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MMA hopeful trains in Demopolis

Spike TV’s next Ultimate Fighter just might have left Demopolis this week. Mike Alexander, project manager for a government contractor that just completed its task of putting a new roof on the local Coast Guard building, arrived in Demopolis March 29. Since that time, he has sought ways to continue the daily training required to achieve his dream of competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

“the UFC is the pinnacle, it’s the mountain top,” Alexander said. My motivation is that every UFC champion except one is over 30 and they all seem to be in the prime of their careers.”

The 34-year-old Alexander has maintained his training by working out at Ross Martial Arts in Demopolis, a school operated by Jay and Rhonda Russell.

“It’s been cool to have somebody at his level come and train with us,” Jay Russell said. “We’ve just been blessed. We’re very fortunate to have people at this caliber coming in to train with us.”

When at home in Fort Worth, Texas Alexander trains with Travis Lutter.

“Travis has one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools in the nation,” Alexander said. “Royce (Gracie) recognizes that I guess. They invited him to come down a couple times a year.”

A few weeks ago, Alexander flew home to take advantage of that opportunity, training with Gracie, the mixed martial arts legend.

Over the last year and a half or so, the sport has become a bit of an obsession for Alexander, a former semi-pro football player.

“A friend of mine, Brad Imes, he was on season two of The Ultimate Fighter,” Alexander explained. “He went all the way to the finals. He and I played semi-pro football together and he told me it was something I’d be interested in. I went out to watch him fight Rashad Evans in the finals in Vegas and I was hooked.”

Alexander initially began toying with the sport, but admits it has become much bigger to him over the last two years.

“I kind of dabbled in it initially and have really made it my lifestyle over the last year or two,” Alexander said. “After I came back from Vegas, I didn’t really jump into it head first. But about a year ago, I decided I wanted to get in the cage.”

But as hard as he trains, Alexander understands that reaching the proverbial mountain top is as much about opportunity as it is about work ethic. With the establishment and subsequent success of the reality series The Ultimate Fighter, a show in which the winner is granted a UFC contract, Alexander and other hopefuls have another vehicle by which to make it to sport’s top promotion. However, getting a slot on the reality series is almost as daunting as the cage itself.

“I’m not on there yet, but the opportunity has come about because Brad was on season two and Travis was on season four,” Alexander said. “We’ve had a lot of guys from our school and guys I know who have been on the show.

“Worst case, I should be able to fight to at least get into the house. If that happens, I think I’m well-rounded enough to make it into the house.”

Since there is no open tryout for the show, Alexander has to wait for an invitation to do an interview. Prior to that, he had to film a promotional video and do a photo shoot.

To this point, Alexander has been in the cage three times and boasts a record of 2-1.

“I lost my first fight and that is the one I feel like I learned the most from,” Alexander said of a match in which he dominated the first round. “I made a mistake and he took advantage of it.”

Alexander, who joined the Navy after high school, said his goal is to be well-rounded as a fighter. As such, he has spent time working on his striking and wrestling skills.

“When I am training for a fight, that is the one thing think about. Am I training harder than my opponent,” Alexander said. Alexander has also spent much of the last two weeks traveling to Tuscaloosa to help John Salter train for his upcoming bout at UFC 113.

“It’s been a great experience,” Alexander said. “John is a world class wrestler, so it’s helped me improve my wrestling skills as well.”

“Mike is really the first person I’ve met that lives the lifestyle,” Russell said of Alexander. “It won’t surprise me at all to see him on The Ultimate Fighter.”

While Alexander is focused squarely on trying to qualify for the Spike TV series, he is also aware that there are other doors into UFC.

“That is not the end of the road for me,” Alexander, who has his first professional fight in June for the Texas Ultimate Fighting promotion, said. “That is not the only way to get into UFC.”