Alex Caceres used to wrestle, but he's not a wrestler. At least, he's not the kind of wrestler he dreads seeing compete in mixed martial arts: a guy skilled at takedowns who does little other than pin his opponent to the floor.
MMA is not a points competition in Caceres' view, and wrestling is only a means used to dole out punishment.
From his earliest days as a fighter, brawling with classmates before and after school, he was never content with just winning.
"I'm a finisher, man," said Caceres, who is better known as "Bruce Leroy," the nickname he gave himself during his Season 12 appearance on "The Ultimate Fighter."
Caceres, who is 4-2 overall, also fought twice on TUF, though those bouts don't count against his professional record. In those eight fights, only one has gone the distance (TUF fights are just two rounds, as opposed to the standard three). And Caceres isn't expecting that streak to change any time soon, including Saturday when he faces former World Extreme Cagefighting contender Mackens Semerzier at Seattle's Key Arena on "The Ultimate Fight Night 24" card on Spike TV.
He attended last week's UFC 128 and felt first-hand the electricity watching Jon Jones not just aim to defeat Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in their match for the Ultimate Fighting Championship's light heavyweight title, but also to impressively finish him.
"I've always felt that, until I finish someone, the fight isn't won," said Caceres, who will return to featherweight to face Semerzier after competing at lightweight on TUF. "I had a lot of street fights, and there are no judges when you're fighting on the street. You have to go in there and definitively beat the guy to end the fight. I've taken that attitude to my [MMA] fights.
"One of the things that really frustrates me with MMA is when I see a really good wrestler just holding someone down, or holding them against the fence and not doing anything else, or trying to advance position. I don't mind seeing a slam, as long as you do something after the slam. Come out of it letting the punches fly, or go for a submission. Don't just hold the guy down. Who wants to see that?"
Semerzier has lost three in a row and is likely fighting to keep his job with UFC on Saturday. In a way, the bout will be a battle for the nickname "Bruce Leroy," since Semerzier, too, has laid claim to the name.
Semerzier's favorite movie when he was a child was the 1985 film, "The Last Dragon." The lead character, Leroy Green, was dubbed Bruce Leroy because of his clothing and his interest in everything about Bruce Lee.
"How old is this kid, 22?" Semerzier told UFC.com. "He's way too young to know about 'The Last Dragon.' I was Bruce Leroy before he was."
Caceres may one-up Semerzier prior to the fight, since he said that Taimak Guarriello, the actor who played Leroy Green in film, will walk to the cage with him on Saturday.
Caceres, who lost to Michael Johnson in the TUF quarterfinals, also could use a win to enhance his job security. He insists he feels no undue burden and plans to go out the way he usually does: looking to end the fight.
Seeing Jones win in person has motivated him.
"Jon is a wrestler, but he's bringing it to another level," Caceres said. "He's not just looking for control and to use his strength. He goes out there and looks to finish. Everything he does, he does with the idea of doing damage and moving to get a finish.
"That's been an inspiration to me. It shows me that what I believed – that this sport is about going out there and doing damage and ending fights – is correct. I want to finish even more after being close to that. I'm going to do it. I can't explain it, but seeing [Jones], it definitely gave me that little edge I needed to get myself ready to go out there and do something big."
Caceres made a name for himself early on TUF, talking big and being a colorful personality. But he said it obscures the fact that he's worked hard to put himself in position to fight in the world's top promotion.
He's trained since he was 14 and, though he's eight years younger than his opponent, isn't concerned about an experience gap.
"He has more experience fighting on the big show and he fought in the WEC [four] times," Caceres said. "But I've been training longer than him. I think it's going to be an exciting fight, and I have a lot of respect for him, but I believe in what I have been doing. I feel I've grown a lot as a fighter in a very short period of time, and I'm going to show that.
"We'll put on a show [on Saturday], but I am confident I'm going to walk out of there with my hand raised. I'll do what I have to do to get it done."
- Bruce Leroy