LAS VEGAS -- The crowds, money, adulation, safety precautions are all dynamite for 23-year-old Alex Cacares as he fights for the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in the world, but the Miami native misses the days of what appears to be a much more barbaric mode of fighting - the backyard brawl.
Those types of fights have been going down since the beginning of time. They recently became headliners again with the growth of YouTube and exposure for guys like Kimbo Slice in the Miami area.
As a hulking stack of muscle and intimidation, Slice fit the part. Cacares is slender and appears to be non-threatening, but when you hear him talk about his teenage experience with those pit fights you realize the kid loves to fight anywhere, anytime.
"I got into it because I was underage to get into professional fighting, "Cacares told Cagewriter just a few days before his 11 pro fight at UFC 143. "I was doing amateur fights at the time. I really wanted to get into a professional fighting, minimize the hand protection, no shin guards and really see what I could do."
The UFC currently uses four ounce gloves which are tiny compared to boxing's eight and 10 ounce models. Cacares still prefers the more primitive style of using bare-knuckles. "I believe bare knuckle hurts less than wearing these UFC gloves. I've been hit by both and I'd rather be hit by the bare knuckle," Cacares said the gloves increase the surface area of the fist and seem to make the punches stick more. "The bare knuckle slides off more. When you get hit by the whole glove it gives you that little ringing sound."
Cacares did his first backyard brawl at 17, making between $300 and $600 per fight. If he won, he'd get spiffed by the winning bettors. He'd take home as much as $800 on some nights.
"It's a crazy experience. The crowd might not be as big as UFC crowd, but man they sound really loud because they're literally two feet away from you and we're fighting in a chicken cage. It's kind of like a pit fight, a dog fight. But it was a good experience," said Cacares.
He's clearly fearless. There were no structured weight classes, no rounds, no time limits, no doctor to look at cuts and the fights went to the finish. You win when your opponent quits, can't continue or you submit him.
Things are different now in many ways. Most importantly, Cacares is actually fighting guys his size. He fought on Season 12 of "The Ultimate Fighter" at 155 pounds, but he barely walks around above 150. Now he's more comfortable down at 135 and can be a bully in the division.
Cacares was excellent in his UFC bantamweight debut against Cole Escovedo. On Saturday, Cacares (6-4, 1-2 UFC) takes a good step up against Edwin Figueroa. The shorter Figueroa is the only guy recently who's given phenom Michael McDonald a fight, going the distance in losing a decision. The promotion is so high on MacDonald that he's been throw in there with former bantamweight champ Miguel Torres in February. If Cacares takes out Figueroa, that's a big notch on his belt.
You can watch UFC 143 right here on Yahoo! Sports