I Am Living Proof of the American Dream: With MMA Fighter Jose Alday

“What makes me optimistic about the US’s future are the good people here. There are people that are vocal with their opinions and make a…

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“What makes me optimistic about the US’s future are the good people here. There are people that are vocal with their opinions and make a difference in the community. We don’t all agree, but we all have a voice. Whatever our views are, they should be expressed in a respectful manner and we should also respectfully listen to other views.”

I had the pleasure to interview Jose Alday. Jose is a MMA fighter and a Dreamer who was deported in 2011, after he and his family overstayed their tourist visas that they came here on in 2001. Jose finally made it back to the US with green card status last year. The title fight that he is going to be fighting in on September 14th in Phoenix, is actually taking place on his birthday, and two days away from the 7th anniversary of his detainment before he was deported! He said what Combate Americas has done for him is indescribable. Jose got married to his high school sweetheart from Arizona while he was still in Mexico (They got married in Hermosillo, Mexico), and finally made it back to the US three years after. His family is in the landscaping business and used to work for his uncle. They recently opened their own business. He has a very inspiring story.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Sonora, Mexico, which borders Arizona and is close to Tucson. It’s a small border town with a small population and very few opportunities outside of farming. Agriculture is the main income for the town.

Was there a trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?

My father was a veterinarian and he and my mother realized that there were no opportunities for us in our small town. My parents decided to bring my sister and I to the U.S. in 2001, when I was 9 years old, to find a better life.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

It was a bit scary, but although we didn’t speak English, everyone was very welcoming. The biggest change I remember was my school. I was in fourth grade and I remembered there being FOUR classes just for the fourth grade. At my old school there was only one. It was overwhelming and a big culture change. I had to learn a new language, but I was a kid and able to adapt easily.

That was the first time I came to the United States. I had to go back to Mexico in 2011 because I was deported.

I remember I was attending college and I had just turned 20 years old. I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. I had no record and as far as I can remember, I was an American. I was going to school to be a veterinarian technician. My roots and culture were from Mexico, but I grew in the United States and I loved everything about it. It was a melting pot where everyone becomes an American. As they were putting the handcuffs on me, I couldn’t believe that the country I loved so much was sending me away. I was sent back to Mexico for overstaying my visitor visa on the 16th of September, Mexico’s Independence Day. The DACA program was implemented a year later.

When I arrived in Mexico, I was lost. I was sad because I was not with my family and girlfriend. A couple of months after arriving in Hermossio, a town very close to where I grew up in Sonora, I started training for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). I had always watched it — but I grew up playing soccer. It was a good outlet that helped me channel my anger and disappointment on being deported. It influenced me beyond belief. I helped me become disciplined and focused. I have never gotten in a fight outside of the cage and I can attribute that to my MMA training.

Credit: Scott Hirano

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

My ESL teacher, Steve Arechiga. He was very patient and understanding and he taught me English. He showed me the ropes. I am eternally grateful to him. I am also very grateful to my manager, Gustavo Pohls. Without him, I don’t know where I would be.

So how are things going today?

So, I have been back in the United States, legally this time for 11 months. I am back with my family, my wife, Brianna and a beautiful two-year old son, Sebastian. All of that hard work and dedication is paying off. On September 14, my birthday, I will fight in the main event for the Combate Americas championship. I guess you can say that the second week of September has always been a significant week for me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I hope I am an example, especially to the people of Mexico, that anything possible if you work hard, are dedicated and sacrifice. There were days where I had to pick between fighting or working to put food on the table. I am so proud to be an MMA fighter with Combate Americas.

You have firsthand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?

That is tough. I am a fighter, but having been through it first hand, I can offer the following advice.

1. Detainment- While I was being detained, no one was trying to understand me. They were just doing their job — to get me out of the country. No one cared about what I was going through.

2. Better background checks- Yes, there are some rotten tomatoes. I believe that undocumented people that break the law, should be sent back immediately. Undocumented immigrants without a criminal record should be given a consideration to stay.

3. The wall is a bad idea. Usually people will find a way to get around a system. Its super expensive and the money is better spent on something else like education for our children.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

Work hard– It doesn’t matter if it’s school or MMA. Be dedicated to your art or passion.

Sacrifice– You need to sacrifice and do the hard work. I had to sacrifice time with my family and friends to get to my goal.

Establishing goals– You won’t get anywhere if you don’t have long-range goals.

Setting deadlines- You must set out to accomplish goals in a specific time frame. It’s easier to achieve and work towards.

Enjoy the process- You must enjoy the process- from the hard work to achieving the goals. Enjoy or its never going to happen.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

1. Good people- There are people that are vocal with their opinions and make a difference in the community. We don’t all agree, but we all have a voice. Whatever our views are, they should be expressed in a respectful manner and we should also respectfully listen to other views.

2. Young people- It is amazing to see so many young people working towards their dreams. I hope more kids are inspired and go out and pursue their goals.

3. MMA- I know that sometimes people misinterpret the sport. I wish everyone knew the hard work and discipline it takes to be in MMA. Those that are successful in the sport are cerebral and strategic fighters. They become the champions and it turns out some very good people.

Credit: Scott Hirano

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would love to have a private meeting with George St. Pierre. He is one of the greatest MMA fighters in the world. He is very dedicated and has done very big things in the sport. He is mentally strong. I would love to pick his brain.

Originally published at medium.com

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