Alex White Rises
At 19-years-old Alex White was on the roadway of mediocrity and nearing the exit of self destruction.
On the surface, things appeared normal.
White was working at a Dollar General warehouse making a little over $12-an-hour. But underneath that, apathy and bad decisions were starting to take ahold.
“I used to spend all of my paychecks, blowing it on alcohol and food and partying all the time,” he said. “It got bad there for a little bit, drinking wise. You have to watch out for the crowd that you hang out with and I was hanging out with the wrong crowd.”
Around that time, White visited Ironton because his mother and step dad weren’t in the best of health at the time. While there he stumbled over and found Joe Worden and Destruction MMA.
“I knew I was going to be there for a couple of months. I figured I could do something while I’m down here,” White said. “They were great people, easy to get along with and I got into it. I decided to get a part time job and start training.”
And from there, the metamorphosis began to happen.
White slowly but surely became one of the region’s most dominant amateur fighters, going 15-0 and winning multiple muay thai and boxing titles along the way. He is now an undefeated pro who is a powerhouse 145-pounder.
On Friday, the 24-year-old White will face Roy Babcock at Titan 26 in Kansas City in a featherweight bout that will air live on AXS TV.
The 37-year-old Babcock is 7-1 and has spent a majority of his time at welterweight. He is a southpaw, like White, and his last outing, a first round submission victory over 32-22 Sean Wilson, was at lightweight. Of his seven wins, four of which have come by submission. This will be his first cut to featherweight.
“My coach tells me he is a purple belt in jiu-jitsu and has a little bit of striking. I’m willing to test both of those,” White said. “I’m not going to take anything away from him. That’s the worst thing I can do. But I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. I’m going to pull whatever I need to pull.”
Worden is confident that Babcock is getting the best Alex White there has been.
“Alex is on point,” Worden said. “I don’t want to sound too confident but I don’t see them beating us. Alex is a better athlete and a lot younger. He’s turned the corner. If this guy’s plan is to tire Alex out and try taking him into deep waters, he’s in trouble. Alex does more rounds than anyone in our gym.”
White is 6-0 with his last three wins coming over Javon Wright, Charon Spain, and Adam Ward.
Ward was White’s toughest test to date. The Chicago-area wrestler looked good early but couldn’t hang on as White earned a split decision nod.
“He was a great fighter and that was a very close match,” White said. “Those kind of fights are what drive me to get better. I was just too long on the ground. I needed to sweep, submit or push off. I enjoyed it because it was tough. Even if it went to a rematch, I’d probably do it because he pushed me and I hate the idea that some people thought I won because I was the hometown boy.”
White has four submission wins to his credit and his ground game has even gotten better.
“In the last three weeks, Alex has subbed everybody,” Worden added.
In the five years of training and competing together, Worden has never seen White so dialed in.
“This is the most motivated I have ever seen him,” he said. “He told me the other day, ‘I will finish this guy.’ He’s never said anything like that to me before.”
White’s combat background is pure mixed martial arts. There is no boxing or wrestling crutches to fall back on so Worden began the process of building him from the bottom up.
In high school White avoided trouble by keeping himself preoccupied with cross country and track.
“If it wasn’t sports, I was working,” he said.
But he was always fascinated by martial arts and soaked in many high-octane action movies.
“I’ve always watched Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li movies and was always interested in that,” he said. “Me and a group of people would put boxing gloves on and mess around.”
Contrary to popular belief, being an up-and-coming professional fighter on the regional circuit doesn’t lend itself to a bountiful bank account. The consistent check from back in the Dollar General Warehouse days could come in handy. But if it was all about the dollars, White wouldn’t be doing this anyway.
“It’s harder. I don’t make as much money as I used to, but it’s definitely worth it,” White said. “To me, I have met some great people out of it. If I didn’t come down here to do this I think I’d just be another guy with a gut belly that brags about drinking with nothing to show for it.”
White has fought out of the country for Team USA, going 5-0 in international competition. To prepare for Babcock, he went to noted Grindhouse MMA in Lee’s Summit and also locally at Fit or Fight/Berger’s MMA, St. Charles MMA, and Jason Smith for jiu-jitsu as well as the usual crew at Destruction MMA, featuring Eric Irvin and Shaine Moffitt.
“When we go on road trips, that makes memories and that’s one of the best parts I like,” he said. “Travelling lets you know who is all out there. We went out to Grindhouse for part of this training camp and there are some tough people there. It makes you think, OK, there’s better people out there too, I have to get better or I’m going to get my butt whooped.”
White seems so far removed from those blurry, hungover days. He’s now married with a one-year-old daughter.
“It changed a lot,” he said. “We have to watch the stuff we do and the stuff we say, it takes a lot of time and energy. At first it’s hard, mixing the two. It’s just something that grows on you. It’s a job but it’s not.”
White still works part-time at, of all places, McDonald’s, which may be the last place you’d expect a pro athlete to spend his days.
“They have flexible hours and are willing to work around my training,” White said. “It’s tough being around the food. You have to be mentally strong. At first I sucked at it. During my first couple of weight cuts I was eating this and that. Now that I’m at a lower weight class I can’t do that so much.”
No matter how Friday night shakes out, White knows now that he going in the right direction. He’s found the right outlet and the right crew to not only better his situation but better his life.
“I’ve gotten a lot farther than what some of my friends and family thought I would,” he said. “I was just a little guy in high school and kept to myself. Now they’re excited for me and telling me that I can go places.
“(Fighting) is about the competition and pushing yourself but it’s also the people in your life that you have an effect on. Whenever you start to get to a certain level and you start getting a little bit of recognition you want to continue to push yourself and that’s what I plan to do.”