He is humble, very much so, and thus my high regard for Alex Hernandez. In over seven decades I have seen much, and understand better than most the truth of the maxim that “pride goes before a fall.” In any athletic endeavor, and in the fight game especially, success can be a spoiler of character, particularly when the fighter begins to believe his press. When this illusory thing we call fame goes to his head a crash inevitably follows.
Not so with Alex Hernandez. One morning nearly two years ago at Ohana’s central location in San Antonio, I asked him if he would allow me the privilege of rolling with him. This was a 71 year old man nearly fifty years his senior making the request, and Alex, humble young man and cage champion that he is, agreed! Certainly there was no contest in it for him, but he agreed. In that moment he ensured my respect for him as one a cut above in character. I look forward to meeting his father, for this young man has been taught well. Religious leaning or not, you may bank on the veracity of the scripture which proclaims, “Be thou humble and I the Lord God will lead thee by the hand.” It has been so for Alex.
Alex was 23 at the time, but I was much impressed by his well thought out manner of projecting his future. “I’m on the way up,” He confided, “but in the process I’m not going to allow myself to be drawn into a fight I’m not ready for, as some fighters do.” That was two years ago. His climb has been carefully measured and fruitful.
I first became aware of Alex in March of 2013 when he began fighting in Jeff Bonugli’s mixed martial art event in the Rio Grande Valley, where he fought for and defended the Hero FC lightweight championship belt in several successive events. Bonugli, whose ambition it was to feed fighters into the UFC, doted on Alex’s fighting prowess, and called my attention to him early on. There was always difficulty in finding Alex worthy opponents. In those early days, when one particular fighter, although of some talent, opted out of a fight with him at the last moment, I thought it was just as well. He was not in the same league. Few were.
What is the risk in taking up a fight with only a week to get ready? The risk factor is extremely high, in this case exacerbated by the fact that Alex was going from the minor leagues into the big league. What fighter is physically able to get to peak condition in a week? Plus there is the mental aspect, the psyche up for the pending bout, and this has got to be troubling. Realistically speaking, for most fighters in this situation, a win is not in the cards, and a loss is all but inevitable in going up against a fighter who has had months to gear up for a fight. Beneil Dariush, with twelve bouts in the UFC, of which eight were in the win column and one a draw, was probably expecting a fairly easy night against a rookie awed by his experience. And he would surely have been banking on fighting an opponent who had less than a week to train.
In that frame of mind, it was Dariush, the seasoned UFC veteran, and not Alex Hernandez who entered the cage unprepared. It was Hernandez, the rookie, and not Dariush who set the tempo for the fight, in a pure exhibition of shock and awe. Dariush obviously had not taken the time to study and watch Alex’s fight films. Among other things, he would have known that Alex was on a seven fight winning streak. That fact alone would have spoken volumes to him of his opponent’s level of confidence. He might even have deduced that Alex Hernandez is one of those rare individuals who strives to keep himself at a fighting edge at all times.
One chuckles at the words of the announcer, concerning Alex’s aggressive start in the fight by faking a touch of the gloves and instead firing a front kick to Dariush’s chest, “The problem with a quick start like that…Whoa! Whoa!” just as Alex fired the perfect punch, catching his opponent with a lightning left to the jaw, knocking his opponent out cold, as the marquee above lit up to, “MOVE OF THE FIGHT” and a guaranteed $50,000 dollar bonus for “Performance of the Night.” Next the viewer was treated to the astonished face of Ohana’s Professor Jason Yerrington as he climbed into the ring, and trainer John O’Rourke jumping up and down in the background.
There is yet another side to the new UFC fighter. It has been said that one of the greatest sins of men upon the earth is that of ingratitude. None of that for Alexander Hernandez, who continuously gives credit to Ohana Academy and those who over the years have contributed to his career as a fighter. As an individual, he is a certainly credit to the parents who raised him. As a martial artist he is a credit to Professor Jason Yerrington and Ohana Jiu Jitsu of San Antonio, and to those who have graced his path in the mixed martial arts. Those of other camps, such as former UFC contender Pete Spratt and such as Richard Janie Odoms count him as one of their own, for he is a San Antonio fighter and a Texan.
Congratulations, Alexander “the Great” Hernandez.