Even with his WWE career behind him and a new opportunity in mixed martial arts in his future, Alberto Rodriguez expects to continue his pro wrestling career on a part-time basis until 2018, when he plans to retire.
Best known as Alberto Del Rio during two stints with the WWE (and on the independent circuit as Alberto El Patron), Rodriguez told ESPN.com that he has adopted a new persona, Alberto "El Presidente," to coincide with Tuesday's announcement of his hiring as president of the Hispanic-aimed MMA promotion Combate Americas.
Rodriguez, 39, came to a mutual agreement for his release from the WWE on Sept. 9, less than one month after he was suspended 30 days for an undisclosed talent wellness policy violation. That brought an end to his second stint with the company, which began in October 2015. He originally competed in WWE from 2010 to 2014, before he was fired following a backstage confrontation.
The four-time WWE world champion said he has no regrets about the way his final year played out. "You can't force a company to use you the way you think that you are supposed to be used," he said. Although he admits WWE ultimately broke promises to him regarding his character's push, he's excited about moving on to bigger and better things.
"At the end of the day, you have to go to that company to make a big name for yourself," Rodriguez said. "I am always going to be grateful with those guys for giving me a name, for putting me out there so I can show my talent to the world. But I am also not happy with what they were doing with me and what they were not doing with me at the end of my days with that company.
"Lucky for me, I have the opportunity to change it. It was my decision. I chose to be in bed with WWE. It's just that I decided not to stay there anymore because I was unhappy with the situation."
Rodriguez, who said WWE did everything in its power to keep him, took stock of his standing within the company and realized he wasn't willing to stay one more year. He admits that he's fortunate enough to have the means and flexibility to make that kind of decision in a spot where others aren't quite so lucky.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in that company who have no other option," Rodriguez said. "They have to stay there because either they have no place to go or [WWE] doesn't let them go. I want to be free and enjoy my life. I want to enjoy my family, my kids, my relationship with my girlfriend. I just want to be happy, so I'm not staying here."
Rodriguez is currently in a relationship with WWE superstar Paige, who on Monday was suspended 60 days for her second wellness policy violation. He joined her in disputing the violation on social media. He wouldn't go as far as to agree with rumors that WWE is trying to break them apart, though.
"To be honest, I don't care what they say or what they try to do," Rodriguez said. "We are together, and we are happy. I know a lot of people are not happy, but regardless of whatever people say, we can be happy. We can be together. And we are going to stay together because we are happy."
Rodriguez was a no-show for his first post-WWE appearance Oct. 2, when he was set to perform at a major show for Mexican promotion AAA in Monterrey. The following day, he reported in a pair of Instagram posts that he missed his flight from San Antonio because of injuries he suffered after fighting off an attacker on the street. He posted pictures of his knife wounds.
Conflicting internet reports followed and seemed to contradict his story. Asked to clarify, Rodriguez said he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and left it at that. He said he is working hard to put it behind him.
"A lot of people are asking me about it," Rodriguez said. "My family was really concerned about this situation because unfortunately they have seen so much stuff out there, especially from the internet, and they don't know what's real and what is not. The reality is that I was involved in a street fight with a guy who disrespected my girlfriend, the female wrestler Paige. I had to do something about it, and everybody knows what happened after."
Rodriguez, who just returned from an appearance in England, said he plans to work mainly in Mexico in the near future, but he also said talks are already in the works for select U.S. dates with Ring of Honor, where he wrestled between his WWE stints, and TNA.
"I already talked to my friends from Ring of Honor, and I'm a big fan of that company and their talent," Rodriguez said. "I had a blast a few years ago, and I'm going to have fun with all those guys again pretty soon, as well as doing something with my friends in TNA, especially because my friend Drew McIntyre [Galloway] works for them. I have other friends like Damien [Sandow, a.k.a Aron Rex] and Cody Rhodes. I'm just looking forward to doing an appearance with them pretty soon."
Retiring at the age of 40, which he'll be in May, was always Rodriguez's plan. His new idea of how he'd like to end his career will extend it for one additional year, and he cites his love and passion for the business as the primary factors in his changing his timeline.
"For me, it has been the same since day one: Every time I go [into the ring], I come to give my best," Rodriguez said. "If I'm going through difficult times in my personal life, if I'm sick and if I'm tired, [the fans] know I'm going to give them the best match of the night. I'm not one of those guys going to places just to collect money. Even if it's in front of 500 people or 20,000 people, I give them my best. That's going to be the same until my days are at the end in pro wrestling."