CANCUN — An hour before doors opened for the inaugural Copa Combate, MMA fans were lined up outside the Pyramid at the Grand Oasis Cancun resort. An enterprising scalper sold tickets to the sold-out event, and just inside the entrance, complimentary red and green Combate Americas T-shirts were stacked up and waiting for every fan in attendance. In a few hours, MMA fans around the world would be watching on NBC Sports Network, Telemundo, Azteca 7, and ESPN.
On Saturday night, just shy of the 24th anniversary of the first-ever UFC event, Combate Americas held a one-night, eight-man tournament to crown the first Copa Combate winner and resulting $100,000 purse. The winner of the 135-pound tournament stood to take home not only the cash and pride, but also a fight against incoming UFC star Érik “Goyito” Pérez, a bout that will likely take place in January. The end result will likely go down as one of the best cards of the year, top to bottom.
Earlier in the day, company CEO Campbell McLaren and announcer Alberto Del Rio announced the tournament combatants to the media. Mikey Erosa had taken a circuitous route to the tournament, starting in Puerto Rico, flying to Miami, and then taking a boat from the Florida Keys to Cozumel, and eventually to Cancun. Erosa had also promised to give a large portion of his purse to his sister, in order for her to pay back her student loans, if he managed to win the $100,000 for capturing the Copa. (Erosa’s night unfortunately ended early in the first match of the main card, when he survived multiple submission attempts from Argentinian fighter Marcelo Rojo, only to wind up in a frighteningly deep armbar.)