A New MMA ‘Star’ is Born

By Jason Burgos Apr 11, 2019
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The crossover between mixed martial arts and professional wrestling has gone from subtle to overt in recent years. The latest example being the career change of Dulce Garcia. On Friday night, the professional wrestler notably referred to as “Sexy Star” will make her professional MMA debut at “Combate Americas: Flores vs. Marroquin.” The event will take place at the Arena Jose Sulaiman in Monterrey, Mexico, just a 10-minute drive from Garcia’s childhood home.

Professional wrestlers trying their hand at MMA has become more common than it was in the sport’s early years. In recent times, former WWE champions like Brock Lesnar, Phil Brooks, Bobby Lashley and Dave Bautista have all competed in MMA and have achieved varying degrees of success. Combate Americas embraces this crossover, in large part due to the fact that a significant portion of its core --Spanish-speaking -- audience reveres this timeless form of physical entertainment.

“We really like wrestling in Combate,” the promotion’s CEO, Campbell McLaren, told Sherdog last month. “It is part of the heritage. For us, it’s a cultural element here that’s a lot of fun.” The organization features a notable example of this trend in color commentator and brand ambassador Alberto “El Patron” Del Rio, a former WWE heavyweight champion who also competed in MMA bouts in Deep and Pride Fighting Championships while working his way up in the professional wrestling industry.

The promotion aims to expand upon this connection with Garcia, 36, as she makes the transition from the choreographed world of wrestling matches to the very real sport of MMA. “I wanted to fight MMA a long time ago. [Because] it is all combat sports together. It’s wrestling; it’s boxing; it’s muay Thai,” Garcia told Sherdog.

As Garcia enters the sport, her experience level puts her somewhere in between Brooks and Bautista -- veritable martial arts neophytes -- and more credentialed athletes like Lesnar and Lashley.

Before winning the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title in 2008 and becoming a force in the sport, Lesnar was a junior college and NCAA Division I wrestling champion. Lashley, meanwhile, won 15 of his 17 MMA bouts on the strength of the wrestling skills that earned him three consecutive National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships.

Although Garcia does not have anywhere near the athletic accolades of the latter pair, she does have experience as a fighter, winning all five of her professional bouts in boxing. Fighting is something that she has done since she was a sparkplug tomboy growing up in Monterrey. Playing with dolls wasn’t her style. Instead, she played sports with the boys and took up boxing and Muay Thai as a kid.

“Ever since I was very young, my mother would put me in different sports. I always had a lot of energy, and sports were a way for my mom to keep me busy,” Garcia said.

Although she did not take up either as a career, choosing professional wrestling instead, Garcia stayed active with her training. She even added Brazilian jiu-jitsu to her combat studies. The skills that she learned from training in these various martial arts ultimately became a part of her wrestling style. In fact, her knowledge of Brazilian jiu-jitsu even came into play during a low-light career moment two years ago.

In 2017, at Mexican wrestling promotion AAA’s Triplemania XXV event, Garcia, as “Sexy Star,” took part in a match that saw her win with an armbar submission. However, it has been alleged that Garcia applied the hold in earnest, hurting her opponent, “Rosemary,” in the process.

Garcia denies that her intention was to hurt her opponent. Nevertheless, “Rosemary” was enraged, stating in a Twitter post soon after the event, “Let me make this perfectly clear; if you take liberties with someone’s body when they are giving it to you, and trusting you to keep them safe, you are not tough. You are an a**hole. And you don’t belong in this business.”

The incident has soured some fans on the former AAA and Lucha Underground women’s champion. However, the scandal did not dissuade Combate Americas CEO McLaren, for whom signing someone with Garcia’s mix of athleticism, fighting background, and crossover appeal was a no-brainer. “’Sexy Star,’ she’s [expletive] awesome, man,” McLaren told Sherdog in March. “Why did we sign her? Because she’s great. She’s a great athlete. She’s an attractive woman, [and] she is notorious.”

This kind of support is one of the reasons that Garcia has chosen to ply her new craft in Combate Americas. They celebrate their links to professional wrestling, they encourage and support professional wrestling talent, and, most importantly to Garcia, they cater to an audience that is near and dear to her. “One of the things that I like the most about Combate is it’s a company that supports Mexicans. I’m proud to be a part of a company that believes in Latino [and] Mexican talent,” affirmed Garcia.

The longtime sports-entertainer -- who idolized trailblazing cruiserweight performer Rey Mysterio -- aims to blaze a trail of her own in her new career. While fans of both sports have seen UFC veterans like Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke take their talents to professional wrestling, few women have made the jump in the opposite direction. Knowing a move to MMA was on the horizon, Garcia has spent the last year and a half readying her mind and body for that first official walk to the cage. “I’m fully committed to MMA. I take this challenge very serious, [and] I want to grow in this sport,” Garcia proclaimed.

Although she has dedicated herself to this new endeavor, she admits that her deal with Combate Americas allows her to still compete in boxing and perform as a professional wrestler provided neither disrupt any scheduled MMA fights. “I -- thank God -- have all the support of the company, and they have never [asked me to be exclusive to them only] at any time,” said Garcia.

Garcia does not have a preference regarding how many times she fights this year. However, she plans to stay ready for any chance the promotion offers her to compete. “It doesn’t matter the number [of fights]. It’s just about the opportunities, and I will always be prepared to take them,” she declared.

“Sexy Star” believes that she’s ready for this moment, and she expects a very warm hometown welcome come fight night. “I expect a lot of support from my friends and family, and all of Monterrey,” Garcia stated.

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