After calling his shot before his short-notice UFC debut against Beneil Dariush and scoring a shocking 42-second knockout of the lightweight contender in March, don’t expect Alexander Hernandez to tone anything down the second time around as he prepares to face Olivier Aubin-Mercier on Saturday.
“I do see myself knocking him unconscious in the first two minutes,” Hernandez said. “It’s just like the Dariush fight.”
When the 25-year-old Texan gives his prediction for the Calgary bout, it’s not with a tone of fire and fury. It’s almost matter of fact, like placing an order in a restaurant. That kind of confidence isn’t rare in the fight game, but what does make it unique is that he truly believes every word he’s saying. And for him, that self-belief is rooted in the basic tenet of athletic success.
“The confidence comes from a place of work,” he said. “I live this life. And the more I’ve had the opportunity to meet more UFC guys and see high-caliber gyms in traveling, I just continue to realize that I’ve been on this wave. And with my mental approach to it, I’ve reached a level of awareness, of focus, of self-confidence and know-how that I feel people may never reach in their entire life. So I think my mental preparation and my visualization of myself and the world around me and my perception of those things is completely different from anybody else in mixed martial arts.”
Yeah, some people – okay, a lot of people – would call Hernandez cocky, but with victories in nine of his 10 pro bouts, six finishes and a seven-fight winning streak, he has reason to believe he can take on the world. So it was no surprise that when he got the call to replace Bobby Green and face Dariush, there was no hesitation.
Top 15 opponent
“I didn’t have a chance to say no because there are too many guys out here breaking their back who would say yes,” he said. “You have to take every opportunity you can and I didn’t even bat an eye or think twice about who the opponent might be.”
And as his first UFC fight week progressed, he only got more confident that he was going to jolt the MMA world with his performance.
“By the end of the week, the momentum just blossomed so beautifully, it was like there’s no way this guy makes it out of the first round.”
Dariush didn’t make it out of the first minute, and against rising Canadian star Aubin-Mercier, that feeling is coming back again.
“It’s probably hard to be a guest in my head at this point,” Hernandez laughs. “The confidence is out of control. I’m human, and there’s moments of uncertainty and days that I’m off just like anybody else, but I’ve gotten really, really good at checking myself and realizing who I am and what I’m doing and what I’m here for and what I’m trying to represent, and I keep myself honest.”
So there’s really no reason for false modesty from the San Antonio product, who, despite his no nonsense take on the fight game, is a serious student of it.
“I’m like a monk from sun-up to sundown,” he said. “This is just what I do. There is no break. It’s not like I’m going a hundred percent all day, but I am saturated in this game to where I’m active and I’m actively recovering if I’m not actively moving. It’s all I do. There is no wife, there are no kids, there’s just this. Everything I do has that purpose and I’m focused on that purpose. I don’t think anybody has that unwavering intent. So whenever I say something, I do really mean it and I believe it.”
Of course, the big question is, what happens if he blows through Aubin-Mercier to put him at 2-0 with two finishes in the UFC. He’s already in the top 15. Does he start looking at and calling for the big dogs at 155 pounds?
“Those are the questions I’ve been asking myself for the last three years,” he said. “It’s not like all of a sudden, ‘We gotta fight him now.’ It’s not like a surprise all of a sudden. I was fighting for other promotions and I’ve had an opponent coming up and I’m not even thinking about that guy. I’m thinking, how the f**k do I beat (Tony) Ferguson’s D’Arce or how do I combat Khabib (Nurmagomedov)’s pressure on the cage, or how do I maneuver around (Conor) McGregor’s left? That’s all I think about, and if a teammate even so much as touches me in a position that could be threatening, I say, ‘Lock that up and let’s figure out how we’re gonna get out of it.’ I’m constantly putting myself in positions to expose my downfalls so I can improve them, and I’m constantly evolving. I don’t think I’m ready for a title shot by any stretch of the imagination; I just walked into this thing. But I know when that shot comes, I’ll be ready.”
"Every time I land a shot it could be a potential knockout. When he lands a shot, it’s a puff in the wind." @TheGreat155 Alex Hernandez talks about why he'll finish @oliaubin #UFCCalgary pic.twitter.com/zWMCrWehvZ
— UFC News (@UFCNews) July 26, 2018
Again, he talks and it’s believable. Alexander Hernandez is no one-hit wonder. And yeah, he knows it.
“Everybody has their initial judgments and it takes time to figure them out and see who they are and then get a true assessment of them,” he said. “So my forecast isn’t one fight, two fights. I look at five years down the road, ten years down the road, forging a legacy and letting my story be told through time. I don’t dwell on any kind of precedent that other people hold for me or expectation. I have my own mindset and my own forecast of how things will be played out.”