Alexander Hernandez is once again in a position to ask for opportunities, but this time he’s taking it slow.
The 28-year-old learned a lot from when he burst onto the scene in 2018, scoring a shocking knockout of Beneil Dariush and following that with a decisive win over veteran Olivier Aubin-Mercier. From there, it looked like Hernandez was a classic case of “too much too soon” as he suffered his first UFC loss to Donald Cerrone, won a controversial decision against Francisco Trinaldo, and then lost by TKO to Drew Dober earlier this year.
At UFC Vegas 12 two weeks ago, Hernandez rebounded with a knockout of Chris Gruetzemacher in under two minutes. It was his first finish since the Dariush win. Afterward, his celebration was rather subdued, and he passed on making a callout as he’d done in the past. It’s not that Hernandez is no longer chasing big names, it’s more so that he’s learning to pick his spots.
“Not really prepping anything like, ‘Here’s how, if I do it like this, here’s who I want to call,’” Hernandez explained in a recent interview on What the Heck. “It was just kind of like being very present, just being super present in the interviews after and in the moment and even now. I definitely changed the trajectory of what I want to do and how I want to do it. Before it was just like you’ve got to race to the top and get there and f*ck everyone along the way. Now I don’t feel that same kind of hostility or urgency.
“I’m very ambitious and I need to execute. I was having a hard time this year especially approaching my birthday because I hold such high expectations for myself every year. This was the first time in a long time where I was like, man, I don’t think that I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish this year.”
Hernandez and his team emphasized working on his mind set and achieving a more “zen” state, something that was reflected in Hernandez’s walkout music. Rather than enter to a clanging metal tune or a banging hip-hop beat, Hernandez was backed by the relatively chill tune of Dreams by Fleetwood Mac.
He feels the song reflected the positives he’s been able to take away from his recent struggles, and that the adjustments he’s made manifested themselves at last when he finished Gruetzemacher. Having seen the results, Hernandez is focusing on the process and no longer concerning himself with a fast track to a UFC championship.
“I just want to keep developing, keep building, keep making money because I’ve got a good contract now and I want to keep that growing,” Hernandez said. “I want to make some good money this year. I want to get another fight in, I want to have another excellent performance, I want to keep growing myself, and then next year I want to accomplish even more.
“But it’s not a race to the title until the title presents itself.”
Hernandez is targeting a return in December, preferably on the Dec. 19 card in Las Vegas. One name that has come up is Thiago Moises, who actually called Hernandez out after they both scored wins at UFC Vegas 12.
He sees it as a “super great fight,” and after consulting his manager, he expects to take a short-notice opportunity next and then meet Moises in early 2021.
“I was like, ‘That sounds great, that sounds perfect,’” Hernandez said. “So we’ll fight whoever and I’ll take Moises out the start of next year and then probably hit one of these [top-15] guys again and just keep fighting. I’m really just enjoying the process and not taking my time, but making my time worth something.”
His time was worth plenty in his last fight, as he not only earned his show and win money, but a $50,000 bonus as well. Hernandez wasn’t shy about touting what added up to a six-figure payday, which is one reason why he’s eager to get back to work as soon as possible.
“150 grand, baby,” Hernandez said. “150 grand, baby, let’s go. … We’re making good money. Cash in another one of those in six weeks and I’m pretty happy for the year, you know what I mean? Best [1:46] ever, that’s for sure just because of the mind and everything else. That was cool.
“It was a perfect execution of what we’ve been working, so I was happy with it. There’s always things to clean up. I’m looking at all things I need to tighten up off that performance, but I’m happy with it for sure. I haven’t said that I’ve been proud of a performance in a long time and that’s one of ‘em.”