LOS ANGELES — Ahead of Friday’s Combate Americas event, commentator and behind-the-scenes executive Alberto Del Rio spoke to us about the future of the fledgling MMA company, but he also talked to us about a few more things, like his prediction for the next CM Punk UFC fight, and his insistence that not only is he not appearing at the Greatest Royal Rumble, he didn’t even know that event was taking place.
WITH SPANDEX: CM Punk’s has his second fight coming up against Mike Jackson, and he’s been full time in MMA for a couple years now. How do you feel like he’s going to do in his second fight?
Alberto Del Rio: I think he’s gonna do great. I know he was bashed by everyone after his first fight, but, to be honest, I don’t think he did a bad job in that fight. I mean, he got caught by a guy with more experience than him, that’s the way it is. That’s the way the sport works, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and you can be the best fighter in the world and you have someone submitting you, just because you close your eyes for a fraction of a second. That’s the way it is in MMA.
So me knowing and understanding how it feels to be inside that cage, inside that ring, the pressure, especially for someone like Punk, who is a fantastic guy. He’s a good guy with a good heart, and he had a lot of people against him just because he turned his back to the pro wrestling business, and some crazy fans were upset or they felt disrespected because he ended up turning his back to the pro wrestling business. But it’s because they just don’t understand it.
At the end of the day we are like any other person out there, we want to try new things, we have the right to make mistakes. We have the right to go and try new things, and if those things don’t work, go back to what we were doing at first. We have those options like any other person, and I’m glad to hear, because I didn’t know he was going back and he’s gonna have another fight.
I’m glad he’s getting another opportunity, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to seize this opportunity, this time. He’s a smart guy, so I’m pretty sure he’s been doing a lot of sparring, because that’s what you need to do now. Once you [master] the technique, and you haven’t had so many fights in your life, you have to fight in the gym like every single day. Not just sparring, but real fights in the gym with your friends, with your coworkers, or with the people helping you to train … so I’m pretty sure he’s going to do a good job.
If he were to be out of his UFC contract, would Combate extend an offer?
Definitely. Completely. If he’s not in UFC, just because I know he’s doing it because he has the passion for it, but he’s also doing it for the money. If he remembers that I’m one of his good friends, and he cut me a good deal, I will definitely have him in Combate.
Do you talk to him often?
It’s been a while. Because he was busy and I was busy, but now that I know this, I’m gonna give him a call.
Now, Bobby Lashley just came back to WWE. We were doing some research on it. Bobby Lashley’s currently signed to Bellator, and Brock Lesnar currently under contract with UFC, and it’s the first time since Frye/Takayama in Japan that we’ve had two active professional wrestlers signed to different major MMA promotions, and the first time at WWE since Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock. Do you have any thoughts about that sort of atmosphere, where you have these two people under different contracts to different MMA companies, under the biggest pro-wrestling company?
I think it’s great. It’s easy for a multi-billion company like WWE — it’s for a company like that to hire anyone. So I’m glad Bobby Lashley is back in action with that company, ’cause he’s a fantastic guy. He’s one guy that goes and busts his ass for the company every single day. He’s not one of those guys just wanting to perform 10 times per year and taking all the money and taking all the glory. He’s one of the boys. I’m really happy that he ended up coming into an agreement with WWE, and I’m pretty sure it was for a good amount of money. I wish him the best and I know we’re gonna be seeing him around, not just in pro wrestling shows, but also in MMA.
You’re no longer with Impact, and you of course, famously won the biggest Royal Rumble to date, is there any chance you will be showing up for the Greatest Royal Rumble, which is the 50-person Rumble, and try and stake your claim to …
Is that what they’re doing?
Saudi Arabia, in a couple weeks.
I didn’t even know that, ’cause people — they don’t believe me when I say that I don’t watch wrestling, I don’t read the dirt sheets, I don’t go to the internet. I go and do my shows, I read what I have to read, if it has to do something with my business or whatever I’m doing at the moment, but I didn’t even know that. It doesn’t surprise me, because I was in shock that they let me hold that award for so long, especially knowing that I was not going back there, or that I was not working for them.
That’s great, but no, I won’t go back, because people keep forgetting that I left the place. I was never fired because they didn’t wanna use me or anything like that. I left the place, I didn’t want to be there anymore, because I wanted to do things like this, like Combate projects, things that make me happy and let me stay with my family, that allows me to spend time with my family. Last time I had a conversation with them, they wanted me for the same amount of days, for the same type of deal, and of course that’s not gonna happen, so. It’s great. I don’t know who’s gonna end up winning that Royal Rumble, but I think it’s great that they’re gonna have a — [what are they] gonna call it?
The Greatest Royal Rumble.
The Greatest, the one winning the Greatest Royal Rumble of all time.