Combate Americas’ bantamweight champion Jose “El Pochito” Alday discusses what the last year has been like, his upcoming rematch with Gustavo Lopez, fighting at home in Tucson, and more.
A year ago, José Alday was flying under the radar in Combate Americas. Today, he is their first and only champion who will be looking to defend his title against Gustavo Lopez in a rematch of their epic battle last year. Alday spoke with Cageside Press about his career year, fighting Gustavo Lopez in a rematch over UFC veteran Erik “Goyito” Perez, and more.
You wouldn’t realize it now, but Alday hadn’t yet won a fight in Combate Americas when he shocked John Castaneda last April. On five days notice, he stunned the winningest fighter in the promotion in the main event of their inaugural show on Univision. The victory led to him being matched up several months later with Levy Marroquin for the inaugural bantamweight championship. Marroquin was forced out of the bout late into fight week, and Alday ended up overcoming a dangerous Gustavo Lopez to become the first champion in the history of the promotion.
On going from unknown to promotional star in just twelve months, Alday says:
“I feel like all I needed was that opportunity. I’ve been working hard. I turned pro at the end of 2013. I’ve been wanting these opportunities so I can provide for my family. I’m hoping in a few months to be able to tell everyone good news that I got a house from fighting. For me, it is still sometimes surreal. I hear the numbers that we’re pulling on Univision and DAZN and it amazes me. I did not expect to be here at this point a year ago. Before the Castaneda fight, I was just looking to fight two or three times and then be in position to fight for the title against some of these bigger name guys that I’ve now already beaten.”
In the last year, Combate Americas signed with a new TV partner in Univision as well as an exclusive English broadcast deal with streaming service DAZN. As one of the faces of the company, Alday now finds himself in TV spots for Cricket Wireless and even a commercial encouraging people to vote this past election season. This means that fans are also now familiar with his story; Alday was deported from the US to Mexico as a young man and MMA helped him to return and reunite with his family.
It is a new experience to have so many people now know his story know a part of your history, but Alday feels it is positive:
“I’m still learning. A year ago, I probably only had a few interviews and there wasn’t much attention on my fights. The only people who knew I was fighter were local here in Tucson or Hermosillo. Now I’m on the big screen. Every time there’s an event the Cricket commercial comes up and it’s awesome. I like it. Before I got deported, I wasn’t supposed to do much. I was illegal so I wasn’t able to go to a university, only a small college. It was difficult. For example, at some point, I was thinking about being a firefighter. But, you can’t be a firefighter if you’re not a citizen or a resident. So I had to keep my goals kind of small. What I want to do with my career is show people that, ‘hey, keep working hard even if you go back to Mexico and start from zero. It is possible. It’s all about that mindset and believing that you can do anything.’ To this day, I still have that white belt mentality. You can’t take your foot off the gas pedal. If you do, someone else will come in and take what’s yours and your goals and dreams. Especially in this cruel sport.”
Inside the cage, Alday knows he has a tall order ahead of him. His opponent, Gustavo Lopez, took the last fight on two days notice and pushed him to the limit. This time, Lopez has had a full training camp to prepare for their encounter.
“It’s going to be fun. I expect to do a lot differently as well. I’ve been training differently. Everyone says I was prepared for that camp but actually I had only one month of hard training. Leading up to that I was working long hours in the summer in Arizona. It isn’t easy doing landscaping either. I expect him to be his best. I want to beat the best Gustavo Lopez. I know what he wants to do. He knows what I want to do. That’s the sweet science of MMA: it’s about who’s going to get better and impose their game plan this time. I expect to finish what I started and put on a good show for everyone watching internationally, nationally, and right here in my home in Tucson.”
Addressing the elephant in the room, what happened to the expected match-up with former UFC star Erik “Goyito” Perez? Alday clarifies, it had nothing to do with his side.
“All I can say is it’s not because of me. I’ve been asking for that fight as well. I also thought he was next. I guess Combate has another plan or their side is not understanding each other. It’s not that I didn’t want to fight him. A lot of people are out there saying I’m scared and I think that’s silly. A fight is a fight and I’m not scared of anybody.”
Of course, the reason for so much talk about the fight, outside of Goyito’s name recognition, is the fact that Perez infamously took the mic in his luchador mask after his last fight and threatened to retire if not granted a title shot. On watching the exchange unfold on television, Alday said “I thought it was a bad idea. They had to have planned it in the back. I think they tried to make it look serious but it came off very wrong. It looked very set up.”
José Alday says he is still open to fighting Perez if it materializes later, but for now, he is focused on March 29 where he will be fighting at home as he looks to defend his title against Lopez.
“It’s pretty exciting. I have people coming from Mexico and here in Tucson, and a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve been back here in the United States for a year and a half but I’ve been training, working, sweating, and bleeding so I haven’t had time to go hang around with old friends and acquaintances. It’ll be nice to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen in years. I think we’re going to sell this out before the event comes.”
José Alday will defend his bantamweight title against Gustavo Lopez on March 29 at the Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona, live on Univision and DAZN at 7 pt.