José Alday beat the winningest fighter in Combate Americas on five days notice, and he now gets a chance to claim the promotion’s bantamweight title on Friday.
At the start of 2018, José “El Pochito” Alday was still operating in obscurity. After a shocking upset in April, he is now challenging fellow break-out star Levy Marroquin for the inaugural Combate Americas bantamweight championship and gets a chance to set up the biggest fight in the company’s history.
Jose Alday’s journey into MMA began, as many great stories do, by chance. “A few years ago, I had to go back to Mexico. I was deported in 2011 and I just didn’t have much to do. I had a friend who fought back then and I asked him, ‘Are there any gyms around here?’ And he told me about Total Gym. I headed down there. Before that, I had only one semester of wrestling. That was the only martial arts experience I had before starting. Four months later I was already taking amateur fights. Seven years later, we’re fighting for the Combate Americas title.”
His nickname, “Pochito,” is a deceivingly unassuming one that hides the breadth of his skills. Pochito is a term used to describe a Latino who speaks in a combination of English and Spanish. It’s not quite the name one would expect for a fighter, and Alday points out it is not the one he would have chosen either. “It was my manager who started it when I started having amateur fights. He wouldn’t ask me, he would just put José “Pochito” Alday. The first few times I would look at him all mad. The name just stuck. What I tell everybody, when your mom starts calling you your fighter nickname then you just accept it’s a done deal.”
In April, Combate Americas had pulled out all the stops for their debut event on Univision. The undercard was stacked with exciting fights and the venue itself was loaded with entertainment. The only problem: Alday wasn’t scheduled to fight on the card. The main event was set to be between the winningest fighter in the company, John Castaneda, and Marc Gomez in a rematch of one of the best fights in the company last year.
The week of the fight, an eye injury took Gomez off the card and the company scrambled to find a replacement. Alday, a friend of Gomez, took the fight on five days notice and would go on to put on an impressive performance. Alday would take a decision victory, looking no worse for wear considering the little time he had to prepare and even surviving a second-round rally from Castaneda.
Things are different this time around, with Alday now being sent on a promotional tour across America to promote his latest bout. “It’s been pretty neat. I’ve always been on the undercard. I’ve been in title fights before but nothing too big. We went to the Univision headquarters in Miami and it was just so different. The opportunities are there and I’m just ready to take them.”
Much of the attention for this fight is centered around Levy Marroquin, the young man who stepped in as an alternate to win the company’s special one-night tournament last year. But lost on everyone is the fact that Alday will be the more experienced fighter when they step in the cage and has international experience fighting in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and the United States.
Alday is aware of the task ahead of him, and knows full well the dangers Marroquin poses. “I think he’s a very smart fighter. He has a lot of physical attributes but I think what makes him so dangerous is that he’s a smart fighter. If he has to bite down on the mouthpiece or if he has to out-point somebody he will.”
Looming over the winner of this fight is the shadow of Erik “Goyito” Perez, whom it is expected the champion will face in their first title defense. With his status as a former UFC fighter and analyst for FOX Deportes, a fight with Perez is the most sought after in Combate Americas. Alday already has his own ideas of where he’d like the fight should he become champion.
“For a fight with Goyito, I’d love to have it here in Tucson, Arizona, where I live, or go down to Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico. That’s what I’m going to ask for when I finish my next fight. “Goyito” is a hell of a fighter. I think all of us fighters from Latin America kind of look up to him. He was the first guy in the UFC (from Mexico) to make it big. We all have respect outside the cage. But inside, it’s going to be different.”
Should Alday complete a sweep of Castaneda, Marroquin, and Perez in 2018, it would arguably be the biggest underdog story in MMA this year. But for Alday, it would simply be the product of the hard work and determination that he has always had for himself.
José “El Pochito” Alday will take on Levy Marroquin for the Combate Americas bantamweight championship this Friday from the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, Arizona, live on Univision & Univision Deportes.