Alex Hernandez: No Looking Back
The last time I spoke with Alex Hernandez he had just come off the back of his debut victory and was preparing for his second fight in the UFC against another ranked opponent in Aubin-Mercier; he told me ‘If people thought I was recklessly confident before, then fuck, you wanna see me now’. Fast forward 5 months and he’s preparing to face one of the most popular fighters in UFC history (Donald Cerrone) – that confidence has only grown and continues to grow daily.
Hernandez defeated ‘Canadian Gangster’ Aubin-Mercier and proved that his debut victory was no fluke; while most conceded that the division had a new name to be taken seriously, Alex was critical of his own performance in the post-fight interviews. Hernandez took some time out to speak to SpitballingPod ahead of his next contest and admits that looking back, he can now see that there were some positives to be taken from the decision victory - ‘I don’t know if I was too hard on myself but I definitely have a better perspective towards it now. I’m grateful I had that extra time in there, the experience and the world of knowledge that I gained. I was fighting myself more than anyone else in that fight so it was great to overcome some adversity and the dark side with some things. Overall it was a positive experience and I’m happy with it’ he said.
Some fighters like to re-watch their own contests several times (win or lose) and really dissect each performance, but in his own unique way, Hernandez explained why he isn’t the type to do so – ‘I don’t dwell on the past, whether it’s good or bad too much at all – I don’t really like to smell my own shit. I try to always look forward, so if there’s a light that I like to see myself in then I’ll see it, but I don’t really watch footage of myself unless it’s something positive that I want to further proliferate or get better at. Let’s say it’s an old fight that I wasn’t happy with, then I wouldn’t re-watch it as I don’t really want to see myself like that’.
In November of last year, Hernandez received a letter that he had written to himself a year prior while he was still working as a Loan Officer (full time). In the letter he had outlined what he would have achieved a year from then and simply wrote ‘Entered the U-F-fucking-C and won my first fight. Great fucking job champ! Knew you had it in you!’. During our interview, he spoke further about the value of visualisation, saying ‘There’s so much to gain from just putting it out there. Vocalising what you intend to do and then putting it into action is really useful, the more you say it then the more you feel it and the more it’s in play with the universe’. Clearly it’s worked so far.
As much success as Hernandez has had with his visualisation and putting it into practice, he explained that he’s not one to look back too much at what he’s achieved, and instead he continues to move forward with the ever-changing goals put in front of him. ‘There isn’t really an end goal, just more goals’ he said, adding ‘It’s like a jiu-jitsu journey – you’re striving for that black belt, but once you get there then you’re like a white belt in the black belt world and it’s a whole new journey from there, so there isn’t an end goal, the goals just keep evolving. That’s how I approach this, there can be beautiful moments but I don’t want to just stay in the past or be looking to the future too much’.
A sign of the success and growing profile that Alex has shown was evident when he was added into the UFC video game in October of 2018 – 7 months after his debut. Looking back on the experience, he said ‘It’s super cool. When it happened, the trip to Vancouver was beautiful, but then I forgot about it. I really didn’t care at all and then when I saw it, it was like ‘oh shit’ that’s actually really cool. Over Christmas my little brother has an Xbox and I was finally able to play it. They definitely paid some respect with the ratings so I’m happy about that’.
Towards the end of 2018, news broke that Alex would be returning to the octagon and stepping up against Francisco Trinaldo, things soon changed though when he posted on Instagram a few weeks later seemingly referencing a bout with fan-favourite Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in Brooklyn as part of the UFC’s debut card on ESPN. Recalling the events leading up to the announcement, Hernandez explained ‘There was a lot out of my control or sight, I’m just fortunate to be on the positive end this time (referencing previously scheduled opponent Trinaldo). I got a late night text from my manager Jason House to call him immediately and that’s always a flip of a coin to how it’ll end out, fortunately he told me that Shelby had approached him about Cowboy and that he needed a ranked opponent, as he’s attempts another run to the title. I think he’s just talking, I don’t even know if he believes that or not (regarding a title shot) but I was so thrilled that the UFC looked at me for the opportunity as it shows their vision is in line with mine. I immediately said absolutely, you don’t turn down options like that. It’s my perfect story and it couldn’t be written any better – in Brooklyn, New York and on the ESPN debut’
This matchup confirms that the UFC certainly does see Hernandez as a future star; it’s an age-old promotional tactic to pit an aging star against a promising newcomer – either way you either build a star or keep your star going until the same situation plays out again. It’s by no means an easy task for the up-and-comer, but it’s certainly an opportunity they could have given elsewhere, but chose him as the gamble worth taking. ‘This is the kind of matchup we were after, we wanted someone with a name to get some recognition and draw your name into the light’ he said.
When we last spoke, Alex explained how he felt there were levels to the division and to reach a title shot you need to beat one or two contenders from each level. ‘It’s definitely a little deviation from what I expected, this will catapult us into that top 10 contention and then the notoriety built from it will speak more volumes than any other matchup I could have got’ he admitted.
Speaking on the style match-up, Hernandez believes this one works perfectly in his favour, he explained ‘I just don’t fear styles as I approach every style to be the best in it. I think it’s a terrible matchup for him, I just don’t think it’s a wise move, but I’m very grateful. It just plays perfectly into my attributes’.
Without looking past his opponent, Hernandez claims that the big plan for this year is to set himself up for a title shot early next year – ‘I want a title fight at the beginning of 2020, so whether its three or four huge victories then I’m fine with it’. He’s had to train all through Christmas to get ready for this showdown, but he insists it will all be worth it, and he’ll more than make up for it to his family after the fight.