Before you try to mess with the mustachioed man running security at Omaha Fashion Week, consider his past.

Roberto Mota’s path to Omaha started in Chicago bars, fighting in the underground mixed martial arts scene. He has since booked fighters, run his own security company and, a few times, spied on cheating couples as a moonlight private eye.

“I’m a one-man band most of the time,” the 40-year-old said. “I do about a five-man team’s worth of work.”

Mota was born in Harlingen, Texas, and grew up in Chicago. His dad supervised a bar there, and when Mota got older, he started hanging around, doing security. One day, they needed a fighter.

“It was pretty much raise your hand and whoever wants to fight,” he said.

The first fight paid a pudgy, hard-chinned 17-year-old Mota $35 and a six pack of beer. They called him “Tank.”

He was 8-0. He got a trainer, then moved on from underground bar fights into the suburban circuit. All three fights were losses to pro-am fighters.

“I was, like, ... I’m not really getting anything out of this but bruises and bloody noses,” he said. “So I changed the game up on my dad. I said ‘I’ll bring you fighters and I’ll still be security. How is that? I’m a pretty boy. I want to keep my pretty face.’ ”

His mom moved to Omaha in 1995. He followed in 1997, doing odd jobs including a stint promoting MMA fights in town. In 2006 he got a job at Nomad Lounge, co-owned by Nick Hudson, the co-founder of Omaha Fashion Week. That’s how he got here, to a fashion show.

Now Mota is the full-time director of operations at the Omaha Design Center, an events space owned by Omaha Fashion Week that opened in March. Before it was built, running security for the fashion show was a part-time thing.

Mota ran his own security company on the side, Mota Security. He had contracts for bars, events, private security for individuals and more. Mota did a little private eye work, too, in some cases busting cheating couples. One case stands out.

“They were both cheating on each other,” he said. “So I sat them both down. ... It kind of broke their heart a little bit, but I kind of put them both in place.”

Mota works longer hours than most. But when he clocks out, he tries “to hang it all up there.”

He likes to dance salsa. He goes to museums and the YMCA with his family. And the zoo. Mota loves the zoo.

His longtime girlfriend looks after their three young kids. Mota’s 20-year-old son is thinking about fighting, but not exactly like his father. He wants to be a Marine.

“The way our lifestyle is,” Mota said, “I think he’d be a damn good soldier.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1734,,


Get to Know:

Name: Juan Roberto Mota

Age: 40

Hometown: Harlingen, Texas

Occupation: director of operations, Omaha Design Center

Education: Elk Grove High School (Illinois)

Family: girlfriend Shelly Gomez; sons Tovi, 20, and Jordan, 8; daughters Elisyia, 13, and Elayna, 3

Hobbies: taking his family to the zoo, museums or the YMCA; salsa dancing; fishing

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