10-22-2007, 03:21 PM
Status: Favorite Fighter: Palma
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Crawled under a rock
| | Houston Alexander Story/Omaha.com
Published Monday | October 22, 2007 |
Martial arts fighter trains with the fixed resolve of a gladiator
BY RICK RUGGLES
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Dawn slowly lightens the sky as two men hurl car tires over their backs and up a hill.
They shadowbox indoors, each bouncing on a tire. They lie on their backs, each tossing and pounding a dummy repeatedly thrown atop him.
One of the men is Houston Alexander, whose victories this year have launched him into national prominence in the increasingly popular blood sport called ultimate fighting.
Alexander's success has stemmed in part from a regimen that melds running and weightlifting with unusual training techniques.
His program includes flipping a truck tire over and over through a parking lot and lifting weights in the spartan surroundings of the basement of longtime Omaha North High School wrestling coach Curlee Alexander.
Houston Alexander said unusual training techniques suit the unconventional nature of a sport that involves boxing, wrestling, jiujitsu, submission holds and other forms of hand-to-hand combat.
"I'm in the best shape of my life right now," he said. "I've just got to keep winning, and that's why I work so hard outside the ring."
Alexander early this year sought the help of Curlee, a distant cousin, and Mick Doyle, a kickboxer who runs a martial arts and fitness center near 108th and Blondo Streets.
Thus began a partnership forged in workouts three times a day, frequently starting at 6 a.m.
"It's a discipline thing," Doyle said of the early start. His fighters, he said, "know their opponents aren't doing this."
Doyle trains eight mixed-martial arts, or ultimate, fighters. Houston Alexander has attained the most acclaim so far.
Ultimate fighting's adversaries sometimes call it human cockfighting. U.S. Sen. John McCain sought to ban it in the 1990s. The sport emerged this decade with more regulations and soaring popularity.
Matches in ultimate fighting are fought in an eight-sided ring called the Octagon. A sometimes comical, sometimes bloody reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter," has helped launch the sport's boom. The show is televised by Spike.
Alexander scored two big victories this year. One, in Las Vegas five months ago, was over Keith Jardine, who had appeared on the show and was considered a contender for the light-heavyweight title.
Alexander said the two wins earned him $82,000. His coaches say the fighter, who has eight wins and one loss, needs a title fight to make really big bucks. At 35, Alexander is older than most ultimate fighters. He also has six children to take care of.
"He wants to get good," Doyle said. "He is so disciplined and focused on getting the belt."
Alexander typically works out six days a week, three times a day. On Sundays, he runs and does calisthenics.
Most of Alexander's work involves what he calls "old-school grit" - lifting weights in Curlee Alexander's basement and running the hill at Nathan Hale Middle School when he is already exhausted.
The point is to push him to "the brink of collapse," Curlee Alexander said. Shock his system and force it to adapt. Drive him to the point where he can hardly hold up his hands.
During weightlifting workouts, the coach impassively orders the fighter from one routine to another.
"Push. Push," the coach says. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon."
"Yessir," Alexander occasionally responds.
The coach quietly orders the fighter to keep working through push-ups, sit-ups and dumbbell exercises to strengthen many muscles in a variety of ways. A sheen of sweat forms on the fighter, who occasionally verbalizes his pain quietly, to no one in particular: "Oh, man."
The workout is almost nonstop for 40 minutes. Water and towel breaks are few and typically end soon with the coach saying in a conversational tone: "C'mon."
The fighter makes it look fairly easy, and his coach tells an observer at one point: "That doesn't look like much. Try it. It's a killer."
Houston Alexander said that though he recovers quickly, he feels the pain acutely in midworkout. "It's almost excruciating, man," he said. "But you've got to fight through it, and that goes with the mental toughness."
His coaches love the way he allows himself to be driven, and the way he drives himself. He is a fast learner and has great potential, they say. Hard, agonizing work is a prerequisite to success, Doyle said.
"It's the worst thing in the world when you know you could've beat somebody but you just didn't have the gas," Doyle said.
Ricky Frausto, assistant strength coach with University of Nebraska at Omaha athletics, said using heavy tires has become increasingly popular among football players, wrestlers, ultimate fighters and even firefighters and police officers who want to get in better condition.
When flipping tractor tires or smashing a sledgehammer into a tire, Frausto said, there are no shortcuts. With dumbbells, an athlete can cheat by using light weights or by only partially carrying out an exercise.
"It really is starting to become mainstream," Frausto said of tire exercises.
The same could be said of ultimate fighting. As Alexander battles his way toward the top, the sport has never been more popular.
Staff librarian Jeanne Hauser contributed to this report.
The will to win is not as great as the will to prepare to win."
"...the way of the future...the way of the future...the way of the future...the way of the future..."
Last edited by Dan0; 10-22-2007 at 03:27 PM.
10-23-2007, 01:57 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Im for Alexander all the way!
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