Why is El Patron Fighting Tito Ortiz?

Tonight, Combate Americas, the Mexican-based mixed martial arts promotion, will use the advancements of streaming technology to further expand its product with its first-ever pay-per-view event on the FITE app. Founded in 2011, the group has held dozens of shows and garnered solid numbers among the Hispanic audience, with television deals in both the native country and in the United States, as well as the announcement of additional programming brought to AXS last month. The Combate Americas project catered to its audience to find its own niche, proving that not every MMA promotion has to attempt to challenge the UFC as the world wide leader of the sport to be successful. The nature of the company is tailored to its primary audience, which is fine, but the entire point of the pay-per-view business is to be able to generate revenue on a wider basis so will the product translate to a more mainstream audience at a premium price?

The $30 price tag for the event will see former WWE World Heavyweight champion, Alberto El Patron return to the cage for the first time in nine years to challenge former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Tito Ortiz. The under card is comprised of fighters only known to either the most diehard fan base of the sport or the domestic Latino audience so as far as the actual pay-per-view, the Patron/Ortiz bout is more or less the only selling point.

As mentioned, Patron, who was initially the president of the MMA group following his release from WWE, competed in MMA in the early 2000s after he made a name for himself as a part of a wrestling family in lucha libre. Over a span of roughly nine years, he garnered a rather average 9-5 record, putting his combat career at a rather undistinguished level. His most famous bout as a fighter was his debut for Pride, the 2003 contest that saw him fight the legendary Mirko Crocop while wearing his trademark lucha libre mask. It goes without saying that the bout was an uneven match-up, considering Alberto’s experience level and the results reflected it, as one of Crocop’s dangerous head kicks clipped Alberto just 45 seconds into the first round, sending him crashing to the canvas for the KO defeat.

Ironically, much of Patron’s legitimate background is based in amateur wrestling so at least in theory, this FITE bout isn’t just a sideshow fight to see a pro wrestling in an MMA fight. That being said, the other side of the coin is how this fight sells and the potential it has to generate pay-per-view buys. While the argument could certainly be made that Alberto Del Rio should’ve had a better run in the WWE and his talents weren’t used to their full potential while he was there, the fact remains that he has been away from the spotlight in the United States for several years. After four years on the WWE main roster, he saw his push and status vary at times and it appeared that management never fully let him run with the role of a top star. In 2014, he was released after he slapped a social media employee for making a disparaging joke about Hispanic heritage. While the employee probably deserved the slap, the incident saw Del Rio leave the company for a year before a return in late-2015. However, while the run started off with a memorable return on pay-per-view against John Cena, he eventually got lost in the shuffle again and requested his release just a year later.

Following his departure from WWE, he had a controversial relationship with Paige, which saw police called for domestic violence incidents. Patron worked for Impact Wrestling for two stints, but the domestic violence press led to his initial release before he was fired during his second run for no-showing an event in 2018. This took place at a time when Impact’s future was in doubt so it didn’t provide him much main stream exposure.

For Tito Ortiz, he has a name in the history of the sport because of his run as one of the only marketable stars during an era when the visibility of the sport was almost non-existent before the Zuffa group brought the UFC into prominence through the Ultimate Fighter reality show. At 44, it’s remarkable that Ortiz still has a career, considering that he had just one win in the final eight years of his UFC run before he rejuvenated his career under the Bellator banner with a record of 3-1 after a three-year stint in the organization. Tito’s most recent appearance in the cage was the Golden Boy Promotions debacle just over a year ago when he KO’ed Chuck Liddell in the first round of a trilogy fight. Many expressed concern for Liddell’s safety and thought he shouldn’t have been allowed to fight. Despite Oscar De La Hoya’s claim of more MMA events for his promotional group, the event flopped, drawing a dismal 25,000 PPV buys.

As far as the Combate Americas bout, there probably won’t be a slug fest, with Tito using his wrestling background to try to put Patron on the mat. If anything, the majority of the contest might take place in the clinch since Alberto could try to use his own amateur skills to control the fight. As mentioned, the 42-year-old Patron hasn’t fought in MMA since 2010 so there’s no realistic way to determine what he might try to use as a game plan for this bout. Ortiz is more or less using this platform as a way to get another payday in the latter stages of his career so he won’t take many chances.

The bottom line is how the fight sells and if he can generate revenue. Despite being an MMA bout, the weigh-ins yesterday resembled more of a pro wrestling angle when Tito walked to the scale with a Trump flag and wearing a red hat. Ortiz used a villainous persona throughout much of his career so the attempt to get heat from the mostly Mexican fan base is probably nothing more than him attempting to sell the fight. The problem is, the weigh-ins looked sparsely attended, which isn’t a good sign for a card that costs $30 to watch online. Tito’s heel tactics won’t be effective if nobody is there to notice them. Let’s be honest here, Tito hasn’t truly been relevant for years and his 20-12-1 record shows that his prime was over a decade ago. On paper, this fight is a former WWE star that hasn’t been on major TV in the US is almost five years challenging an aging UFC fighter that is merely fighting for another paycheck so what’s really at stake? I will pick Patron to get the win because he has less miles on his body than his opponent. While I don’t think this fight will be a major draw, it’s possible that it will sell in Mexico so it will be interesting to see what the actual buy rate will be for the show. Either way, it’s very possible that this event is just an attempt to be a money grab because this specific bout doesn’t have the ability to really boost the profile of Combate Americas as a company.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta