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After making a highlight-reel entrance with this past Saturday’s demolition of veteran Beneil Dariush at UFC 222, Alexander Hernandez can officially call himself a UFC fighter – and a full-time one, at that.
But, not that long ago, the lightweight juggled two lives.
Even as he finished school and college, Hernandez had fighting as his main plan. The bachelor’s degree he got in business finance was there as a backup, but it came in handy when Hernandez suffered the severe MCL and meniscus tears that kept him on the shelf.
“I’d sit around the couch, feeling like a bum, and I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve got to do something,’” Hernandez told MMAjunkie Radio. “‘I’ve got a business degree. I can’t just not be doing anything.’”
A self-proclaimed “workhorse,” Hernandez found his way into mortgage banking.
“I became a residential loan officer,” Hernandez said. “I kind of started from the bottom as a front desk receptionist lady and worked my way through assistant roles and finally became (a loan officer) and got really successful at that.”
Hernandez got so successful, in fact, that the decision to drop a secure occupation to became a full-time fighter was “kind of scary” at first. But then, he figured, how much in life is really that secure? Fighting people for a living seemed like a choice as good as any.
“Clearly, this was the right choice,” Hernandez said.
One would be inclined to agree. With less than three weeks to prepare for the No. 10 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, who was originally set to face Bobby Green, Hernandez was a big underdog heading into the FS1-televised preliminary card bout at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.
Still, Hernandez (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) – and his left hand – made quick work of Dariush (14-4-1 MMA, 8-4-1 UFC), and he needed just 42 seconds to deliver a “Performance of the Night” knockout that came with a $50,000 bonus.
At first, Hernandez said, he thought the time spent injured and focusing elsewhere might end up slowing his other career path down. But looking back, he said it actually brought new levels of maturity and self-development that translated into fighting.
“Almost like (pro boxer Vasyl Lomachenko), his dad pulled him out so he could dance for four years,” Hernandez said. “It’s just the skills. I correlate back – I think my mental whereabouts, like you said the analysis, the communication, the public speaking that you need to be successful in this game.
“It goes a lot further than just what you’re capable of in the cage. You don’t want to sound like a dumb champ on the mic. So, I think that it really helped me flourish outside the arena and, really, inside the arena, because my mental confidence grew exponentially.”
We saw that confidence in the cage and afterward, when Hernandez said that the brilliant display was pretty much, exactly what had been planned. But, even if things hadn’t come together perfectly for Hernandez to show off his striking prowess, he’d like to point out he’s actually originally a ground fighter. And he would have had no problems handling himself under different circumstances.
“If it would have gone to the ground, there’s no way he could have matched my pressure,” Hernandez said. “He’s a black belt. I’m a brown belt. I think that I would have – my MMA, grappling, jiu-jitsu, I believe it’s far far more evolved. And what we’re doing here at (Ohana Academy would have) out-pressed whatever he would have offered. I wasn’t worried about where the fight went.”
Hernandez has yet to stop and look at the roster to think about who might be next for him. He’s not worried about the where or the when, either. He’d heard talks about June, he said, and that would be fine. But ultimately his sole plan for now is to stay ready.
“Whenever they want to line up that next sacrificial lamb, we’ll eat,” Hernandez said. “So I’ll let them let me know.”
To hear more from Hernandez, check out the video above.
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go towww.mmajunkie.com/radio.
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