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Alexander returns to cage

Daniel Alexander will once again chase his dream right into the cage Thursday night when he takes part in Rock ‘n the Cage 2 at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Miss. The Thanksgiving night mixed martial arts event, put on by Atlas Fights, will allow the Thomaston native to put his 2-0 amateur record on the line in his first contest in more than a year.

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” Alexander said of his goal of becoming a professional MMA competitor. “Some kids, it’s football. Some, it’s basketball. For me, it’s this.”

Alexander watched the renowned UFC promotion as a child, sparking his interest in the sport at an early age. At 17, he took his dream into his own hands.

“I’d always watched UFC growing up and always wanted to do that because it looked like a lot of fun,” Alexander said. “I’d never played any sport or anything because I was homeschooled.”

His involvement with the sport began when he attended church one Sunday and heard some of the men talking about a mixed martial arts event Terry Vice hosted at the National Guard Armory. Alexander looked up Vice in the phone book and began down the road toward his goal. At the time Alexander weighed 130 pounds. Now 20, he has beefed up to 162 pounds and expanded his in-ring capabilities by training with Jay Russell at Ross Taekwondo.

“He’s got great boxing skills and excellent submission grappling,” Russell said of Alexander’s greatest strengths. “And it seems like the more you push him, thre stronger he gets.”

Russell and Alexander have spent much of the last few months focusing on the young fighter’s grappling abilities.

“When he came to us, he was already a good boxer,” Russell said. “We added some positions (to his grappling) that help him with his ground and pound.”

Alexander’s time working with Russell has also added some measure of kicking ability to his repertoire.

“It makes him more dangerous,” Russell said of Alexander’s new found striking ability.

“I never was really good at kicks,” Alexander said. “Jay is a Taekwondo guy and karate guy and he has really awesome kicks. All that I can do now as far as kicks, I owe to him.”

During his time away from the cage, Alexander has asserted himself in another arena, bringing home three Alabama Karate Circuit state championships.

His titles include men’s lightweight no-gi submission grappling, men’s lightweight gi grappling and men’s lightweight beginning-intermediate continuous fighting.

“My technique has gotten a lot better and my control and definitely my strength,” Alexander said. “I have gotten a lot stronger. But the biggest thing is my technique.”

All the training points to a much-improved fighter stepping into the cage Thursday night.

“Daniel is one of the most talented athletes I’ve ever worked with,” Russell said of the young man who is nicknamed War Machine. “He is extremely strong, has incredible stamina and I couldn’t think of any better prepared he could be.”

Thursday night in Biloxi, Alexander will return to the place where he takes his dream into his own hands.

In that place everything else will become secondary, even his desire to be noticed by professional scouts. There will be his hands, his feet, his training and the poor guy across the cage.

“It’s a mixture of excitement, nervousness and all around anticipation,” Alexander said. “When you walk in that cage, the door closes behind you and your back’s against the wall, you have no place to go but forward. You find out what people are truly made of.”