Combate Americas lightweight champion Rafael Garcia (12-0 MMA, 8-0 CA) vacated his title and looks forward to the “next chapter” of his career, according to an Instagram post from the undefeated fighter’s account.
Garcia, 25, wrote that he came to the decision “after careful consideration with my family, team & management,” adding that “I would like to thank Combate for the opportunity to fight for the belt and defend it.”
The Mexican standout has fought for Combate since 2017, amassing an 8-0 record under the Hispanic MMA promotion’s banner. Of his eight victories, Garcia totaled four submissions and one knockout.
A winner in three Combate main events, Garcia was one of the promotion’s top champions. He defended the lightweight title in his most recent bout, a decision victory over UFC veteran Humberto Bandenay.
Interestingly, Garcia wrote, “I am excited and more than ready for the next chapter of my career,” potentially signaling a departure from Combate Americas in general, not just the relinquishment of his title.
On Thursday, former Combate Americas bantamweight champion Gustavo Lopez (11-4 MMA, 7-2 CA) announced that he would step in for Ray Borg and face Merab Dvalishvili at the upcoming UFC event in Las Vegas, tweeting, “Phone be ringing We stay ready!! Fighting this Saturday #UFC.”
Phone be ringing 😈 We stay ready!! Fighting this Saturday #UFC
— Gustavo Lopez ♋ (@Gustavo11Lopez) June 11, 2020
However, Combate CEO Campbell McLaren took to Twitter to lament Lopez’s “bad move,” writing, “Bad move from @Gustavo11Lopez he’s under contract with @combateamericas.”
McLaren’s comments sparked a debate among some of the sport’s prominent figures, including managers, fellow fighters and promoters, and media.
Daniel Rubenstein of Ruby Sports and Entertainment, who manages Lopez, took ownership of the situation and accepted responsibility for the ensuing confusion and controversy. “As a manager, I have made a mistake,” Rubenstein began.
As a manager, I have made a mistake and @combateamericas does indeed have matching right to @Gustavo11Lopez and I have officially requested his release for him to fight this weekend in the UFC in Las Vegas. @campbellcombate
— Daniel Rubenstein (@dannyrube) June 11, 2020
Ultimately, McLaren and Combate allowed Lopez to sign to the UFC in a decision that resulted in widespread praise, writing, “Combate Americas has decided to allow @Gustavo11Lopez to move forward and fight in the UFC this Saturday night.”
It is unclear whether the situation with Lopez factored into Garcia’s decision to relinquish his title, or whether Gracia plans to remain with Combate Americas.
The Body Lock’s request for comment from McLaren was not immediately returned.