For Alex Caceres, the journey is the destination.
At UFC Vegas 66, Caceres delivered one of the best performances of his career, knocking out Julian Erosa with a head-kick in the first round. The finish earned Caceres his fourth “Performance of the Night” bonus and was an excellent rebound after he lost a unanimous decision to Sodiq Yusuff in March. But for as good as the performance was, he is not tooting his own horn.
“I would say, for the fight itself, it doesn’t get necessarily better than that,” Caceres told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “We were able to walk out in the first round, didn’t really get touched at all, no injuries whatsoever, and come out with a bonus, so it was a very good performance.
“I can’t say it’s my best performance. I wouldn’t know what my best performance would be. I feel like my best performance would be somewhere in the gym, probably.”
Caceres has been with the UFC since 2011, joining the promotion after The Ultimate Fighter season 12. He’s had his share of ups and downs in the octagon; with a UFC record 15-11 and 1 no-contest, he’s lost almost as much as he’s won. That seems to have given him a particular perspective about fighting and its aftermath.
For “Bruce Leeroy,” it’s not about wins and losses, it’s about the art of doing.
“That’s always been the mindset that I was trying to achieve, that I’m trying to achieve all the time,” Caceres said when asked why he didn’t celebrate. “Because life is going to go on no matter what. Whether you win or whether you lose, people are going to go back to work tomorrow, and they’re going to go about their own busy lives, so I do want to revel in those moments in the moment, but afterward, to celebrate something you did, have already done, and not celebrating it in the moment is kind of living in the past. To live in the future would be to worry about an outcome, and I don’t want to do that either. I just want to go in there just living in the present, and I celebrate every punch, I celebrate every movement that I take, that I’m able to do it, and that is my celebration, the actual action and the deed, not what comes afterward, which is just the result.”
“Of course, I revel in my victories, but it’s in the moment,” Caceres continued. “What I’m doing in the moment. Every time I land a punch, that’s a celebration to me. I don’t know, it’s weird. For me to celebrate something that could happen to anybody or that anybody could do — I don’t know. It’s not that special to me to win fights. To fight is something special for me. So to actually do that, to see my movement in action is more of a celebration for me than cheering after the fight and everything like that.”
According to Caceres, this is not a new take on life; this is how he’s felt, in one way or another, for his entire career.
“I’ve always had that mindset, even if I didn’t know about it,” he said. “And I can say everybody has that mindset, even if they say that they don’t, that they are goal-oriented. It’s bulls***. … This is why people can achieve so many things and become successful but still unsatisfied: Because they’re living for the goals, and once you reach the goal and you don’t have another goal to reach for, then you’re depressed.
“Ask fighters, when they don’t have a fight to battle in. Don’t you hear them talking about how depressing it is, how boring it is? Because they’re focused on just the next big thing. If martial arts was your life and your lifestyle — I’m never bored, because every day I go to train and try something new, I get to do what I love, and I’m involved in that journey. So I’m never satisfied, either. I’m never going to get to a point where I want to stop, because this is my life. It’s not something I do, it’s not something that I’m trying to do, it’s something I am.”
What Caceres is now is highly successful. Caceres has won six of his past seven fights and just cracked the UFC’s top-15 featherweight rankings. At 34-years-old, he believes he’s only getting better.
“I feel like I’m in my prime,” Caceres said. “I’m not aging a bit. I feel younger now than I was before, honestly. I have less injuries, no bumps or bruises, I have more energy, I train like a motherf*****, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, I do shark tank round with a bunch of young guys who are all in their 20s or even younger, and I get them all tired within a minute and 30 seconds.
“I just don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. Something in my brain feels like it clicked, and I think it’s just self-belief, self-awareness. I never had that.”