Houston Alexander

Houston “The Assassin” Alexander doesn’t take sabbaticals, even when he has a good reason to celebrate. At UFC 75: Champion vs. Champion in London, England, the 35-year-old light heavyweight improved his professional record to 8-1 by dropping Italian- bred Alessio Sakara with a vicious knee to the chin before finishing him off with a flurry of punches.

It’s been five days since that victory, and instead of sipping cognac at a club, Alexander is training at Mick Doyle’s Kickboxing and Fitness Center in Omaha, Nebraska. “I stay in the gym just to make sure the sword is sharpened,” he explains. “If you sit around and let the sword sit out, it’s going to get dull and become rough. It’s better for me to be in the gym than to be out of it.”

However, his workout is constantly interrupted as reporters blow up the light heavyweight’s cell phone to conduct interviews. The impromptu press day takes up most of his afternoon, but Alexander courteously answers everyone’s questions. Around three o’clock, he leaves the large facility with a nearly dead cell phone, and walks towards his ’99 Pontiac Grand Prix. He opens the door, maneuvers his 6’0”, 205 pound muscular frame into the vehicle, and starts up the engine. Then, he rolls out of the parking lot to pick up his children from school wearing black pants, a long sleeve Team Doyle shirt, and a black Chicago White Sox baseball cap. Oversized medallions and platinum grills aren’t included in his wardrobe.

Without a thick skin, a kid growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois usually winds up as prey for the neighborhood vultures. The poverty-stricken metropolis is one of the most dangerous areas in the United States, with alarmingly high rates of assault, murder, and rape. Alexander spent his early childhood there. As a youngster, walking down the street without being harassed was rare. “It’s a pretty rough place. I remember as a kid, I had to

end up fighting every other day because the guys down there are pretty rough,” he says. “If you don’t know how to fight in East St. Louis, you got picked on a lot.”

When Alexander was eight, his mother relocated the family to Omaha, Nebraska to be closer to relatives and escape hood life. There, he blossomed. In high school, he excelled on the football field, on the wrestling mats, and even in the classroom. During his senior year, he was planning to attend the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia, but that plan was scrapped when he learned he was about to become a father. “I chose to stay with my daughter verses going to school,” he admits. “I chose priority over school.”

After graduating highschool, Alexander had his first baby girl and took a job as head machine operator at an asphalt company. He worked there until he applied his impeccable drive to other ventures.

As a teenager, Alexander had submerged himself in the hiphop culture after seeing the graffiti art in Beat Street and witnessing the legendary Rock Steady Crew break-dance in Flashdance. Since then, he had become a breathing Wikipedia of urban knowledge.

In 2000, he turned his passion into an occupation by interning at the local radio station. He spent the next year learning the ropes, and eventually he was hired as an on-air deejay. He has a weekly program entitled Sunday Nite Raw, and was the mastermind of the Culture Shock School Tour, an ongoing project that educates children and young adults about the essence of hip-hop.

During his internship, he wasn’t getting paid. As a result, when he attended an amateur MMA show at Club Amnesia, he accidentally fell into another profession. “A friend of mine, who knew I liked to roughhouse, dared me to get into the ring with one of the guys who was actually one of the champs,” Alexander recalls. “So I signed up for it, got in, and ended up being the winner that night. I kept going back and it’s been a whirlwind experience after that.”

Alexander began competing locally for promoter Chad Ma son and earned between $600-2,000 per fight. For the next several years, he trained alone at a rinky-dink gym located inside an old library in Omaha. He concentrated on boxing, cardio, and muscle strengthening. His peculiar solo workout regimen worked; he kept winning matches, amounting to hundreds of amateur battles. “When I tell people I had over two hundred fights, they probably don’t believe it. But I fought every weekend,” he explains. “Sometimes it would be one person, sometimes it would be two people, and sometimes, it would be six people. I’ve been doing this every weekend for six or seven years.”

Despite being choked out in his pro debut in 2001, Alexander has become unstoppable since then, defeating his next five professional opponents in impressive fashion and continuing to decimate locals by the dozen. In early 2007, Monte Cox became his manager and the knockout artist competed in a tournament at Cox’s Extreme Challenge promotion in March. The Assassin fought two oversized heavyweights and laid ‘em out.

One week later, Alexander was bonding with his children in the park when Cox called his cell phone (it was charged, this time) and asked him about fighting in the UFC. The light heavyweight accepted the offer, even though he never heard of his opponent, Keith Jardine.

Fortunately, he started training with Mick Doyle, an accomplished Muy Thai Kickboxing Champion, and learned more effective striking methods. Alexander utilized those techniques against Jardine in May at UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson, ferociously

uppercutting him in the chin. After 48 seconds of fury, Jardine was on the ground and his mouthpiece was several feet away.

Apparently, Alexander didn’t have any octagon jitters. “I did feel anxious, but I wasn’t nervous because I was doing smaller shows for seven years and I was doing my program every week for five years in front of crowds,” he says. “I felt really comfortable.” Later that night, UFC President Dana White gave him a nice bonus in the locker room and rewrote his contract.

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Alexander pulls his Grand Prix up to his children’s school, puts his vehicle in park, and waits for his kids to come out. As he sits at the wheel, he reflects on the past several months. He transformed from a regional gladiator to one of the sport’s rising stars, having knocked out two of the UFC’s most promising light heavyweights – Jardine and Sakara – in less than two minutes combined. The mainstream visibility boosted not only his MMA career, but it has shined more light on his radio program and his Culture Shock School Tour.

Now, he is inching closer to achieving his lifelong aspirations. “The goal is to get the belt. There is no other goal but trying to get the belt and give the fans what they want, which is some excitement and passion in the octagon. They’re tired of seeing boring MMA fights in the UFC. I want to keep it exciting for people, and everyone loves drama,” he explains. “Outside the ring, I’m trying to educate people on the sport and educate people on hip-hop.”

Alexander is certainly getting the best of both worlds.

 

Technical Breakdown:

Striking

Houston Alexander is a premier knockout artist. Though he practiced boxing during his teenage years, his striking game has risen to a tremendously higher level since training with Mick Doyle, an accomplished Kickboxer and Muy Thai specialist. “The Assassin” showed his diverse stand-up skills by stunning Keith Jardine with an array of uppercuts and dropping Alessio Sakara with a devastating knee from the clinch. He has proven to have as much power as anyone in the light heavyweight division.

Grappling & Submission

Despite several seconds of pounding Sakara on the octagon fl oor, Alexander hasn’t truly displayed his ground game just yet. In his defense, he hasn’t had the opportunity to show and prove because most of his fights end via knockout in the first round. Although he currently doesn’t hold a belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he maintains having good submission skills. However, he does have a wrestling background and from the little bit that’s been seen, he has excellent takedown defense.

Conditioning

Alexander has pushed the pace in all of his battles. While only one of his nine career fights has gone the distance, Alexander maintains that he has excellent cardio. He runs daily and has a rigorous training regimen with the tough coaches at Team Doyle, which explains why his speed, explosiveness and raw power are top notch.

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