Combate Americas, a mixed martial arts promotion geared toward Hispanic fighters and fans, has brought in some well-known muscle to become the new face of the company.
Professional wrestler and former MMA fighter Alberto "El Presidente" Rodriguez, best known in the United States as former four-time WWE world champion Alberto Del Rio, was named president of the company on Tuesday, officials told ESPN.com.
Combate Americas, which was created in 2012 by UFC co-founder Campbell McLaren, signed a multiyear deal in April to air exclusively in English on UFC Fight Pass. Rodriguez will make his public debut as president on Friday during the promotion's first live event in New York at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona.
"The moment Campbell McLaren sent me the prospect I said yes immediately," Rodriguez told ESPN.com. "As you know, I like to be in front of the camera with a microphone in my hand to tell people all about how proud I am to be Latino and to be a Mexican. I think all of the fighters who are competing for Combate Americas feel the same way."
Rodriguez, 39, who mutually agreed upon his release from WWE in September, will be actively involved in all aspects of athlete relations and development for Combate Americas. He also plans to continue pro wrestling on a part-time basis until 2018, when his focus will turn exclusively to MMA.
"I'm going to be recruiting fighters and I'm going to be there to help them get to the place that they want to get," Rodriguez said. "We have a lot of talent in the company. Most of that talent is Hispanic. That makes me really happy to be able to help them."
Rodriguez comes from a famous family of pro wrestlers in Mexico, including his father, Dos Caras, and his uncles, Sicodelico and WWE Hall of Famer Mil Mascaras. He also has experience inside the cage as an MMA fighter, sporting a record of 9-5 between 2001 and 2010 under the name Dos Caras Jr. (often wearing a Luchador mask). His most famous bout came in 2003 against Pride and UFC veteran Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, where he suffered a head-kick knockout defeat.
"Alberto brings a tremendous amount of knowledge of what it means to be in competition, coupled with an ability to communicate his passion for the sport to his new role," McLaren said. "From working with Alberto in the past, we have gotten to know him very well and are thrilled to have him on our team in an executive capacity."
Rodriguez said he was first approached by McLaren more than two years ago to join Combate Americas as a fighter but respectfully declined, saying, "Amigo, thank you so much for the offer but I think I'm too old for that." He admits he was surprised when approached recently about an executive role.
"I am going to try and bring all of that experience to not just make great fighters, but great entertainers. We know Ronda [Rousey] and [Conor] McGregor are great fighters but they are also showmen. McGregor is an amazing fighter and his Octagon skills are not in debate. But the reason why he has accomplished all of those things is because he is a showman." New Combate Americas president Alberto Rodriguez
Considering his career in sports entertainment, Rodriguez is looking to pass on what he has learned to the mostly Hispanic fighters who make up the Combate Americas roster.
"I am going to try and bring all of that experience to not just make great fighters, but great entertainers," Rodriguez said. "We know Ronda [Rousey] and [Conor] McGregor are great fighters but they are also showmen. McGregor is an amazing fighter and his Octagon skills are not in debate. But the reason why he has accomplished all of those things is because he is a showman. And people want to see him winning or losing -- but they want to see him.
"At the end of the day this is fighting, so they are going to be fighting. But we also want them to entertain the crowd."
Rodriguez says he is excited about leveraging his connections in Mexico -- hinting that Combate Americas is on the verge of closing a big deal with a new partner -- and hopes to use his celebrity to help the brand grow to a bigger platform worldwide.
"I know it's going to be not impossible but really difficult to be bigger than the UFC, just because of all the structure in that company," Rodriguez said. "But I'm pretty sure we're going to be the No. 2 MMA company around the world in less than two years. We have an amazing group of people behind the project."