“Everybody has their friends and their family, but very few people have that something they can’t live without.”
Interview and Photos by: Barry Laminack
Don’t let the baby face fool you. Alex Morono is no baby when it comes to the cage. He loves to fight. It’s the one thing he gets up for in the morning. He’s a strong kid with a ton of potential, so much so that he’s been glossed the baby Brock Lesnar of Houston MMA.
Alex is content with taking his career one slow step at a time, but that’s easy to do when you are 20 years old, have already had 9 fights and are loaded with talent. On September 18 at the Houston Arena Theater, Alex looks to take another step forward in his career as he faces Pete Sprajc for the Lonestar Beatdown 170lb title. I caught up with Alex at Gracie Barrie The Woodlands to get his thoughts on his activities over the past four months as well as his upcoming fight with Pete.
Alex: Yes, I was born and raised here.
TCD.net: So, how did you get your start in MMA?
Alex: My good friends from high school were real into UFC and Pride at the time and we would always box in our back yards. So after about six months of doing that, one of my buddies went to Travis Tooke’s gym for Jiu-Jitsu and another friend of mines dad was actually Mike Tyson’s sparring partner, so he had also been boxing his whole life.
I was actually real over weight as a freshman and sophomore in high school, so I found a gym, LA Boxing. The first day I went I fell in love with it and went every day after that. I lost like 60 pounds and then after about 6 months I had my first Thai fight. I got a head kick knockout and it’s been competition every since.
TCD.net: How long ago was that?
Alex: January of 2006. My second fight was a couple months after that; right after I met Chad [Robichaux] and moved here.
TCD.net: You spent some time training and teaching over seas right? How’d you manage to do that?
Alex: Yeah. After I met Chad and he opened the gym and about six months after I got my purple belt, a good buddy of ours in South Africa trained with us and he wanted to train and there were no good BJJ places were he lived in Johannesburg, South Africa. So they called Chad and asked for a coach and asked him to open up a small branch so he did. At my age and with my time off, I was able to go down there and teach for 3 months.
TCD.net: What was it like down there? Where they MMA savvy?
Alex: The MMA community was small, but it was there. There were some tough guys and there was some talent to be had. Where I was it was so different from America so it was hard to judge it that way. It was hard to market and let them know what it was about. People didn’t know what to think about Chad with a gi on, they just thought he was a wizard or something.
By the time I left there were 20 solid members, which wasn’t bad. Judo was HUGE and the Judo guys there were phenomenal. I got to do a lot of Judo while I was there. The stand up was different and had a real Dutch influence.
Alex: Not too long. I started a couple months after I started boxing, so relatively quick. I got my blue belt pretty quick and did too many Jui-Jitsu tournaments and burned myself out on it. Then I started getting into competitive MMA. A lot of people don’t know, but this is my 9th fight if you combine Thai and MMA.
TCD.net: What’s your motivation to keep doing this?
Alex: Well, my ear is already pretty messed up so I can’t stop now. Just kidding. It’s the drive. I would wake up every morning and I didn’t look forward to going to the gym or going to school, but I looked forward to going to the gym. You meet really cool people, learn new things and you get to compete and travel. I’ve been to Brazil, France and Africa.
It’s another family you know. Everybody has their friends and their family, but very few people have that something they can’t live without.
TCD.net: And this is your?
Alex: Yeah, this is mine.
TCD.net: So what’s the deal with your record?
Alex: I’m 2-1, but for some reason, and I don’t deny it that it happened but, I fought when I was 17 against a pretty experienced guy and lost. Not that he dominated me, but I did lose. But for some reason everybody has me as 2-0.
TCD.net: So you’ve been training a lot lately having 4 fights in 5 months. How has that affected you?
Alex: Yeah. I got back from South Africa in April and that’s when Matt [Wald] fought, he TKO’ed his guy in the third round by the way. So I fought Lester in May, I fought Cody in June, I fought in a big Thai tournament in July and I now I have this fight in September. I’ve been lucky I’ve had zero injuries.
I’ve also had a lot of no gi Jui-Jitsu, so I can’t wait to put my gi back on. After this fight, I’m going to take a break, then I plan on doing some amateur boxing in January and then hopefully get on one more Thai card and then go pro.
Alex: I’m fairly young at 20 and everyone says I should go pro. It’s not that I’m afraid to, but if you fight pro MMA you also have to fight pro kickboxing and pro boxing.. There’s a huge difference between pro MMA fighters and pro kick boxers. With the MMA guys, they could be either good wrestlers or good grapplers or good strikers, where as with pro kick boxers they are good at only one thing, kickboxing. Mixing it up with those guys is no joke. I really do enjoy the Muay Thai circuit so I want to wait to get into that.
One thing that’s tough is training and fighting and not getting paid. That’s of course the main motive, but it’s still a hobby to me. It’s not my profession and I really don’t want to make it mandatory. The fact that I have the option to do it makes me love it that much more.
TCD.net: What kind of effect did it have on you when your coach Daniel Kim left?
Alex: Yeah, I saw him every day for 3 years and he was my coach. Technically, he offered everything Matt and I could take. I say Matt and I because even though we had some consistent people in the gym, Matt and I were there every day all day together with Daniel. Technically he gave us everything he could have. We were sparring with him and hanging with him and doing well. When he left, yeah it sucked and it hurt, but what I as really thankful for was that the guys in the gym really helped me out. Everything that Daniel taught and had influenced Matt he was able to carry over and help me with. So Matt Wald really stepped up for me. So did Gerardo out at Gracie Barra Champions Forrest.
Really everyone in the gym came together and helped push me for this fight.
TCD.net: Is it going to be difficult not having him in your corner?
Alex: No. I really like his take on being in the corner. He would say that guys who shout out for you to do every single command from the corner might as well get the biggest toughest guy in the weight class with very little training and just shout things to do at them. He says when we are fighting he wants us to fight. They yell things that we can’t see. He’s a great corner man when it comes to cutting and stuff, but he very rarely told me what to do and that’s what I love about him.
So this time I’m going to have Matt and Chad in my corner.
TCD.net: Well, I have to bring it up now. In your last fight against Cody Phillips you gassed in the second round. Talk about that, was it over training or what?
Alex: Absolutely not. My cardio is through the ruff so it makes me mad. I figured since I had cut weight so much before that I could do it with no problem. So since I was doing a catch weight at 165 I figured 5 more pounds would be no problem.
So that Sunday was my brother’s birthday and we went out to eat. I was hitting the scale at around 190 which was heavy for me, because usually around fight time I between 180 and 185. So I start cutting the weight on Monday. Tuesday I had like a smoothie and some fruit. Wednesday didn’t eat much at all and I had 2 weight cut session, 8 pounds each. That weight cut just slaughtered me. I had trouble sleeping, my chest was congested, and it was tough.
That night of the fights I felt OK. The second I started warming up about 3 fights out I could feel it in my legs; they felt like blocks of rubber. I knew it was not going to be a quick fight for me. I didn’t want to tell any of the guys, but it was ruff.
After the first round, in the corner, I told Daniel to put my legs back on the ground because I could feel it. The second round we all saw what happened, but the third round I actually felt OK.
So, if Pete wants to think I have bad cardio, more power to me.
TCD.net: Talk about the decisions in that fight. How did it feel to fight that fight and end up with a draw?
Alex: It’s funny, after the fight you really don’t remember too keenly what happened. So if I had lost I would have been like, oh damn, I thought I would be better but I wouldn’t be mad until I watched the video.
Afterward, when we did the interviews I was pretty happy and chipper. I watched Cody’s later and he didn’t seem like he was real happy. The more I watched the fight the more I thought I won. Granted that fight was one of the most fun fights I’ve had in my life. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Judging is judging.
TCD.net: So what do you know about your opponent, Pete?
Alex: I know he fought Andrew Craig but I don’t put any stock in that fight because Andrew Craig is a beast. I saw him fight Mike Castillo and it was a good fight. I know he’s bigger than me, but every single one of my opponents have been bigger than me and supposed to be stronger than me on paper. My last 3 fights, strength was not a concern at all.
The best thing about this fight is I have no game plan. I don’t plan on knocking him out, I don’t plan on submitting him, I just plan on fighting and what ever happens, happens.
Alex: I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I mean Brock is a freak athlete and it’s cool that they call me that, but technically he’s not the best fighter in the world and I’d like to think I’m a well-rounded fighter. I mean, I don’t’ even think he has a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
You know, they can call me what ever they want. Many people ask me what’s my nickname or my fight name but I just don’t care about that stuff.
Live up to it? I don’t know, what is a baby Brock Lesnar?
TCD.net: Any chance of you getting a big sword tattooed on your chest?
Alex: No, I’m not. [Laughs]
TCD.net: You’ve got you a nice ear working there on the right side. Do chics dig the cauliflower ear?
Alex: [Laughs] I don’t think so, no.
TCD.net: Anybody you’d like to thank before we go?
Alex: Yeah, the usual guys. Chad, Matt, Gerardo, Todd, Antonio and the whole crew at the gym. Of course Mick and Ragan for all the Lonestar Beatdown stuff and you guys at TheCageDoor.net.