’re nobody and they need to say something so the media turn around and see them. So I don’t really know, I don’t even know where she is right now, I know she wants to be doing something with Combate Americas, because now she’s a boxer, so we’re trying to get a boxer from Mexico, a female boxer, so I know she’s coming, I know we’re going to try and sign her, but I don’t know anything else.
To that point: since you left WWE, there’s been so much written about so many things that you’ve done. To you, what’s the fine line between being a public person and trying to separate you private life from a public personality?
It’s so difficult, to be honest it’s so difficult. I was just talking about this with Goyito Perez. It’s so difficult because I’m still old-school, and to me it’s like, if you have for whatever reason, let’s say I couldn’t make it for this interview with you, why do I have to explain to someone besides you, why do I have to explain to the rest of the people the reason why I couldn’t make it?
Of course, I will call you, and explain to you, “Eh, you know what, my wife left me, my dog died, my children is in the hospital. Hey, I had a nervous wreck and I feel sick, I cannot make it, my brother, I’m so sorry, I will do… can we do it tomorrow?” But I … to me, that’s the way it should be, just the ones involved are the ones that need to know what really happened, not to make a long statement explaining the whole, “Hey you know what, my fifth wife just left me and that’s the reason i couldn’t make it, I’m so sorry I will make it … ”
I’m from a different era, but these days that’s the way it is, you have to tell them absolutely everything, it’s just sometimes we need to learn how to handle it, how to manage or how to explain things in Social Media these days.
It’s more than difficult, to me I’m a wrestler. To me, my idea is that you should only be concerned about what’s going on with me in the ring, what’s going on with me in the ring or in my … or the things I do related to wrestling or the sport or on any type of entertainment. The rest of the stuff, my personal life, who am I dating, where am I going, what type of toilet paper I use when I go to the bathroom, that’s my business.
Do you think that that should be the situation for everyone who has a public persona?
Not really, I mean, I know a lot of people and there are really comfortable and they really enjoy to be in the public eye, people that they even tell them when this time they go to the bathroom, “Hey, I’m about to take a dump, see you guys in 5-15 minutes.” I’m not like that, again, I’m from a different era, I have different ideas, a different way of thinking.
Something that we’ve noticed on our website, we noticed that especially in your last run, whenever you had a match against Sin Cara, you really beat the sh*t out of him. Is there some issue there or is it something about working with him specifically?
No, no, I mean, we had an issue years ago, years ago, when he was …
Oh, no no, with Hunico I’m completely fine, I thought it was …
Yeah no, no, with Myzteziz, I had a, we had a thing, a situation, but this was like 10 years ago when we were working in Mexico and something happened there, and this was when he was the biggest star in Mexico, and then there are being really bad. But, because I don’t want to tell you all the details, but at the end of the night he was a complete coward and pulled out a coward move on me. And of course, I told him, “You know what, that’s fine, but one day I’m going to make you pay for this.” So years happened, years passed and stuff, and we ended up being together in WWE.
[WWE] asked me about him and I said, “Oh, I mean we’re not friends but if you want me to work with him, I’ll work with him.” And we were doing it, but everybody knows that way Alberto works. I always bring everything to my, I always give everything in my matches, I’m a passionate guy, I’m a guy who goes there and gives you more than 100 percent.
The reason I was on top when I was in WWE and got so many things, so many titles, was because Vince McMahon always loves my aggression, my stamina, with an amazing cardio, and I was always making everything look completely real, and that, when I was in the ring with someone who was being lazy, who didn’t have the heart or the passion for his work, it really upset me, and I’m pretty sure you’re asking me about one match in particular, where he said he was hurt when he wasn’t hurt and I ended up picking him up, throwing him inside the ring, you know, giving him a couple kicks and then covering him.
That’s when the company was like all over me, wanted me to do more stuff, to deliver even more, so that was under the microscope. And to me it was important moment to shine and he was going to screw it that day, that’s the reason I had that reaction. But then of course, like everything in life, we ended up talking about the situation, we ended up shaking hands, I’m not going to say becoming friends but we’re completely cool. And now if I see him, if he sees me, we’re completely fine and there’s no problem anymore.
And you’re cool with Hunico?
Oh, Hunico is my compadre, Hunico is my friend, oh my God, no. Hunico is one of my best friends in the business, a loyal person, stand-up man, a great father, a great husband, one of the few honest wrestlers in this business.
Unfortunately, we are in a business, the pro wrestling business is a dark business, where everyone is just waiting for you to turn your back to stab you. Hunico is not one of them, he’s someone that you can trust in every single aspect of your life.
If he hadn’t re-signed, would you have tried to get him for Combate?
Hunico? Oh definitely. And that motherf*cker can go. Believe me. So yeah.
Have you seen any of his backstage fights?
Yeah, of course, for one of them I was there and he just, again, the pro wrestling business is a dark business and when that, one of those fights happened, it was not because of him or the other guy, it was a third person who was stirring the pot and this person is someone who has never been in a real fight in his life, he’s a, you know, “beeeeep.”
But it was because of this person why those two ended up fighting. He’s pretty good, he’s a good fighter, he’s an amateur wrestler, he grew up in the hood, in Juarez, which is one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, and he grew up surrounded by gangs and when you have a life like that it makes you tough.
What can you tell us about the original plans were for what Mex-America was supposed to be, versus what —
I have no clue. Nobody knows anything about it, to be honest. I went back to the company and they told me the stuff we’d seen, the title and everything, but they never told me about teaming up with Dutch, the Mex-America stuff, and I even remember myself saying, “Who in the hell came up with this stupid idea?” And I just saw the producers and writers, “Shhhhh!” Doing [“quiet” motions] to me, because it was the man, the one that makes things possible over there, the one who created that idea or came up with that idea. So, like any other performer, I just, you know, I put my helmet, as a soldier I am, and I just follow orders.
Was there a moment that was the breaking point for you that you knew you had to get out again?
To leave the company? Yes, I had a … everyone knows that I don’t have a good relationship with someone in the company, and to me it was really difficult to go and see this person, see his group of people and have to deal and work with him every single week. And as you know, you have to spend 260 days on the road with them, see them every day, so one of those days, being completely tired, exhausted, a little bit hurt, I said to myself, “You don’t have to do this, you have all those projects out there, all these people calling you to offer you a job, not only in the pro wrestling business, but in other business,” where I started thinking about my age, I said, when I left the company I was 38.
I said, “I’m 38 years old, I only want to wrestle another three to four years, and this is not the place where I want to be, I want to leave this place and fall in love with the business again, and go and work with a big smile on my face and not be miserable.” Plus, all my friends were gone, all of them; Chavo [Guerrero], Drew [McIntyre], well I mean Drew’s back in the company. But back then he was doing these shows, Drew was gone, Chavo was gone, Edge, Rey Mysterio, all the people that used to hang out with me were gone, so I said, “This is not the place for me. I can go and make the same amount of money but being free instead of being 260 days out of my house, I can be 100-160 days on the road and be happy.”
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’m working for Combate, I’m working for Impact, I’m doing indie shows all over the world, having fun in Mexico, I’m about to start a reality show in Mexico in January. I just did a podcast for the first time with Combate and it was fantastic, it was so much fun. There’s an offer from Telemundo to do some episodes with one of the most important soap operas, there’s a lot of things that are coming in my way, and I’m completely happy.
November 11th, Combate Americas’ Copa Combate, what fight are you looking forward to the most?
I mean, it’s a tournament, now that I know the line-ups for the fights, everything tells me that somewhere there, that fight between Marcelo [Rojo] and John [Castaneda], or Ricky [Palacios] and John can happen, and that’s where it’ll be at war, there is going to be a war, these guys are three of the best fighters in the world, they are part of the Combate Americas family, I like them, the three of them, they’re great kids with great hearts with a lot of talent, a lot of things to offer, and whoever ends up being in the final, it’s going to be a war, it’s going to be fantastic.