passed article along.

Bautista’s 1st MMA Opponent REPLACED — Arrested Week Before Fight

Bautista’s very first professional MMA fight was nearly scrapped this week when his opponent was arrested for a probation violation … but TMZ has learned organizers have dug up a replacement fighter just in the nick of time.

The fight has been in the works for months … the ex-WWE champ was slated to get in the ring with Rashid Evans (not the one from the UFC) at a CES MMA event in Providence, Rhode Island.

But a rep for the event tells us … Evans was scratched from the fight card when he was arrested for violating his probation some time last week … and once again, it seemed like fate was going to prevent Bautista’s MMA career from ever getting started.

Event organizers scrambled to find a replacement fighter — a guy named Vince Lucero stepped up … which could be a HUUUUGE problem for Bautista because Lucero has been in more than 40 pro fights.

In fact, Lucero has gone toe-to-toe with a bunch of legitimate MMA studs … including former UFC Heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia (Sylvia won that fight).

The fight is still scheduled to go down Saturday at 8pm ET.

Good luck.

Update (8:02 p.m. ET): The following press release was just issued confirming the change.

(Los Angeles, CA – October 1, 2012) — Due to an unforeseen incident, Rashid Evans has officially pulled out of the highly anticipated fight with former WWE superstar DAVE BAUTISTA set for October 6th. The scheduled fight will go on as planned with Vince Lucero stepping in to take Evans’ place as Bautista’s debut MMA opponent. The fight remains scheduled for 8 PM ET/5 PM PT at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island with Cesar Gracie as the play by play announcer.

The six time WWE World Champion is not going to let this small set back stop him from realizing his long time dream of making the move to Mixed Martial Arts. The Bautista camp is business as usual, continuing with his grueling pre-fight training determined to make Dave’s debut fight a successful one, regardless of who ends up in the opposite corner at the starting bell.

Vince Lucero, a 40 year old MMA veteran has an impressive number of fights behind him with 42 professional bouts and 11 KOs. Fights include two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, whom he fought less than two years ago, former UFC heavyweight contenders Justin Eilers, Homer Moore and Christian Wellisch, Strikeforce veteran Ruben Villareal and former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) contender Jimmy Ambriz in addition to fighting for the Bellator Fighting Championships in 2011. The sheer experience under Lucero’s belt is sure to make him a formidable opponent for Bautista’s debut fight.

Tickets for this highly anticipated fight are available now at The fight is also available on DirecTV Pay Per View (that will include a free 7PM ET preshow) and worldwide live streamed with full screen HD by Vividas starting at 9PM ET at for $29.95. The show, titled “Real Pain,” is presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports in association with June Entertainment and 4zero1 Entertainment Group. Real Pain features 14 bouts, including four former Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) contenders.

Bautista, 43, will also star in the upcoming November 2nd Quentin Tarantino blockbuster, The Man With the Iron Fists as the aptly named Brass Body. Fans can catch full interviews with Bautista, see the undercard lineups, the official The Man with the Iron Fists trailer, and watch the title fight streaming live at