Alex White could have come up with a million excuses for the first loss of his pro career against Lucas Martins in July, but he hasn’t given one. That’s admirable in and of itself, but when you ask him what went wrong that night, he chalks it up to abandoning the fundamentals.
“Basically, I just let my technique go,” he said. “I didn’t stick to the basics, like keeping my hands up. I guess I was having a pissing contest with that guy. I didn’t work any of my ground game or wrestling and really didn’t use my clinch. But I learned my lesson.”
What the 26-year-old doesn’t say is that the aforementioned pissing contest took place because in his heart, he’s a fighter. And when fighters get hit, the first instinct is to hit back. So it went on like that for 12 minutes and eight seconds until Martins got his hand raised by knockout. It was a tough pill to swallow for the Missouri native, but he knows it’s part of the game. As far as his wife Ashley goes, the loss hit a little harder.
“My wife was just about as upset as I was,” he said. “She felt like she lost. I guess she just wanted to make sure I was okay, but it took a toll on her. Now she’s like ‘you need to be in the gym, you need to train harder.’ She doesn’t want to see that happen again, and neither do I.”
Dusting himself off and getting back to work with coach Joe Worden, White is determined to get back in the win column this Saturday against Clay Collard, and to do so, he wants to show off more than just the striking that led him to an 88-second knockout of Estevan Payan in his Octagon debut in April. But primarily, he wants to make sure that the first shot he takes to the jaw doesn’t throw him into a brawl.
“Basically, it’s muscle memory,” he said when asked how he will keep his cool in a firefight. “You have to keep training it. I’ve been trying to get my head down because I’ve noticed – and so has my coach – that I let my head up and that’s a clear opening for me to get punched, so I’ve been trying to keep it down and keep working on my muscle memory.”
Against the free-swinging Collard, there’s probably no better opponent for White to test the effectiveness of the work from the last couple months. The Utah native will be throwing strikes early and often, and White is ready for the challenge.
“I know that he’s a stand-up guy and that most of his wins are by knockout, so that will help me work on my technique more,” he said. “Clearly, I don’t want to let my head up and get punched. (Laughs) I don’t want the same thing to happen again. So I think it’s a great fight for me to test that and make sure I have that down.”
As for the other aspects of his fight game, White does have more submissions (five) than knockouts on his record (four), so he’s no slouch on the mat, but with all the attention placed on his Performance of the Night win over Payan, some have forgotten that he can grapple as well. Maybe it’s time for White to remind those folks of that reality.
“Basically, I need to mix my wrestling into it instead of just doing stand-up,” he said. “I’ve got to work my ground game. I guess because that (stand-up) is my safety net. That’s what I’m more comfortable with and I think that’s why I’ve stayed there. So I’ve been trying to focus on wrestling and my clinch game so I can go to that without thinking stand-up is my safety. It (the Martins fight) opened up my eyes.”
You don’t see people so high on a fighter coming off a loss, but that’s the case with White, because the feeling is that after the lessons learned against Martins, he can be even more dangerous when he puts everything together. Having heart and a solid chin adds to his appeal as well.
“I can take a couple hits, so I know that now; not that I want to do it again,” White laughs, and if he can hit and not get hit on Saturday night, a flawless victory in Las Vegas on one of the biggest cards of the year would be a nice feather in his cap. But if he does take a couple, White could be teaming up with Collard for a fight that could steal the show.
“You’ve got two stand-up guys banging it out,” he said. “That’s what everybody wants to see, right? I don’t know if we’ll steal the show, but I think we’ll put on a good show for everybody.”