January 16, 2009

Mexico’s Top Ranked MMA Fighter to Clash with Current Champion Rios at “Day of Reckoning”

Tijuana Native Duarte to Face Off Against American-born Rios for Bragging Rights

On January 24, MMA Champion Albert Rios will face Tijuana native and the number-one ranked fighter in Mexico, Antonio Duarte at Affliction M-1 “Day Of Reckoning” at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. This is the second mixed martial arts event for Affliction Entertainment, following the incredible success of their debut MMA event, “Affliction Banned” In July of 2008. The Rios vs. Duarte bout, along with four other “Day of Reckoning” undercard fights, will be a Pay-Per-View telecast which will feature six other fights, including the main event bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski.

“I’m the current champion in Mexico and Antonio is currently ranked number one, so it’s going to be a battle between two great Mexican fighters,” said Rios. “We were scheduled to fight in July and it was supposed to be a big event in Mexico, but now we have a bigger stage with there is a whole lot on the line. This is a big opportunity for both of us, as well as a chance for Mexico to put a stamp on the sport.”

“I feel we are very evenly matched and our styles will make for a very technical and exciting fight. We are both very aggressive and always show up in top form,” said Duarte. “I expect Rios to be at his best, as I will be, because this the most important fight in our careers. My strategy is to show up in the best condition of my life, physically and mentally, in order to give fight fans around the world, and particularly from Mexico, a great show.”

The Rios and Duarte match has been long in the making, as a previous bout between the two, originally scheduled to take place in Tijuana in July, was cancelled. Now the fight will happen on the Affliction M-1 “Day Of Reckoning” undercard, giving fight fans an opportunity to see two of the very best 145-pound fighters in the sport.

Although Duarte and Rios share a rich Mexican heritage and each have dreams of emerging victorious on January 24, they currently lead two very different lives.

Rios, a Los Angeles native, leads a very tangled double life. A special needs educator by profession, he splits his time between his MMA training and his Los Angeles Unified School District classroom, where he teaches students from pre-school all the way up to high school. Interestingly, Rios says his two life tracks don’t mesh, as his colleagues and even his family are unaware that his MMA training is more than just a “hobby.” Rios fears that fighting in MMA fights would be a “slap in the face” to his mother, who kept the family together after his parents divorced when he was in high school, and always told him that he needed to graduate from college and get a good job.

“I tell my colleagues that I train after school and that I love boxing, but they think it’s a hobby. My mom thinks it’s a hobby too. She thinks I should focus on my career,” said Rios. “I ran into a weird situation for my last fight in Mexico, because I have a lot of family in Mexico and I was all over the local news. My family called my mom about it, and I just told her it was a small fight and it wasn’t a big deal. She did so much, working three jobs just to put me in college. I don’t want her to think it was a waste.”

For Rios, who currently trains in Long Beach, there will be added pressure on January 24 when he faces Duarte, because of his Duarte’s family’s heritage and ties to Tijuana. He also knows that come fight night the Mexican crowd will be cheering for his opponent.

“I am prepared for the Mexican fans to root against me,” said Rios. “When Oscar de la Hoya fought Julio Cesar Chavez, it didn’t matter to the crowd that De La Hoya’s family is from Mexico. They rooted for Chavez because he was representing Mexico. On January 24th, the whole crowd will be for Duarte...he’s going to have all of the Mexicans behind him.”

For Antonio Duarte, who grew up idolizing Julio Cesar Chavez, it will be his first fight outside of Mexico and the biggest showcase of his talents in his career. He will also be the first Mexican fighter fully-trained in Mexico to fight on the international stage. For the Tijuana-born fighter, the chance to come to the United States and show his skills and fighting capabilities to the world is a dream come true.

After one year of training, Duarte made his MMA professional debut and has since garnered an impressive 10-1 record. Today Duarte is recognized as the lightweight champion of Ultimate Challenge Mexico and was awarded Fighter of the Year in 2007 by the Tijuana Athletic Commission, the sole authority officially sanctioning MMA bouts in Mexico.

“I feel that I have a great responsibility representing Mexico and its MMA fighters in this event and I will do so with great heart and pride,” said Duarte. “The winner of this fight will have greater opportunities and I intend to create a better future for me, as well as for other Mexican fighters...The fact that Rios is Mexican by blood means nothing to me other than he has that warrior spirit in him which characterizes us Mexican fighters. I anticipate a very tough fight.”

Regardless of backgrounds, both Rios and Duarte understand the opportunity to showcase the talent of Mexican fighters to the world on January 24, and a win by either fighter will propel them onto the world stage.

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