At UFC on Fox 30, Alexander Hernandez earned his second victory in the UFC by defeating Olivier Aubin-Mercier by unanimous decision. In the win, the 25-year-old lightweight displayed all the tools he has acquired so far in his young career. “The Great” Hernandez won the fight on the feet and on the ground, yet he wasn’t satisfied. A month later he still isn’t satisfied but accepts that it was a dominant performance.
“There are two sides for everything, I’m always going to be extremely critical of myself, I have to be, that’s the only way I’m going to be the best. I definitely took some time to appreciate demolishing a grappler at grappling and dominating the fight in every facet that it fell into. I was happy about that. I was happy to get an extra 14 minutes in the ring, that should be terrifying the competition. Cause that experience transcends everything out of it, I’m fortunate to have that time inside the cage.”
What wasn’t seen was Hernandez winning the psychological battle, Aubin-Mercier is known as the “Canadian Gangster”, more so a play on words for being a nice guy. Instead of going along with his opponent and playing nice, Hernandez made sure Aubin-Mercier was in for a fight and Hernandez believes that affected Aubin-Mercier’s performance.
“For Mercier, I found he likes to be a jokester, he’s a jester of sorts, he needs that reciprocated, that type of comfort, those type of antics played back and forth. And just kinda having a jolly f feel at weigh ins and the preceding beforehand. He goes in there with the mission of two friendly athletes, that the better man might win and it might not even be him but its going to be a good fun fight. I didn’t want him to have any of those warm f***king feelings. Not even a pinch, I wanted him to be closed in side, cold and nervous. And I felt it.”
Hernandez does this before every fight.
“I study the way they think, that’s the most important think, people spend so much time watching how they fight. I want to know how their head works, I want to know how to break them first and foremost.”
“I like to study them in their interviews, the kind of behind the scenes films, I want to know how they speak, how they think and how they operate. Because if I get inside their heads, what brings them comfort, understanding what might bring them fear, then the fight might already be won or at least be opening doubts before you step in that cage.”
Speaking of doubts, Hernandez, walks with the swagger of someone who doesn’t have any. No one could tell in his last fight and even in his UFC debut. At UFC 222, he walked into the octagon against then ranked Beniel Dariush and finished him in 42 seconds in the first round. But it hasn’t always been that way.
“It didn’t always used to be like this, especially when I was younger. I remember being terrified to wrestle. I started wrestling when I was a kid in 8th grade and I was a f**cking mess before every tournament, every dual match. And even growing up, amateur fighting and things like, there was still plenty of doubt. It took a lot of time, development, maturity and becoming a man.”
Part of the issue for Hernandez was that he was trying to fill too many shoes at once. He was taking on a role at his day job that he shouldn’t have had. But he decided he was going to rise up to the occasion and prove that he was more than capable of doing it. But while doing that, it brought stress to his love of fighting. The process and stress of cutting weight, training and getting in the cage was becoming too much when combined with his day job. It was only when he learned that he was ok if he lost, that he could survive it and still make a living that he learned to let go and fight to win.
“We put so much stress, so much weight, so much pressure on a single thing like it’s all we have. What I found in myself is that I’m better than that.”
“I don’t need any single means to derive my income, I can do anything in the world to be successful. I fucking know I can, I have the attributes and I’ve proven it to people much older and wiser than I am. And so, I started to let go. I finally started to let go and enjoy myself in fighting. Cause before it was such a cumbersome task to just show up and cut that weight and face off and fight and just all the weight that was carried in that process. It was just so burdensome. I started to balance my life and realized it’s not the end of the world if you don’t win. So f**cking give it all you got.”
“So I stopped not fighting not to lose, I started fighting to win, and it changed everything.”
The sport now means everything to Hernandez and he can point to a specific moment when it all clicked.
“I had a breakthrough fight for me, that epiphany moment of where “oh shit, you should do this for a living.”
“I was fighting since I was 18 years old, I got through plenty of ups and downs like all fighters do, it’s a fucking treacherous route. Always a f**cking hill to climb. There were times I couldn’t do this anymore and I focused on work, on my business. I still always trained, it was fun for me a hobby. There were times where I focused on the business side and trained for fun, still putting my hours though. Other times focusing on the fighting and business is secondary. There came a point where I thought, you know what fighting is not for me, I don’t think I have what it takes as far as, I’m not letting go, I’m not delivering. I know I have the talent, I don’t have the confidence to proceed. I don’t have that thing, that style system of G-d in my head. I was focusing on business and my coach brought an LFA fight, it was RFA at the time, fight to my attention, they were in San Antonio, it was a nationally televised card and they wanted me to be on it. He was like “you gotta do it dude, you can’t say no, you gotta do it, it’s in your f***ing backyard, they want you on national TV, it’s a big deal.” And it was against the number-depends on how merit you put behind these rankings on Tapology, it was against the number four place guy on Tapology. It was a sound fight and it was on national TV and like I said it’s in my backyard. Just impulsively I said F**ck it let’s do it. And I hung up the phone with them and I was like, why the f**ck did you do that? You don’t want to do this anymore, why’d you sign up for that? It was July, it was the busiest season for my business, so I’m blowing my hair out at my work and then I’m getting in fight shape, grind it out, and do something I didn’t really want to do.”
“It was a nasty camp and I bitched and moaned about it the whole time. And finally, two or three weeks out, I was like, ok I’m actually doing this, I need to stop bitching and focus on it. We got through camp, showed up to fight, felt and looked good. I remember going out there and was like, let’s show’em who the f**ck you are. There is no losing here, let’s go out have fun, leave it all on the line, cause if things go south, you’ve got a job waiting for you on Monday. Give it everything you got. I went out there and crushed it, absolutely devasted this poor lad.”
“After that, I saw myself greater than I’ve previously seen myself, I saw myself as something superior. I felt like I elevated my self-assurance. That’s everything, most of this game is mental it really f**cking is. A lot of people develop a certain amount of expertise and skills but who is going to deliver when it matters and who is going to do it so in the most boisterous fashion? That’s what I did that night and once I proved that to myself, it lit a fire and I all of a sudden I became excited, so much more excited to fight and to continue to let go and deliver. Since then, I’ve been fighting like a different athlete, a different animal.”
Hernandez is still working on his mental game, trying to have a short memory and focusing on the positive side. But he wants to make it clear that he is just enjoying the ride and knowing that he has a fall back career. He is all in on his MMA career and has no plan b because his plan b is going to work.
And he has fought like that in the UFC so far. As previously mentioned, he has been victorious against two tough opponents to earn his ranking. Now he is looking to return in November against the winner of Vick vs. Gaethje (interview took place before the fight), Anthony Pettis (now fighting Tony Ferguson) or Al Iaquinta.
“I just want a number by their name and I want to continue this crescendo.”