By Jesse Holland
Houston Alexander knows how to make headlines.
His first round destruction of heavily-favored Keith Jardine at UFC 71 caught a lot of people by surprise.
As expected, the armchair elite came out in force following the victory. Many either downplayed it as a fluke win over a mediocre opponent, or pegged him as just another one-hit wonder who will soon be back to fighting UFC castaways in unknown promotions.
"That stuff doesn't bother me," remarked a stoic Alexander.
And I believe him.
I caught up with the Nebraskan shortly after a light training session. I got the sense that his cautious and guarded manner was perhaps a feeling-out process of sorts.
When our discussion became a little less formal, he opened up and spoke passionately about his life and what mattered to him most as a person.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Houston, thank you for taking the time to check in with UFCmania.
Houston Alexander: No problem man, anytime.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Tell me about the end of the Jardine fight. After the stoppage you were standing over him and kind of barking at him. Was that retribution for the comments Jardine made about you leading up to the fight or was that just adrenaline and emotion?
Houston Alexander: That was just emotion. It was nothing personal, it was more of a gladiator thing. It was just how I felt at the time.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): A lot of UFC fans don't know you but you've been around the fight game for a long time.
Houston Alexander: I've been fighting for seven years straight. I probably have over 200 fights in my career. There's a large fighting circuit that most people never see or get exposed to because they're smaller promotions. Especially in the Midwest.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): What would you say your winning percentage is in those fights?
Houston Alexander: I'd say 90%.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): With 200 fights I would think you would have a laundry list of injuries.
Houston Alexander: No, not really. I broke my hand once from punching too hard, but other than that I've been injury free. When you KO people in under a minute you stay out of trouble. That's what my goal is, end it quick and go home healthy.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): How do you go that long and with that many fights without picking up a nickname somewhere along the line?
Houston Alexander: Oh I have a lot of nicknames. Which one do you want?
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Not the one the ladies call you, give me something fight related.
Houston Alexander: "The Assassin" Alexander. Snocky called me that once because I would just come to the cage, eliminate my opponent and leave.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Uh...Snocky?
Houston Alexander: Everyone in the Midwest knows Snocky. He's an announcer that does a lot of Monte Cox shows.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Your fight against Todd Alee back in March stands out because it was ruled a No Contest. Tell me what happened there.
Houston Alexander: Yeah man, that guy just wanted out. He cried foul. He told the ref I hit him in the head with an illegal knee. That wasn't the head that was the neck. The neck is legal. He was getting his ass whooped and I guess he got tired of getting beat on so he looked for a way out.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Seven years and 200 fights, I'll bet it feels pretty good to be in the UFC, especially with a huge win over a contender like Jardine.
Houston Alexander: It does feel good to get to the UFC and get the recognition I feel I deserve. Man I've been working hard for a long time. It ain't easy when you have six kids. That's a lot of mouths to feed, especially when you have custody.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You're scheduled to fight Alessio Sakara at UFC 75. Does that feel like a step backwards after the Jardine win?
Houston Alexander: Sakara? Is that the Italian guy? I don't think I'm fighting him. I think the guy I'm facing next is Polish. Check with my manager Monte Cox on that.
(Note: UFCmania confirmed with Cox that his next opponent is indeed Sakara).
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): How did the Forrest Griffin rumor get started? Was that fight in the works or was it just talk?
Houston Alexander: I have no idea how this stuff gets started. I don't know man there's a UFC blog that has me doing this and doing that, they have me fighting people before I even get into the cage. I wouldn't mind fighting him, but it was nothing more than a rumor.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): What is your contract status with the UFC?
Houston Alexander: I think we just negotiated my contract. Four fights. Check with Monte Cox (It's actually a new three-fight deal).
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Do you feel pressure now to prove you're more than a one-hit wonder?
Houston Alexander: I don't feel any pressure. This is my job and I do it well. I punch in and punch out. My mental game is intact. I'm always prepared. I train three times a day, seven days a week.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): That's a lot of training! What do you do when you're not training?
Houston Alexander: I have a radio show with NRG Media that focuses on independent music. A lot of hip-hop and R&B. It's on Power 106.9 in Omaha.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): What are your goals in the UFC? Does being thirty-five limit your timeframe to accomplish them?
Houston Alexander: I have five strong years left in this sport. I don't even think about age. I'm in great shape. Look at Couture. I have a lot of respect for that guy. My goal is to win the belt, whoever it's on. I'm not gonna settle for anything less.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Let's say the UFC offered you a six-fight contract with guaranteed fights against some of the top guys like Liddell, Rampage and Shogun. Then let's say Bodog offers you a six-fight contract but all of your opponents are either inexperienced or journeymen. Now assume Bodog offers you four times the salary that the UFC does. If you had to choose...
Houston Alexander: Oh man that's tough. Of course I want to test myself. I enjoy fighting. But I also have six kids, and I want them to go to college. I hope that I can reach a point where I get the best of both worlds.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Are your kids your biggest supporters?
Houston Alexander: Them and the State of Nebraska. Nebraska is on my back 100%.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Name a fighter of UFC past or present that you've admired or tried to model yourself after.
Houston Alexander: Josh Neer. That guy's got a lot of balls. We fought on the same circuit before and I always enjoyed watching him fight. He's a real fighter.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): I agree. I think the Guillard fight said a lot about the kind of fighter Josh Neer is. Where do you rank yourself among the light-heavyweights?
Houston Alexander: I'm not sure. Rankings don't mean much to me because they can change after one fight. I just hope that I've at least gotten respect. A respect ranking is all I want.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Did you always want to be a fighter? What were your aspirations as a kid?
Houston Alexander: I grew up in East St. Louis so I wanted to play baseball as a kid. Then I moved to Nebraska and became a football fan and wanted to play football. But I've always been fighting. Growing up in East St. Louis was hard. You had to fight there.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Do you have any formal martial arts training?
Houston Alexander: Boxing and wrestling is all I did in an organized setting.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): How do you plan to defend against good jiu-jitsu? That has to be on your mind in a weight class with guys like Shogun in it.
Houston Alexander: I'm comfortable with it. I think every style has the same core. It's all about changing and positioning, transitions. It flows easily. I'm working on my Muay Thai with Willy Stewart and Curly Alexander is handling my wrestling.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Curly Alexander? Any relation?
Houston Alexander: He's my cousin. We train together at Mick Doyle's Martial Arts.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You mentioned being a fan of baseball and football. Did you ever pursue either sport in high school or college?
Houston Alexander: I wanted to but I kind of went in a different direction. I don't think I've told anyone this before, but I was accepted into the Savannah School of Art & Design in Georgia. I was all set to go and then my daughter was born. I just couldn't leave her. I couldn't.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You have to be pretty talented artistically if you were going to SSAD, tell me about your creative side.
Houston Alexander: I did a lot of graffiti art. I still do. In fact I'm doing a mural for Red Bull on a bridge.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): So I guess if you're thirty-five it's not a stretch to say you were a fan of Beat Street?
Houston Alexander: (Laughs) Hell yeah! Oh man that guy was my inspiration! Funny isn't it that a fake actor was my inspiration. What about Style Wars? C'mon man you can't be from the East Coast and not know Style Wars.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Uh...yeah...sorry I was just thinking about Beat Street back when Rae Dawn Chong was still hot.
Houston Alexander: I still support the culture of hip-hop. I belong to a group called the Culture Shock School Tour. Every Friday in Nebraska we go to schools and community organizations and promote the positive aspects of the hip-hop culture. I have a problem with these kids coming up and missing all the fun we used to have. Hip-hop used to be about battles, beatboxing and breakdancing. All they get exposed to now is the negative stuff. Hip-hop is about guys like Kool Herc. Hip-hop is not about Laffy Taffy.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Agreed. Houston, thank you again for taking time to talk with UFCmania and I wish you the best of luck in your future fights.
Houston Alexander: Thank you, anytime.