Exclusive: Alexander “The Great” Hernandez looks forward to taking out Donald Cerrone

“You didn’t know me then, but I bet you know me now,” were the words of a stoic, young newcomer Alex Hernandez just moments after pulling off a shocking upset on the UFC 222 undercard. The last thing anyone expected was for a relatively unknown fighter to step into the octagon on nine days notice and take on a well-rounded, top-15 ranked opponent in his UFC debut. The fans did not see it coming, nor did the oddsmakers, and least of all – Beneil Dariush.

Almost no one except his team and Hernandez himself expected the lightweight prospect from South Texas to steamroll his opponent in under a minute. In fact, when MMA Latest spoke with him before his UFC debut, he and his coaches predicted a dominant finish from “The Great”.

Riding a 2-fight win streak in the promotion and an 8-fight streak overall, at 10-1 he is facing his most experienced and accomplished opponent yet in Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, by far. We caught up with him again as makes his final preparations to step into the octagon to welcome “Cowboy” Cerrone back to the lightweight division on the first-ever UFC card on ESPN.

Hernadez met the task with the confidence and bravado that most have come to expect, “Donald Cerrone’s fighting Alexander ‘The Great’ so I’m pretty excited for him,” Hernandez said with a grin.

Of course, he understands the significance of this occasion, fighting a legend on a legendary network in ESPN. “I’m grateful to him for taking the fight, in all seriousness, and of course (to the) UFC for giving me this opportunity.

His gratitude is certainly warranted. He knows as well as anyone that the majority of top-10 lightweights will avoid the rising star for as long as they can. They know that stepping into the cage with a lesser-known, yet highly dangerous opponent is a lose-lose situation. A win does not do much for a guy like Kevin Lee or Edson Barboza, who is ranked above Hernandez but a loss would be completely devastating to their title aspirations for the unforeseen future.

“All kinds of opportunities come floating by and I grab every one of them,” he said, possibly referring to some other high profile fights that never materialized. In fact, his answer was in response to rumours that he was briefly linked to a fight with Justin Gaethje that failed to come together.

Instead, Hernandez was drawn Francisco Trinaldo, who was supposed to fight at UFC Anaheim. Then one day, after a hard training session, he looked at his phone and saw half a dozen alerts.

“I had a couple of missed FaceTime calls and a few texts from my manager (Jason House of Iridium Sports). The first text I read said ‘call me ASAP’ so I knew it was good news.”

What his manager told him gave him chills. Sean Shelby had personally reached out to Jason House with Alex in mind as the first choice to fight Donald Cerrone. House told him to run it by his head coach, Jason Yerrington of Ohana Academy, but Hernandez had already made up his mind.

“Everyone respects Cerrone. He’s definitely going to go down in the UFC Hall of Fame. That’s why it’s fuckin’ huge that I get to take him out before he’s done. That’s incredible, and it’s all out of respect, but I’m gonna fuckin’ end him.”

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