MMAjunkie.com recently had an opportunity to catch up with promising fighter Houston Alexander (7-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who will face UFC veteran Alessio Sakara (11-5 MMA, 2-2 UFC) this Saturday at UFC 75.
UFCjunkie.com’s Eric Foster and new UFCjunkie.com contributor Sam Caplan caught up with Alexander and his coach Mick Doyle. Doyle is a former world champion kickboxer who runs an impressive Muay Thai and grappling gym in Omaha, Neb.
This is part one of the interview, part 2 will run tomorrow.
Eric Foster: Let me lead off with the classically cliche questions. Talk to us a little bit about your training and preparation for UFC 75. Walk us through what you’re doing.
Houston Alexander: I’m training three times a day. I’m doing conditioning in the morning, a lot of lifting, a lot of running, a lot of pulling, a lot of throwing. Then in the second and third (sessions), training a lot of techniques. A lot of heavy sparring, a lot of heavy grappling, a little bit of everything.
Sam Caplan: You mentioned in your last interview with UFCjunkie that you’d fought way more times beyond your official record. Can you describe some of those matches just sort of give people a background?
Houston Alexander: I know a lot of people were saying “this guy is full of crap.” But a lot of those fights took place in Sioux City, Iowa. A lot of those fights took place in Des Moines. A lot of those fights took place in Omaha. That was three cities I was going back and forth. I was fighting every single week. I fought every single week, every single weekend. Sometimes as many as five guys in a single night. But a lot of those fights were under a minute. So I did those kinds of fights. I’d just fight every single weekend in those three cities plus a few other cities. I just fought in the smaller shows every weekend.
Sam Caplan: Were they underground fights?
Houston Alexander: No, they were organized fights. They just weren’t sanctioned or registered to where you guys could know that I was actually doing them.
Eric Foster: Amateur level fights – not professional fights – so to speak.
Sam Caplan: After you went against Keith Jardine, you took some heat from some people that thought that your post-fight celebration was a little over the top. Can you respond to people that make that accusation?
Houston Alexander: It’s just that adrenaline rush. It was nothing towards Keith; it was just me telling him to get up, that I wasn’t finished. All I did was tell him to get back up. It’s the way I felt. It’s the way I fight; I fight with a lot of energy and a lot of adrenaline. I called Keith’s camp after the fight, and a few people called from my camp to make sure he was OK. I had nothing against Keith. I don’t know Keith like that, but we made sure that we called to make sure he was OK after the fight.
Eric Foster: You walked into your fight with Jardine a little light, weighing in at 202 pounds, three pounds under the 205-pound limit for light heavyweight. Can you talk to us about your size a little bit? Are you still walking around lean, or have you bulked up a bit?
Houston Alexander: The nutrition company that I’m signed with, 8-Ball Nutrition, they’ve got me a little bit heavier this go round. I’m training just a little bit more than I did for my first fight. Right now we topped off at 212, but I’m actually starting to taper down a little bit. I sit naturally at 205. And I’d rather fight a little lighter anyways so I can have that quickness because the power goes nowhere. So I like to fight a little lighter so I can move a little quicker. It doesn’t matter what the size of the opponent is. I personally like to fight at a lighter weight because I’m quicker.
Mick Doyle: One of the reasons that we picked those guys – they’re local, but they’re also one of the few nutrition companies who all of their products pass all the tests by the World Anti-doping Agency. I look at all the stuff going on right now – like with Sean Sherk – some of those products flying off the shelf just don’t test clean. And we know Houston is going to be tested. The guy looks like a freak. But he is what he is. The products just help give us a little bit of cushion for all the training we’re doing. We’ve trained harder for this fight. Because we only had seven weeks to get ready for the Jardine fight, we had to train smart. Now what we’re doing, we’ve added another workout in, just to work more of the technical stuff. I didn’t want to burn him out in seven weeks, so against Jardine we concentrated on his gameplan there, but now we can work on Houston’s game and then just tweaked his training to be able to inflict his style on Sakara.
Eric Foster: So when did you guys start your training camp for Sakara? How long have you officially been in camp?
Houston Alexander: Literally right after the Jardine fight. I was back in the gym the day after I got back. Right after that fight I was ready to go again. I’m used to fighting every week, so I started training right after the fight.
Sam Caplan: You mentioned being used to fighting every week, and now you’re working with a nutrition company. Other than that, how has your life changed with the win over Jardine?
Houston Alexander: I’ve received a lot of love from a lot of the UFC fans. Especially from the state of Nebraska, thanks to coming out in that Nebraska hat. A lot of people have shown love. It’s weird because a lot of the guys coming out of Nebraska have lost their bouts, so I don’t know if I kind of put a mark on the map for Nebraska, but I just want to make sure that I set a standard for what type of fighters are coming out of Nebraska. I felt like I’m trying to set a standard for anyone who follows after me, or even came before me.
Sam Caplan: You talked about how you went to training for Sakara almost immediately after the Jardine match. Chuck Liddell is taking on Jardine at UFC 76, and then Shogun Rua is going to be taking on Forrest Griffin on the same card. Did the UFC ever talk to you about facing either Shogun or Liddell?
Houston Alexander: No. I don’t really know what happened behind the scenes. All I know is we were waiting for a fight. I heard a lot of rumors, but we were just waiting for a fight. To me it didn’t matter who it was. I was going to be prepared for them.
Sam Caplan: Did Dana White give you any sort of reaction after your win?
Houston Alexander: He actually came down out of the stands to the room right after the fight. It was really cool to see him come down to the room after the fight and give us something extra. We didn’t win (the) knockout of the night (bonus), but he said here’s a little something extra for us. Because Rampage knocked out the champ, so he deserved (the bonus).
Eric Foster: Talk to us a little bit about your specific gameplan for Sakara. Obviously he comes in as a strong boxer with most of his focus on the feet. Do you guys intend to showcase your ground game? Do you plan to come out and put him away in the first 30 seconds? What can you tell us about your gameplan?
Mick Doyle: For me as a coach, I’d love to put him away in the first 30 seconds; it would be a dream for me if the other coaches about a minute of total film on Houston Alexander for our next fight. Houston has got a certain style. I think after fighting a guy like Keith and knocking him out, I think that people know exactly how powerful Houston really is. Ultimately we want to take a fighter into the game that suits Houston. But we started training right away to fine-tune his ground game. Houston was knocking people out with slams in his previous fights. I think he can probably wrestle right away above a lot of guys. He avoids submissions really well. His instinct is to hit, and I’m not going to try to change that. We’re just going to finetune it, so wherever the fight goes, we’re prepared for it. But ultimately I think we won’t be happy unless we knock him out, or he gives up, or the ref stops it. I mean we’ll take the victory, but I think we both feel that anything less than a knockout or a TKO will be a little bit of a letdown for us.
Houston Alexander: Yeah, because that’s what the fans want anyway.
Sam Caplan: Along those lines, Mick talks about your ground training. Just curious, do you hold a belt in jiu-jitsu?
Houston Alexander: I don’t hold a belt in jiu-jitsu. But my ground game is good; I think I’ll be able to execute a few things that might surprise people.
Sam Caplan: Do you have a favorite submission?
Houston Alexander: I’ve got a nice little choke around the neck area. It’s real simple. I’ll grab their shoulder and press down on their neck, but once you see it, you’ll be like “OK.” It’s more like a chop-down choke. It’s kind of weird.
Sam Caplan: Sounds like a mafia choke.
Houston Alexander: It’s a weird choke. It’s crazy, but I hope I will be able to execute it for you guys.
Sam Caplan: Word was after the Jardine fight that the UFC signed you to a new contract.
Mick Doyle: Yeah, they renewed his contract basically. I don’t think we’re at liberty to say what it was. But I think Dana has a lot of faith in Houston’s ability and understands that this guy is going to be around a while.
Part 2 of the Houston Alexander interview will run on Thursday. For the latest UFC news and rumors, check out MMAjunkie.com.