Eye on the Prize – An Interview with Alex Soto

Alex Soto, photograph courtesy of Alex Soto
Alex Soto, photograph courtesy of Alex Soto

TheFightVoice sits down with MMA fighter Alex Soto has he prepares for his return to the ring Saturday July 19 at XFS Cerebral.

The business of the fight game can dish out harsh realities to aspiring young fighters who are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accept an insurmountable challenge with the odds stacked against them. But nevertheless, the fighter, who is trained to accept these challenges, must stand tall and do his or her best to come out on top regardless of the uphill battle that lies ahead.

Alex Soto (6-2-1), who was born in Tijuana, Mexico and resides in San Diego, is finishing his fifth hour of a two-session workout that started at 6 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m. with a full day of work in between. Soto, who has fought twice in the UFC, is preparing for his return back to the cage where he will be fighting on Saturday, July 19 at Xplode Fight Series in Valley Center, California.

“I am ready for it! It has been two years this May since I fought and I am ready to go. Period,” says Soto.

Soto, who trains at SD Combat Academy under legendary trainer and former fighter Manolo “El Huracan” Hernandez, will be back in the cage for the first time in two years and feels excited to get back to his winning ways.

“Camp has been really good,” says Soto. He adds, “It has been a really stress free camp, which has made it really good for me. I have focused on being relaxed and calm this camp, which is different from my last couple fights where I felt very rushed.”

During our time together Soto explains that his time off from fighting gave him an opportunity to reevaluate his career and appreciate the bigger things that life has to offer.

“I was out of fighting for all that time because I had a baby girl. I had to step back and get control of what I had going on with my job, my family and my baby,” says Soto.

The maturation of a fighter over a long career of highs and lows can vary. For some fighters, their ability to adapt to drastic life changes, like fatherhood, can deter them from continuing on the path to achieving their goals. For Soto, that is far from the truth.

“I have it under control and I can manage all of it. Everything is very stable and I can dedicate the time to training and my daughter that I need too,” say Soto.

I have only met Alex Soto once, so it is hard for me to tell you about how he has changed over the years, as a fighter and as a person, however, his enthusiasm for where his life is after the birth of his daughter demonstrates that fighting and life can be one in the same.

“One of the things about fighting is that in a nutshell fighting is life. You have good times, you have bad times, ups and downs…fighting is exactly that…If you get knocked down you have to get back up. And for me, I want to show that to my daughter…I want to show her you can’t quit no matter what,” says Soto.

Photograph courtesy of Alex Soto
Photograph courtesy of Alex Soto

For Alex Soto quitting is not an option. Despite his two losses in the UFC, one bout where he was a late addition to a fight against highly-ranked fighter Michael McDonald, Soto strongly feels that he can make his way back to the Octagon and show the world what he is made of.

“I was fortunate enough to fight Mike McDonald which was awesome…one of the top guy in the UFC and I got to roll with him…that was special,” says Soto.

Soto, who was notified two weeks prior to the fight against McDonald, was at SD Combat Academy lifting weights with his strength coach when he received that important call from the UFC.

“It was awesome and surreal at the same time. It is one of those moments that doesn’t happen every day and you really have to appreciate it. I was actually right here at the gym doing power squats at the time with Bill Crawford my conditioning coach. Literally we were in the middle of a set and he was like ‘guess what man you just got a fight in the UFC…’ I was floored man. It a special time for me that I will never forget,” says Soto.

Soto lost to McDonald at UFC 139 and since then has continued to work his way back by developing as a fighter. The experience for Soto was something he will not only remember, but also will draw from as he continues on his path back to the UFC.

“Even though I ended up losing, it was such a cool experience and that is the way I look at all my fights. They are all individual experience that are unique. And they all help me to get better and move on with my career,” says Soto.

It is obvious that Alex Soto has the tools to compete at the highest level in the MMA world. With a solid all-around game, an elite team and a willingness to learn, Soto strives to get one more opportunity to make his presence known at the highest level in mixed martial arts.

“The only thing that really pissed me off was that I didn’t get to really showcase what I can do. I work so hard and I just didn’t get to show the world what I am about. It gave me a little bit of a chip on my shoulder honestly,” says Soto.

The unfortunate truth in today’s fight game is that the increasing popularity of the sport has created a scenario where there is a large supply of fighters and not enough demand. If a fighter loses he, or she, may not be afforded the opportunity to return to the cage and redeem themselves like they have in the past. The fighter’s job is to make sure that they take every opportunity they are presented so they are ready when the phone rings. For Soto, this fact is no different.

“I am trying to get as many fights in as I can right now. After this fight I will be ready to go again next month. And after that I will be ready to go again. I want to keep fighting. The ultimate goal is to get back into the UFC. That’s the dream right now,” says Soto.

For the time being, until the caller I.D. on his phone says “Joe Silva Mobile,” Soto is fortunate enough to train with a great team at SD Combat Academy and fight on an exciting card like the one Xplode Fight Series is showcasing Saturday, July 19 in northern San Diego. The fight card, which is being touted as “Cerebral” will have over 30 fights in both the amateur and professional ranks with some of the best talent in San Diego entering the cage.

“This will be my first fight with XFS. I was supposed to fight with them a few years ago and the week before my fight, I was contacted by the UFC,” says Soto.

“I had to take the UFC fight obviously and XFS understood that. It shows that they are committed to helping fighters get to the next level and showcasing some of San Diego’s best MMA talent,” says Soto.

Alex Soto, photograph courtesy of Alex Soto
Alex Soto, photograph courtesy of Alex Soto

The fight is days away and Soto is determined to make his presence known. Soto spent nearly two years outside of the cage and feels he is ready to get his career back on track. Soto truly believes that his experiences inside the cage, whether good or bad, and the team around him are going to be the keys to his success. Every victory starts with the people around camp and ends with the wealth of knowledge available to a fighter.

“I am more experienced today then I was years ago. And I am smarter because of the people around me,” says Soto.

“It has been a really good camp overall and I was able to train with some great people who are improving my game. I have worked closely with Walel Watson and Team Hurricane Awesome, rolled jiu-jitsu with Boogeyman Martinez who just got signed with Titan Fight Championship and improved my striking with Jose Tapia…all of these guys are super talented and it helps to learn from them,” says Soto.

With the wealth of talent and cage-experience available to him, Soto, still doesn’t know who he is fighting this weekend at the Xplode Fight Series event. But for Soto, that isn’t an issue and doesn’t alter his mindset when he enters the cage.

“You know what it doesn’t matter. It’s all about my preparation, how I have changed from my last fight and how I execute. Win, lose or draw it’s all about did I grow from my last fight,” says Soto.

In addition to fine-tuning his physical skills, Soto also prepares his mind for the task at hand. Balancing his family life, training and career have been challenging, however, Soto feels that all of those things have helped him mentally. For Soto, it is all about having the right mindset and staying in control at all times.

“My mindset now is to be smarter. Too fight smarter, train smarter and act smarter. Having that mindset is key for me absolutely,” says Soto.

“Staying in control can be tough, and you have to understand that the sport is violent. You have to be aggressive and you have to calculate your risks and go for the kill when a window presents itself,” says Soto.

The fight game is a nasty business and losing a fight can be devastating to a fighter’s career. In the fight game, one person will come out victorious and be granted more lucrative opportunities, while the other fighter must accept defeat, learn from the experience and improve the next time around.

“I am trying to get into the September card honestly and if the UFC will have me I will be ready to go. I am ready to take as many fights as I can right now and if the UFC called I am there. I know I’m not the only fighter saying that, but I really mean it,” says Soto.

For a fighter the only thing they can do is move on. Grow. Learn. Change. And hope that one day another opportunity on the biggest stage will appear. That one day, a simple phone call or text message will hold the key to a locked door that leads to a future in the sport they love. For Soto, he hopes to find that key and enter that door now.

“I really hope I get another chance to demonstrate what I am made of. I feel like I didn’t get that chance,” says Soto.

Alex would like to thank his family and friends for their continued support, Team Hurricane Awesome, SD Combat Academy, Boogeyman Martinez, Jose Tapia, Bahrain MMA and Me Vale Madre MMA Clothing. Also thanks to everyone who is coming to watch me fight!

You can catch Alex Soto in action this Saturday July 19 at Xplode Fight Series “Cerebral” in Valley Center, California, follow him on Twitter @sotomma and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/alejandro.soto.127.

Special thanks to Alex Soto, Manolo “El Huracan” Hernandez, Gregg Sharp and SD Combat Academy.

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