LAS VEGAS – Houston Alexander has the husky, baritone voice of a radio disc jockey. He has the silver tongue and quick wit of a public speaker. And he has the thick arms and chest of a construction worker.
More than anything, though, he has the ear-to-ear grin of a guy who picked up a piece of paper blowing past him on the street only to discover he found a winning lottery ticket.
Alexander, 35, was fighting in obscurity in small clubs in Iowa, working as a DJ at a hip-hop radio station in Omaha, Neb., and lecturing elementary school students on the hip-hop culture when he received a phone call that changed his life.
He was being offered a chance to fight Keith Jardine, one of the top light heavyweights in the world, on a UFC pay-per-view card in front of a sellout crowd at the MGM Grand Garden.
"My manager called and told me about the fight, and I said yes before he had even told me who or when or how much," Alexander said, chuckling.
No matter that it is against Jardine, who perhaps is two wins away from fighting for the light heavyweight title. No matter that it will be under the bright lights in the fight capital of the world.
No matter what was bad about it – and Alexander said he can't think of much that was – it was all superseded by the chance. Opportunity is what fighters like Alexander crave.
"I know I can do this, and I know I can win this fight," said Alexander, who described himself as a boxer with knockout power in both hands.
The size of those hands didn't escape the notice of UFC president Dana White, who shook hands with him prior to a Thursday news conference and was amazed by Alexander's grip.
"He just about crushed my hand," said White, who himself is no shrinking violet. "The guy's got huge hands. The question is going to be how he handles the situation under the bright lights, because he can fight. (The UFC's) Joe Silva is the best matchmaker in the world and he's great at finding these guys not many people know about who can really fight, and Joe tells me this is a fight.
"A lot of guys will tell you they won't be bothered and that the lights and the moment won't get to them, but that's because they don't understand this. The spotlight in a UFC fight is pretty bright, and it's gotten to more than one fighter before."
Alexander is a part-time DJ for NGR Media and hosts a two-hour hip-hop show, featuring a lot of independent musicians, for Power 106.9, KOPW-FM, in Omaha. It gives him, he said, a chance to do what he loves: playing, listening to and talking about hip-hop.
But his passion, he said, is fighting. He said he has never watched a UFC card but long believed he belongs with the sport's elite. He'll get that chance Saturday to prove it.
"That's all I want, a chance, because I know I can do this," he said. "I'm very quick and very explosive, and I move side to side real well. I don't call myself a striker. I'm not a striker; I'm a boxer.
"I box and I wrestle and I grapple. I know how to move, how to cut off angles. If you know anything about boxing, you know about cutting off angles. You can wear a guy down and cut off his angles. Hopefully, he's got good legs and a chin because I'm going to test them."
Jardine, who is coming off a big knockout victory over Forrest Griffin, hardly seemed concerned.
He said he hopes Alexander keeps to his vow to make it a slugfest.
"If he does that, it's going to be a good night for me," Jardine said.
- Houston Alexander
- Keith Jardine