"I will express this art to its fullest and I will try and put everything out there. I will put that much effort into it." - Alex Caceres
Not every interview is the same, even if in general the questions are. It truly depends on who is answering them, and when it is UFC bantamweight Alex Caceres, one should prepare to have their mind blown away. If asked about his fight, he will talk about his fight. When asked about training, he’ll talk about training. When he is questioned about his future and/or his goals, Caceres will answer with an unflinching passion and a poetic world view, which he hopes to instill in all the people who listen. And if requested for a final thought, “Bruce Leeroy” quotes Siddhartha.
“I think we're infinite beings,” opines Caceres. “We have to stay limitless. As long as we can keep moving in this vessel that houses our spiritual function that we should always be moving forward. We have this misconception that we are humans with spirits, but it's the other way around - we're just spiritual beings having a human experience. Everyone thinks this is it, that this is the final frontier, but really anything is possible and we can really bring things out of nothing and make them a reality. A good example I use is the Wright Brothers. No one had ever saw what a plane was, but they had seen it inside their heads and they brought it out of their heads and manifested it physically into this physical realm that we see today. It started as meta-physical and became physical. It started as unreal and became real. They saw it in a dream and made it reality. I think we all have that capability and that truly shows our infinite power. Even though I set up a goal miles down the line, eventually, if I reach that goal I will probably set up another one miles down the line just because. We have to set goals that we may never reach, that are infinite, and we need to try anyway. That's the beauty of it. We don't have enough time and that's what makes everything that much more beautiful. We'll never get today again; we'll never have today again ever.”
At 24 years old, the born and bred Miami, Floridian is currently experiencing a spiritual awakening the likes one could have never imagined for the once almost comically afro-ed cast member of The Ultimate Fighter season 12. The transformation started roughly a year ago with Caceres’ diet, and soon the age-old idea of “you are what you eat” had taken root into the young fighter’s already positive outlook.
“By bettering myself, I can better the situation around me. It was just coming to a realization that we're all in this together and, hopefully, if we're all involved we can rise up as one.”
It began with watching documentaries, reading books, and whatever else Caceres could devour with his mind on the subject of food. “One of the movies that had a big impact on me, on my diet, was ‘Forks Over Knives’,” tells Caceres of the Lee Fulkerson film, which promotes that most, if not all, degenerative disease can be linked to animal-based and processed foods. “It really showed us that most of the food we're eating in this Westernized diet is actually the opposite of what we think it is and it is very detrimental to our health. I started cutting dairy, lactose, processed foods, and processed meat out of my diet. I'm not completely a vegan.”
From there, the featherweight began shedding pounds and was walking around at 145 pounds, so the next stop was cutting to 135. The change has had an immense impact on him both physiologically and psychologically, and also economically. Since the move to bantamweight, Caceres is 2-1 inside the Octagon with an overall record of 7-5. In his first outing in the new division, he nabbed a unanimous decision victory over Cole Escovedo at UFC on FOX last November. Following that, Caceres had an odd split decision loss against Edwin Figueroa, but rebounded with his best performance yet in a “Submission of the Night” win over WEC veteran Damacio Page in July.
“With the knowledge I'm gaining now, I'm able to show people what I'm really about,” says Caceres. “I am a well-rounded fighter, I belong in the UFC, and with every fight I'm going to be able to show my skill level that I'm the better man in the cage at that moment on that day during those 15 minutes. If anything, it makes me want to train harder. Now, I do have this excess amount of energy that I can't seem to spend all the time. I get into the gym and I'm not satisfied until I'm crawling out of the cage. One of the most profound things this diet gave me is the clarity of thought. I actually know what I want out of this and where I want to be at the end of this. It feels good.”
The bout against Page highlighted many of Caceres’ weapons, from his size and length to his savvy ground game and to his creativity standing. The first round was Page on top and Caceres on bottom, but the second round saw a vicious knee transitioned into a fight ending triangle choke that put the rest of the division on notice. “It was actually that knee to the chest that I threw that weakened him for the triangle,” divulges Caceres. “I felt my knee go straight into his solar plexus and I heard him grunt really loud when I hit him. He didn't give much resistance when I threw on that triangle, so I knew that body shot really hurt him.”
Up next for Caceres is a trip to the Far East in a showdown with promotional newcomer Kyung Ho Kang at UFC on FUEL TV in Macao, China. Well before “Bruce Leeroy” submitted Page, behind-the-scenes Caceres had been bugging UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby to be put on the China card to perform in front of his idol Bruce Lee’s homeland. The W punched his ticket to Macao and lined Caceres up to tangle with submission ace Kang. The South Korean “Typhoon” is 11-6, on a three fight win streak, and, most recently, won a bantamweight tournament / title for the Korean based Road Fighting Championships.
“He looks like a very well-rounded, solid opponent,” admits Caceres. “Nothing that I haven't seen before, but he looks like he has a solid ground game with most of his fights being won by submission, eight out of 11. He seems to be a tough opponent. I think we'll be a very great matchup out there. Win or lose, I'm ready to give it my all out there and I hope he is ready to do the same.”
Besides the changes in diet and division, Caceres has been training with a different team at the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona. Under the watchful eye of head coach and Royce Gracie Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt John Crouch, he is getting better by battling the UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Caceres reveals a lot of the focus is on filling in the perceived holes in his wrestling, but believes he is getting stronger everyday in all areas. As with all UFC fighters, Caceres’ goal is to wear gold around his waist, and rubbing shoulders with a current champ like Henderson is making that possibility closer to a reality.
“Training alongside him and sparring with him boosts my confidence,” asserts Caceres. “I’m seeing him train and training together with him, and seeing that the work ethic is not far off and that the training methods are not far off and our lifestyles are not far off. If I can hang with this champion that is two weight classes above me, then I don't think anyone at 135 can touch me. It definitely makes that dream a lot more tangible, and when I reach up I can feel something and one day I'm going to grab it.”
But Caceres is quick to correct that a belt is not his endgame. “I'm a martial artist at heart and I will do that forever, but fighting I honestly believe and know it is for the young,” maintains Caceres, who is still a year away from a quarter century with presumably a decade at least left in him as a quality mixed martial artist, but he has more on his mind than titles. “I know me holding the belt and being champion might and very well may become, but it is not the top of the mountain for me. I feel this is a stepping stone to launch myself toward my true realization of my dreams and purposes in life. Honestly, I see my ultimate goals being some sort of humanitarian where I can use the knowledge and the wisdom that I have come across through my evolution of life to help other people come up to a higher plane as well.”
While many may believe those are too lofty or unrealistic goals for a fighter, then maybe those people should investigate Muhammad Ali or Helio Gracie and how their lives caused countless ripples in our sea of humanity. If Caceres’ mission is to help the world, then good luck to him with no sarcasm or cynicism needed. He is setting himself upon the toughest and most difficult to navigate roads, and is hoping to lead by example for others to follow. Simply, Caceres believes he can be better, that we all can be better, and he’ll pursue that dream with the same fervor he shows in his struggles inside the cage.
“I feel we all have to evolve to help humankind push the sky off,” declares Caceres. “The more I think about it the I more I realize, we are all stuck on this rock sailing through this cosmic ocean and if anything threatens us it threatens our entire race and there is no way we can fight back against it. I think we really need to push our horizons to spread ourselves across this vast universe. We are just a speck in the whole scheme of things and we're worried about a lot of materialistic ideals and appearances and what not, and what we should be worried about are the welfare of our children and our children's children. We're so stuck in the past and so stuck in this dream-like state they have us in. It's weird, reality TV becomes reality and we have to live vicariously through other people's lives when our own lives are just as exciting if we want them to be. Everybody looks at me and they're like he's a lucky kid with nothing to play with; he's just a lucky person that made it. But it’s not true. Everyone has this ability and drive and everybody has the capabilities to do it. I was just a regular person on the streets before I became any of this. I know that I had to bite down and get some grit in me to do it, and it wasn't easy because nothing comes easy. We definitely have the power to be greater than ourselves every day. That's my main goal in life and my challenge is to always challenge myself to be better than I am today tomorrow. I know I have this capability and I know we all have this capability. We just have to wake up and realize that not just one person is special and has talent. You just have to put in the work to make it realized.”
On November 10th at the CotaiArena in Macau, China, a bantamweight collision between Kang and Caceres will look to entertain and spark a fire in this burgeoning MMA market. For the Chinese fans, Caceres makes it known that he is committed to pushing himself beyond his limits for the W, but if he falls short, it will only be because Kang has exceeded his potential as well.
“I always expect to perform extremely well,” affirms Caceres. “I will go out there and express myself. I will express this art to its fullest and I will try and put everything out there. I will put that much effort into it. Win or lose. You can expect me to win or you can expect me to lose, but if I lose it will not be because I got tired or did not put enough effort into it. It will only be because that person was truly better than me that day, and only for that day. I will always come back stronger and better. What the fans can expect is one hell of a fight.”
And if “Bruce Leeroy” does win, Jon Anik and Kenny Florian can expect one helluva post-fight interview.