A veteran mixed martial arts fighter who lost to Evan Tanner in his only UFC bout was arrested in Glendale, Ariz., on Monday and charged with the first-degree murder of a 19-year-old. He is being held on a $1 million bond.
Homer Moore, 42, of Phoenix, was arrested by Tempe police in connection with the August 1999 murder of Karam Hussein Jabbar, 19. Jabbar went missing in late July, and his body was found in the trunk of a car on Aug. 3, 1999. According to police, Jabbar's hands and feet were bound and there was a bag over his head.
The official cause of death was listed as asphyxia.
Moore debuted on April 7, 1999, with a victory over Jason Middaugh at Rage in the Cage 4, about three months before Jabbar's death. Moore faced several notable fighters, including current UFC light heavyweight Chael Sonnen and UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn. HIs only UFC appearance came at UFC 34 on Nov. 2, 2001, at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, where he was submitted by Tanner via arm bar at 55 seconds of the second round.
Moore, who last fought in 2007, was 25-9-2.
Tempe police are seeking other suspects in the case.
Renan Barao hasn't lost a fight since 2005, is 32-1 and may be the most dominant bantamweight the UFC has ever had. Yet, he says he still made a pittance compared to his last opponent, Urijah Faber.
The two rematched in February with Barao coming out on top for the second time. The Brazilian, who has been bantamweight champion since mid-2012, is stepping up to fight again at the end of May to replace the postponed Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida middleweight fight.
The champ hopes to be able to successfully defend his belt against Faber teammate T.J. Dillashaw on May 24 at UFC 173, but he also recently told Brazilian outlet UOL that he hopes to get a new contract after the fight as well.
"I'm very happy being a UFC champion. But I would like to improve my contract," Barao said.
"Actually, an example: I know that Faber is a much older guy in the UFC, but he's not even the champion and has a much better purse than mine.
"It is what it is, we're working for it to improve. I hope that after this fight i can have a much better contract. I hope it improves every day. This depends on the contract, but I hope they remember that I saved an event."
Despite never holding a UFC belt, Faber was once recognized as featherweight world champion when he held the WEC strap, and is one of the UFC's biggest stars. As such, he makes more than relative newcomer Barao.
Understandably, that is little consolation to the champ Barao, especially as he heads into a fight that he didn't particularly want but says he took to help out the UFC.
"I prefer to rest a little more, but the UFC needed me, so I'm here to save the event," he said.
"Unfortunately, Weidman got injured, so they called me and I accepted. It's always good to fight in these big events, I was pretty happy."
Do you think it is fair for Faber to make more than the champion, a man who has twice beaten him? Let us know in the comments section.
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With weight and discipline issues behind him, Johnson is riding a six-fight winning streak into the co-main event of UFC 172 on Saturday.
Jon Jones is done fighting the "arrogant" tag many critics have labled him with. "I think I am. I think I am a little arrogant," the UFC light heavyweight champ said Monday.
Jones defends his title against Glover Teixeira Saturday at UFC 172 in Baltimore. Jones became the youngest UFC champion in history over three years ago and sometimes seems to have as many vocal critics as he does ardent fans.
Jones undoubtedly works quite hard to achieve and maintain all that he has in the sport and so used to bristle at the criticism that he was "cocky," or "arrogant." Now, the young champ has seemed to make peace with the fact that all elite athletes (elite anything for that matter) need a certain amount of selective arrogance to succeed.
"I think it's really important. The thing about me I say all the time is, I notice that I'm full of myself and I am arrogant to some degree, but it's obviously only when it comes to talking about MMA, where literally, I do the wildest stuff," Jones said.
As for his personal life, Jones said that is where he is just normal old Jon. "I don't think I live like a celebrity at all," he said.
"All my friends are normal people, normal dudes who do the most normal stuff all the time. But when it comes to MMA, there is a big chip on my shoulder. There is a way that I look at myself, and I think it's really, really important. It's something I'm not really apologetic for. As I get older and as I win more, I start to embrace it even more. The biggest thing is not to be apologetic for it. I realize it's a big part of the reason I'm able to perform out there. The moment I let fear seep is the moment the fights start getting closer and closer. So yeah, I think it's important to be an absolute believer and have that confidence."
Jones cites the strong way he closed his last title defense, against Alexander Gustafsson, last September. Jones was on his way to perhaps losing his fourth straight round to the Swede challenger when he says he decided that was quite enough.
"It was the fourth round and I literally looked up at the clock before hitting him with that elbow, and when I looked up at the clock, I realized, 'I may be losing here. Let me win. Let me win,'" he said.
"I simply won. I simply started winning. I think that's something champions have."
Dana White recently bashed Phil Davis for supposedly not wanting to be a champion bad enough. How did White know that Davis didn't want to reach the top?
Well, not for lack of any effort or apparent improvement in his fights. Rather, White dismissed Davis simply because he said the former national champion collegiate wrestler doesn't talk enough trash.
"[Phil Davis is] one of the best light heavyweights in the world, but he doesn’t come off to me like…dude, I got guys breathing down my [expletive] neck wanting fights. I want this fight, I want a title fight, I want this I want that," White said.
"Phil Davis is kind of like, eh. I’ll hang out around No. 4 here and meh. He’s not that guy that comes across like I [expletive] want it. Like I want to be the champ, I want to be the best in the world. He’s sort of, eh."
Well, Davis corrected that problem this week during the UFC 172 media call. Davis fights Anthony Johnson in the co-main event this Saturday on pay per view and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defends his belt against Glover Teixeira in the main event.
Davis took aim at Jones, interrupting him often and criticizing the champ during the call. Before he did, however, Davis replied to White's strange criticism. We knew something was about to go down when Davis began referring himself in the third person.
"That’s not necessarily Phil. It’s really just a miscommunication. So I’m just going to make sure I’m going to do what I’ve got to do Saturday, then I’ll call out whoever the champion is after Saturday night, simple as that," Davis said.
Of course, Phil didn't wait until Saturday to unload on the champ. Take, for example, his description of Jones' controversial last win against Davis' training partner Alexander Gustafsson.
"Here’s what happened. Jon Jones came out doing his regular deal and Alex - because Alex and I, we train together and we went over some things to do - I said, listen man, what you really need to do is you need to strong arm him like an American and hit him with a backhand pimp slap. I’m telling you right now, Alexander threw seven different kinds of smoke at this dude, Jon Jones didn’t know up from down when he was fighting Alex. He didn’t know what hit him. He didn’t know why he hit him, why he was hitting so hard.
"I honestly still don’t really understand really how [Alex] lost, but I will say this: Jon Jones came back the last two rounds, fourth and fifth rounds, came back like a champion. Did he do enough to win? Absolutely not," Davis said.
"But, I’m going to tell you this, seven different kinds of smoke. Jon Jones was one fire, seven different kinds of smoke he had."
You can listen to all of Davis' verbal explosion on the full call audio below. For his part, Jones tried to take the above-the-fray approach.
"I think if anything Phil’s embarrassing himself with all the antics," the champ said.
"But it’s what he decided to do today. You know, I’m a champion. I’m a champion, and I fight the top dogs and my whole career has been in the fast lane. I am not going to sit here and belittle myself by entertaining Phil. At first I thought it was funny, but it’s just silly. And I’m fighting Glover, and he’s fighting Anthony Johnson. I really need to stay focused on Glover, and Glover’s a great challenge to me.
"I just think when you talk like that, and you be so goofy, it puts a lot of pressure on you. I mean, what if he goes out there and gets caught with one of those high kicks from Anthony Johnson and gets knocked out? It’s going to be really embarrassing to talk so much trash to me and then get knocked out by Anthony Johnson. So I’m going to keep my mouth shut and stay focused for what I’m here for, and that’s Glover."
It never took much for former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell to get amped enough to fight. The retired legend is the epitome of a game fighter and let his fists and shins do his talking.
Perhaps that's why the "IceMan" says he "can't stand" the way fighters like Chael Sonnen use over the top trash talk to promote fights. Liddell likes Sonnen personally but can't get past his pro-wrestling type of antics.
“Chael’s a nice guy. I’ve met him and hung out with him. I like him, and he’s a nice guy. I can’t stand the way he promotes fights," Liddell recently told MMA Junkie.
“I understand what he’s doing; he wasn’t the most exciting fighter, so he made himself exciting by promoting the fight really well, and he got himself a couple of title shots for it. It works, but that whole crazy WWE-type stuff, that over-the-top stuff when you’re fighting a guy, doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t like it.
“But it is what it is. Some of the fans like it, and it gets people to watch fights, that’s fine...Some of the things he said, as far as I’m concerned, are over the line.
"Unless you’re known as an actor or being a WWE guy, you can get away with some of that stuff because everybody knows it’s fake.”
According to "The Pit" fighter, promoting fights comes a distant second or third to fighting itself and being a man or woman with respect for yourself. For example, Liddell cited the recently aired fight on the set of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil between former champion and Sonnen as an example of "The American Gangster" going too far.
“I’m sure [Sonnen] didn’t mean to start it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he crossed the line and Wanderlei took a swing at him,” Liddell said.
“Everyone has a line, and especially fighters.”
Do you prefer fighters like Liddell who like to let their actions speak for them or the wild-talking of someone like Sonnen? Let us know in the comments section.
Many Cagewriter readers were touched to read about Alex White's inspiring path to the UFC late last week. The fighter overcame nearly dying as a child and homelessness as an adult and ended up fighting his way into the best MMA promotion in the world.
After White's incredible success in his UFC debut on Saturday, where he earned a first-round KO and a $50,000 Performance of the Night honors bonus check, we got even more requests to check back in with the hard-hitting featherweight.
Like most fighters starting out in the UFC, Alex works hard at a day job. This morning, less than 48 hours removed from winning in the Octagon, Alex was back at work in Missouri.
"There's no rest for the wicked," he jokes.
Alex won't call them "UFC jitters" but he admits that it took him a few moments to collect himself once his first UFC bout had begun. "Yeah, I went in there and it took me a little bit to get warmed up," he says.
"After a little bit, I was able to think to myself, 'This is what you've been training to do. Do this, and this and this.'
It only took White a few punches to knock opponent Estevan Payan out cold. White was and is the undefeated prospect but Payan had far more big-stage experience than White.
"Yeah, it felt good," White said of the step up in competition.
"It was my first UFC fight and it was a different level of fighting. I was pretty pumped and I'm pretty happy now."
White had to wait a little bit longer than expected to begin celebrating once the ref had called a halt to the action, however, because once Payan regained consciousness, he angrily began to protest the stoppage.
For his part, White never let his guard down, and stayed close to Payan, seemingly ready for the fight to continue. "Yeah, I wasn't for sure what was going on," White says of those tense moments immediately following the fight's end.
"I was totally unloading on him and he didn't get up til the ref pushed me off. I wasn't for sure what was going on - if the ref had stopped it or was going to continue it so I tried to stay in the mode."
Once White's victory did settle in, the blue-collar fighter didn't hit the Florida clubs or beach for a wild party. At six feet tall, it must be a task for White to make the 145-pound featherweight limit and after cutting weight on short notice for his UFC debut, Alex and his team had a practical celebration.
"We went to IHOP," White says.
"I had one of those bacon omelets and pancakes."
Now back to work at his day job, White plans to take a week off from training and plan a party for his supporters in town.
"I want to spend time with family and I'll probably throw a bar-b-que for my supporters in the park," he says.
"I'd like to have a bunch of food for everyone so people can relax, have a good time and so that I can let them know how much I appreciate all their support and help."
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There is no shortage of former teammates who say that UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem isn't a team player. Rashad Evans recently said as much after Overeem left his Blackzilians team for Team Greg Jackson/Mike Winkeljohn.
However, If Overeem is going to be accepted at his new team, coach Mike Winkeljohn says that the Dutch fighter is going to have to have a selfless attitude. "That's just the way our camp is," Winkeljohn said during a Submission Radio interview.
"It's first and foremost you have to help others and if you start helping other people out, if he could help other people out with his stand up and his knowledge in different positions, then the team is going to help him. If not, he will be ostracized real quick and he'll be gone."
The striking coach went on to say that his team is a close-knit one where the culture is such that everyone lends helping hands.
"The guys won't do it themselves or want me to be a jerk about it, which I'm usually a jerk, but it just happens that way. That's why we're so good at what we do I think is, the guys help each other and that's huge, because you can't do it by yourself no matter how good you think you are, you need to help others to become successful in this sport," he said.
With all that said, Winkeljohn said that he is excited to have Overeem in Albuquerque. "I haven't spoke with him yet, but as soon as he comes I'm going to be excited to be working with him," he said.
"The guy can hit hard, I mean [former Overeem opponent and Jackson/Winkeljohn team member] Travis Browne told me how hard he hit, but the thing is I want him to not be striking and then standing in a place where he can get counter punched and or taken down. He needs to strike and then make slight angle changes, I think that will change his game tremendously."
Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin hasn't fought in awhile, but never said he was retiring, just yet. Now, it looks like the UFC star is close to signing with Asian MMA promotion ONEFC, as an executive.
According to UFC president Dana White, that possibility hasn't strained relations with Franklin. In fact, being a vice-president at ONEFC wouldn't even preclude Franklin fighting again in the UFC.
"You know, we have a good relationship with Rich. Rich got offered a really good opportunity to go work with those guys and I'm happy for him," White said at the UFC on Fox 11 post-event press conference.
"Hey listen, how can be upset with a guy for trying to better his life or taking a great opportunity somewhere? You can't. It's the sneaky guys that lie to your face and all that stuff."
Should Franklin want to fight again, he's still under contract with the UFC and White seemed to suggest that they'd be happy giving him another bout. "He's still under contract to fight, if he ever wanted to fight," White said of Franklin.
"It's not like if he takes this job that's it, we'll never have him fight in the UFC again. If he came back and wanted to fight he's still under contract with us, and he hasn't officially retired. Rich is out there making some moves. He started a business, he's got this business that he's running and he's putting all his time, effort and money into it, but he needs another source of income for more money to come in. So these guys gave him a huge opportunity and he's going to take it."
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After two losses in four fights in 2008, Werdum was bounced from the UFC. Now, he's back and knocking off title contenders.
Miesha Tate had a simple goal at the start of her UFC on Fox 11 main card bout against Liz Carmouche on Saturday night. "I was just trying not to be a psycho in the fight," she said.
Tate has become one of the main faces of female UFC fighters but had yet to earn a victory in the Octagon heading into Saturday night. In her first UFC fight, Tate lost a great battle to Cat Zingano.
Next, she rematched (they first fought in Strikeforce) her nemesis and UFC champ Ronda Rousey and lost via arm bar once more. Tate believed that she had perhaps spent herself too quickly in prior fights on account of fighting too emotionally.
Against Carmouche, Tate wanted to "be a little bit more calculated," as she said at the UFC on Fox 11 post fight press conference.
That may have resulted in a slow start for Tate, however, as Carmouche got her down early and dominated the first round. Tate rode out the storm and earned the unanimous decision and her first UFC 'W' after three rounds, though, and beat back some demons in the process.
"I was struggling with a mental hurdle. Losing two in a row is really rough. And, starting to think, you know, 'am I cursed?' just going through all those weird questions," she revealed.
"I started off slow. There's a fine line, for me, between thinking and going. And, when I go, that's what happens in the third round. When I'm thinking, that's what happens in the first round. It took me a minute to be like, 'you know what? I've got to go.'"
And, 'go' Tate did. Now with a UFC win under her belt, the former title challenger says she'll face the future with more confidence in herself. "I'm definitely capable of better. Anyone who has ever seen me fight can say, yeah, it's not typical for me to start to slow. I did, this fight. But, I'm over the hurdle now," she said.
"I won the fight. I'm happy. I got my first UFC victory and I think that's going to motivate me more."
Fabricio Werdum earned a UFC heavyweight title shot with a dominating win over Travis Browne Saturday night in the main event of UFC on Fox 11 card. Scores were 49-46 and 50-45 (twice) in favor of the Brazilian.
Werdum tagged Browne over and over for five rounds, though the Hawaiian hung tough and heard the final horn. From the start, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert landed the cleaner and more frequent strikes on the feet, scoring to the head, body and legs with punches and kicks.
Werdum also managed to take Browne down three times throughout the fight, the first times the resilient slugger has ever been taken down in his UFC career. Werdum added insult to injury as he taunted Browne repeatedly in between landing big strike combinations.
For his part, Browne started the taunting when he made light of the first big body kick that Werdum would score in the fight. Browne also refused to quit, even when he was dazed and slowed by the accumulation of strikes absorbed, and landed one of his best combinations of the fight in the closing seconds of the fifth.
With the win Werdum has now won four straight and likely earned a chance to challenge Velasquez at a future event, expected to be held in Mexico. Browne's loss snapped a three fight win-streak.
For our money, two fights stand out as the biggest wins of UFC heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum's career. Tonight, Werdum squares up against Travis Browne for the right to challenge Cain Velasquez for his UFC heavyweight title.
Werdum has had a long path towards UFC title contention. Five and a half years ago, he was quickly dispatched with via KO by an unknown rookie named Junior Dos Santos.
Werdum vs. Fedor
Of course, Dos Santos turned out to be a world-class champion himself. Werdum has had to slowly and steadily work his way back up into the heavyweight's elite class.After losing to JDS, Werdum was released by the UFC and went to Strikeforce. There, three fights after the loss, Werdum faced one of the best of all time - Fedor Emelianenko - as a big underdog in 2010.
It took Werdum under one round to submit "The Last Emperor," and make the realize that he himself was one of the best heavyweights in the world. Check out the full fight video above.
Werdum vs. Nelson
In 2012, Werdum was back in the UFC and faced a stiff challenge in Roy Nelson. Nelson was skilled enough in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu not to fall victim to Werdum's submissions and also powerful enough of a striker on his feet to seem like an up-hill battle for Werdum.
Instead, the Brazilian went out and showed much-improved Muay Thai kickboxing skills and dominated Nelson from bell to bell, earning a unanimous decision win.
Tonight, UFC heavyweight contenders Travis "Hapa" Browne and Fabricio Werdum meet in the main event of UFC on Fox 11. The winner will then be next to face heavyweight king Cain Velasquez for his championship belt.
Browne and Wedum have contrasting styles - Browne is the athletic slugger and Werdum the slick ground submission artist - but both men always seem to be fighting for a finish. Browne recently spoke with Sports Net Canada about the match up, the stakes and his goal in every fight.
Check out the video interview below and let us know who you're picking in the comments section!
Bellator fighter Rick Hawn became a seasoned competitor long ago. The Judo player has competed on national and international levels since he was a child.
That's probably why the fighter is able to be so fiery in the ring but cool as chilled steel just a few days before fighting for a major championship. Cagewriter is visiting with Hawn as he heads into an April 18 fight against Douglas Lima for the vacant Bellator welterweight title, and he's calm and unhurried as we pester him with technical questions about the differences between Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Hawn is also relaxed as he talks about taking on Lima but admits that winning the Bellator title would be a major accomplishment. "It would mean a lot," he says.
Hawn is well-acquainted with desire. His dad had studied Judo before Rick was born and got his son into class early on.
By the time Hawn was 12, he had a specific goal in Judo - make the U.S. Olympic team. It was an unusual amount of certainty and commitment for a 12 year-old.
Judo wasn't huge in Hawn's small Oregon town so after high school he moved to Colorado to train at Team USA's Olympic Training Center. Hawn says he saw his family only once a year or so while training in Colorado.
When he moved to Boston to train with Judo legend Jimmy Pedro a few years later, Hawn worked as many side jobs as he needed to pay the bills while training full-time. Now on opposite coasts and mostly self-funded, Hawn saw his family only once perhaps every other year.
"Every day, you wake up thinking of that goal," Hawn remembers of his mindset as a kid and young man pursuing Olympic glory.
All this was what was needed to make his Judo dream come true, in Hawn's mind. It might sound excessive to thouse unfamiliar with high-level athletics but you can't say he was wrong.
Hawn's sacrifice eventually paid off, and he made the 2004 Olympic team. He placed 9th overall at the Athens Summer Games.
When he couldn't do it a second time in 2008, Hawn decided to retire from Judo and began his MMA career. The Judo fighter jumped in with both feet, training with the best and taking fights almost immediately.
Hawn had always felt like he knew a secret watching MMA competition as a kid while also training Judo. "We watched the first UFC events with Royce Gracie," he remembers.
"Back then, no one really had any idea what he was doing except for Jiu Jitsu and Judo people. He'd go for something and the announcers would say, 'what is he doing?' and we'd be sitting there like, 'that's an arm bar!'"
Hawn knew he would give fighting a chance one day. His elite Judo pedigree and skills would certainly help him, he felt.
However, he suspected he had something else needed to transition from grappling to full fighting. The MMA world has seen many top athletes from other fight sports, like wrestling, Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, dabble but flame out in the cage and ring.
Some guys got smashed, sure. Fighting is a cruel hobby.
However, other grapplers found success early but, for whatever reason, decided that fighting wasn't for them. American Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner is one such example.
The giant won a fight in Pride but said he had no interest in continuing to hit and be hit.
We ask Hawn, is there something inside certain people, in addition to athleticism and skill, that makes them a fighter? Why can some make the transition while other, perhaps even more accomplished grapplers, not?
"Yeah, you know, I think there is," he says.
"Not everyone has 'it.'I've seen guys who were even better than me in Judo and they don't fight and I wonder what it is. I wish I could say what 'it' is, but I don’t know. I've always just been able to take the same approach I had in Judo, in MMA. Even in Judo, I had a killer instinct."
Maybe "killer instinct" is it. Maybe 'it,' is something else. Hawn has fought over twenty times in the last four years, losing just twice.
Tonight, he heads into his biggest fight ever. He's confident and calm.
Perhaps it is because, whatever 'it,' is, Rick Hawn definitely has it.
Since losing a decision to Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren in 2012, Douglas Lima has won four straight fights via KO or TKO and has earned another crack at the title. He'll get it tonight in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the main event of Bellator 117.
Lima will get another shot at Bellator gold tonight but won't get a chance at revenge with Askren. Though Askren never lost his belt, he was released by the promotion and allowed to walk away.
Now, the belt is vacant and Lima will take on Rick Hawn, who is also on a red-hot four win fight streak. The Brazilian admits that he hoped to be able to face Askren for the belt.
"It is a little bit of a let down, yeah," he tells Cagewriter.
"Anytime you have a loss like that you want to try and get even."
That said, Lima is focused on things he can control - namely being ready for Hawn, a former Olympic Judo competitor with nasty strikes on the feet.
"But, you know what, being a champion is what is important to me," Lima goes on.
"I want that belt and it doesn’t matter who I have to beat to get it."
Although Askren was virtually flawless during his Bellator run, Lima may face a more diverse set of dangers from Hawn. "He’s good everywhere," Lima says of his Judoka opponent.
"Obviously, he’s got great Judo, but he also likes to strike on the feet. He’s a good, well-rounded fighter for sure."
Lima, however, believes that he himself is even more well-rounded than Hawn.
"I’m confident, man," he concludes.
"I just think that I put everything together really well. If we stay on the feet, I believe in my striking. If he takes me down, I think my Jiu Jitsu will be able to handle him. I can’t wait for the fight to prove it."
Last summer at a media luncheon, a reporter sarcastically asked UFC president Dana White how it could be true that fight sports like boxing and MMA helped individuals make better lives for themselves. White, no bleeding heart, was trying to make a point about how many people had used the discipline of training and professional opportunities of competing in fight sports to turn their lives around.
"You can't tell me punching saves lives!" the reporter was quoted as saying, incredulously.
The crass writer could not have seen through his own snark to realize how ignorant his comments made him look. The point doesn't need much arguing but, suffice to say, that, with the abundance of studies showing the positive psychological, physical and social effects of competitive sports as well as seemingly endless anecdotal tales of fighter after fighter pulling themselves and their families out of real violence and poverty, to say nothing of a common sense understanding that any type of disciplined work, including that found in gyms across the world, is character-building, the writer proved himself to be a poorly read and out of touch reporter of a singular variety.
Fight sports, of course, are the toughest sports. It isn't the punching and kicking that magically helps lay and expert practitioners alike better themselves.
Learning skills, working hard, maintaining discipline and developing a sense of self-worth. These are the things that fighters talk about when they say "fighting saved my life."
Alex White fought for his life long before he began to train martial arts. And, it's hard to say if that training "saved" his life all over again.
If fighting didn't save Alex's life, though, it dramatically changed it for the better.
When Alex White was four years old, he drank gasoline placed in a milk jug near other jugs that were filled with lemonade. Friends say that he died three times before his family was able to get him to a hospital.
When doctors finally did get a look at poisoned little Alex, they said it would be a miracle if he lived past 10pm. That was twenty one years ago.
The gasoline accident burnt his vocal cords, damaged his hearing and that all led to a minor speech impediment, but Alex proved stronger than anyone could have imagined. On Saturday, Alex White, now an undefeated professional fighter, will make his UFC debut.
There was a lot of rough living in between that early childhood trauma and becoming one of the world's best fighters for Alex, however. The Missouri native was bullied much of his life.
As a young adult, the shy and meek White was in and out of homelessness, working for close to nothing at a McDonald's. Then, one day, Alex walked into Joe Worden's fight gym, which was near the McDonald's he worked at.
"He walked in and told me, 'Hey, I'd like to try this. I don’t have any money but I'll clean the gym, do whatever I have to,'" Worden remembers of their 2008 meeting.
"I had never had anyone come in like that. He had a speech impediment, was shy, didn’t want to talk and wouldn’t look me in the eyes. He had his head down, looked embarrassed. I thought, 'I don’t know about this kid.' But the more he trained, I realized he was something. He was always quiet, never said five words through a practice but he worked hard....I guess he was bullied his whole life. Now, he was 19 and he decided to do something about it."
Do something, he did. Alex trained consistently for a year before Worden entered him in competition.
First, came amateur boxing. Alex entered a Ringside world tournament, the biggest one in the country, according to Worden, and beat five opponents in five days.
Alex put in the work, day after day in the gym, improving by leaps and bounds. "He has something I can’t teach," Worden says.
"He's all heart."
Alex kept on winning. First, in boxing, then in MMA. Over the past five years, in fact, White has gone 15-0 as an amateur in MMA, before turning pro and going 9-0. Alex also went 12-0 as an amateur boxer and recently made a successful pro boxing debut.
He's also a perfect 4-0 in kickboxing competition. More important than how well he's done in fighting competition, however, is how training and competing in fight sports changed Alex White.
Alex in his third pro fight, back in 2012 - Video via Cage Championships
"He came out of his shell," Worden says.
"He's a completely different kid, now. He used to not want to talk to people but now he's signing autographs for kids at shows telling them, 'If I can do this, anybody can do this.' "Before, he had never been out of his small town of three hundred people. I coach on the U.S. national team, too, and now we've traveled everywhere. Alex has fought in Italy, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Nicaragua."
Alex White himself doesn't try to talk up his transformation as much as those close to him do. The humble MMA prospect can't deny what training and competing has done for his confidence and life, however.
"Yeah, I was kind of shy and all that," Alex says.
"At that time [before I started training] I didn't really talk to people I didn't know. Training and competing did build confidence, made me more outgoing and more outspoken because before I just kept to myself and my friends and didn’t really talk to nobody I didn’t know. Basically, I was drinking all the time with friends. Fighting has changed me from that. Whenever I do drink these days, it's once in a blue moon. Fighting has helped me change my life for the better. If it wasn't for training and fighting, I'd be doing the same things and working at the same dead-end job."
Alex still works a day job outside of fighting. His success isn't (at least not yet) one of a rags to riches, world-famous fighter. He has learned and earned the profound dignity of doing professional work to support himself and his passion, because of fighting, however.
White's coach Worden is impressed by his student's work ethic, in and out of the gym. Worden helped connect White with a new employer, for whom Alex now delivers oxygen tanks, full-time.
"The crazy thing of it is that he still works full-time," Worden gushes.
"He gets to the gym and trains at 5am, then works from eight to five, then comes back to the gym and trains again until 8pm. Then, he goes home, gets sleep and does it all over again the next day."
It would appear that White's motivation as he enters the UFC is the same it was when he first walked into Worden's gym - to see how far he could push himself. The glory of competition is nice but White never thought about it when he first started training.
"I’ve always been into fighting," he says.
"I never watched UFC or any of that before but I liked Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and stuff like that is what got me really interested in fighting. I was down visiting my mom and they were telling me about it so I thought I would try it. I didn't think about fighting at first, it was just to train with the other people. I wanted to see how far I could push my limits."
Alex has pushed and pushed and now gets his chance to fight in the big leagues. Worden says that the UFC put their team on notice months back that Alex could get a call to take a fight, so the possibility has been on their minds for some time.
As they often do, White's first UFC opportunity came on short notice, just a couple weeks ago. Former world champ Mike Brown pulled out of a fight with Estevan Payan and White was tabbed to replace Brown on April 19th's UFC on Fox 11 card in Orlando.
"They first offered me the fight April 2, the day after April Fools Day," Alex recalls with a chuckle.
"My coach called and said, 'you'd better be cutting weight because you got the offer.' I said, 'what are you talking about? April Fools is over!' He said, 'no, for real,' and I thought, 'that’s crazy.' We accepted, of course. If the UFC offers you a fight, you don’t not accept."
Doctors said that it was a miracle Alex White survived the accidental poisoning at age four. Just a few years ago, perhaps many people who knew him in passing would have thought it would take a miracle for the painfully shy, homeless White to do anything else with his life.
However, Alex had a strength deep in him that fight training help bring out and here he is, doing interviews and getting set to fight on national television this weekend. The moment is not lost on the fighter.
"Who would have thought," Alex says.
"It's just a great deal right there. You've got kids that look up to you, even grown ups that look up to you...I’d have never guessed but you look back and here you are. You work hard enough and you can make it happen. Just fighting in the UFC, that’s a big goal. Back when I started fighting, I would look and see that's where all the best guys competed and thought, 'wow, that would be awesome.'"
Alex "The Spartan" White's awesome journey continues Saturday.