Interview: Alex “Always Bet On” Black

“A lot of doctors told me up until I was about 13 that I would never be able to play any sports.”

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Alex “Always Bet On” Black

Interview and Photos by: Barry Laminack

You know that guy that you seem to gravitate to because he’s cool but doesn’t know he’s cool. That’s Alex Black. There is just something about the guy that you can’t help but like. He’s got an infectious smile, a great attitude and a love for MMA that courses through his veins.

Alex has quickly gained a ton of respect from his peers and the fans in Houston MMA. He’s got a bright future and real shot and doing something with his career.

I caught up with Alex at Bushi Ban as he trained for his upcoming fight at Puro Combate 3 on Thursday Dec 9, 2010.

TCD.net: How old are you?

Alex: I’m 23.

TCD.net: How long have you been here at Bushi Ban?

Alex: I started working here about a year and a half. I moved away for 6 months, but I’ve mainly been here over all like a year and 2 months.

I started working here after about 4 months of training. I was working in the plants but I hated it and couldn’t stand it.  I got laid off, but I had a whole bunch of money saved so I thought I’d be able to just train.

Money started getting lower and lower so I asked Master Zulfi if I could do have a job. I told him I’d mop mats or do what ever. I just want to train and I know if I’m here I can really focus on training. So he brought me on and I teach kids grappling class and MMA class whenever he can’t.

So here I am. I’ve got it made.

TCD.net: So you’re doing what you love huh?

Alex: Yeah. Hopefully after the next 3 fights I can stop working here for a while and just focus on fighting. My goal down the road is I want to open my own Bushi Ban.

Eventually I’ll get ranked in Karate and in Jiu-Jitsu.

TCD.net: Wait, you’re not belted in Jiu-Jitsu?

Alex: [laughs] No. I’ve only rolled gi twice.  When I fought Greg [Bellomy] I was going to come out in my white belt but I forgot it here at the gym.

TCD.net: Talk about that fight with Greg. A lot of people had you as the underdog.  Did you have any reservations going into that fight?

Alex: No, I thought it was the perfect fight for me.

TCD.net: Really?

Alex: Yeah. I’ve seen him fight.  I was already training for Bell, so when they told me Greg Bellomy I was like, OK. They are both purple belts and they both do the exact same thing; he’s going to look for the takedown. He’s not going to strike with me, so I knew if I struck with him I’d be fine and if it went to the ground I would be comfortable.

I feel if I’m in anybody’s guard at 145, or if they are in my guard I can sub them.  My MMA Jiu-Jitsu is really good, my regular grappling just no gi is good, but my MMA Jiu-Jitsu when you’re throwing strikes at me is really good because I can see what I can do.  That’s how I caught him [Bellomy] in that arm triangle from the bottom. I think I could have finished it if I would have had another 20 seconds.

After that round Master Zulfi was like “go back to the game plan. Stick with the hands and don’t go kick him in the body again.”

TCD.net: So the game plan was striking only?

Alex: Yeah, I knew he was going to be stronger and a better wrestler than me, so I just wanted to keep circling and not let him get me up against the cage.

TCD.net: At the end of that fight, I felt like he was defending himself. His hands were up the entire time you where throwing. I know the ref has a job to do, and you have a job to do too and you did that by continuing to press forward and strike.  What did you think about the stoppage?

Alex: I thought it was good.  It’s like when the ref says that on the ground, just covering your face isn’t defending yourself, you have to move. I had him up against the cage and he didn’t throw any strikes. He threw a couple of inside kicks in that second round, but I don’t think he threw one punch.

TCD.net: What was it about MMA that attracted you to the sport?

Alex: I was kind of nerdy back in high school, but I hung out with the cool kids. I guess I was like the token nerdy kid is school.  My first day of high school a senior tried to pick on me so punched him.

TCD.net: So you weren’t one of those scared nerds?

Alex: No. I wouldn’t put up with crap. I wouldn’t go out and look for trouble, but I wouldn’t take crap from people either.  It’s what my dad taught me as a kid. Never swing first but if somebody is trying to hurt you defend yourself.

So I watched Couture/Lidell 2 and every since then I was hooked. I would come home from school and I would watch Dragon Ball Z and then I’d watch UFC.

TCD.net: Did you get in a lot of fights as a kid?

Alex: No. The first fight I ever got in was in junior high.  Guys would try and start stuff with me in High School but I would try and avoid it.

TCD.net: What is it about Bushi Ban that keeps you around?

Alex: It’s family. I could never leave here. If I ever do make it big, I would go to AKA or American Top team and cross train for a couple of weeks, but this is my home.

Master Zulfi is a smart man. He has everything we need. He’s done everything you can think of. I don’t feel there are a lot of people who have his knowledge.

Also, we don’t have any of those cocky guys who are trying to prove anything in training. We all have fun.

TCD.net: You seem to enjoy cornering almost as much as you do fighting. What is about cornering that you enjoy so much?

Alex: It’s the rush I get because it’s my best friends in their fighting. I get more nervous before their fights than I do my own fights. I really love coaching; it’s a lot of fun.

Once I’m old and fat, I just want to coach. Eventually that day will come, because my bones are already hurting [laughs]

TCD.net: ALREADY?

Alex: Yeah, a lot of people don’t know but I had a clubbed foot where the lower half of my leg was broken and twisted all the way around. A lot of doctors told me up until I was about 13 that I would never be able to play any sports.

I had to go to Shriner’s hospital every two weeks. I also had holes in my heart when I was born. I didn’t get to go home for like 2 months.

Doctors told me I’d never get to do anything, but then I got into swimming. I was really good at it, but it wasn’t my thing.

TCD.net: I know your goal is the UFC. Do you have a plan on getting there or are you just winging it?

Alex: Yeah, that’s why I took this fight. Now that the UFC has merged with the WEC, it’s only a matter of time until they do an ultimate fighter show with 145ers and I have to be ready for that.

Maybe I’ll make it maybe I won’t, but if I don’t make it I want to go fight in Thailand. I don’t want to fight in Texas my whole life, even if I don’t make it in the UFC. I want to fight all over the world.

TCD.net: What do you prefer more, striking or the ground game?

Alex: It depends on who I’m fighting. I feel my stand up has gotten better than my ground game now, but my ground game is really good. My wrestling sucks, I’ll admit that. You can take me down, but do you really want to go to the ground with me?

I love stand up but I feel like I’m the type of fighter I can take the fight were I want it to go.

TCD.net: Who do you think would be the toughest matchup for you at 145?

Alex: Probably Daniel Pineda or Tim Snyder but those are down the road. I need 2 or 3 more fights before I think I’d be ready for a title fight. I don’t want to fight just easy fights. I don’t want to pad my record either. I want to build myself and take on the best challenge for me at the time.

TCD.net: What’s been your toughest fight to date?

Alex: I think fighting Cody was the hardest fight I could get in Houston

TCD.net: Why is that?

Alex: He’s so strong and very technical. He probably had a good 16 pounds on me during the fight.  It was funny because after weigh-ins, I came back here to the gym and Master Zulfi asked me if he was big, and I was like “no, he’s not too big. He’s a good sized guy but shorter, so not too big”

At the fights, when he got in the ring, Master Zulfi was like “he is NOT small” [laughs]

TCD.net: Was that you favorite fight?

Alex: So far yeah. I like my last fight in Louisiana just because I got to catch a flying arm bar and I’ve wanted to do in a fight. I’ve done it so many times in competition and I wanted to finally do it in a fight.

The day before I even called it. Gerzan [Chaw] was like “stick to the game plan” and I was like no, I’m going to do it. I hardly even warmed up for the fight.

TCD.net: How’s the cut been for this fight?

Alex: This has been the hardest cut yet. I was walking around at 170 a couple of weeks ago when I got the call.

TCD.net: You walk around at 170?

Alex: No, but I was on this Man vs Food kick. I love food. It used to be in high school I could eat anything, but it seems like after I broke my hand in the [Austin] Franks fight that has changed.

TCD.net: What was that Franks fight like? Is he tough?

Alex: He’s a really tough guy. I just broke my hand 40 seconds into the fight and then got soccer kicked in the head at the end of the fight.

I’ve watched my post fight interview from the fight and I sounded so stupid in it. I think I had a concussion. I was like, oh well, I’ll just live with it.

TCD.net: Is there anybody you’d like to thank?

Alex: First of all, I want to thank Master Zulfi for all he’s done. I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am at with out him. All the staff at Bushi Ban, Master Lovelace, Jesse and everyone else that’s helped me out. My teammates, Gerzan, Justin, Ray. We have a lot of up and coming guys that are going to be really good that help me out.

Thank to DFC for helping me out with all my t-shirts., you guys at TheCageDoor for all you do and to Ragan McDaniel for all he’s done. He’s always taken me under his wing.

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