At 135-pounds, Alexandra Florez doesn’t look like much of a threat. Don’t let her small figure or shyness confuse you for weakness or someone who is easily intimidated. She has taken bullying during her childhood and turned it into a successful amateur mixed martial arts endeavor.
Known in the ring as “The Alley Cat,” Florez has learned to use Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, wrestling and kick boxing to her advantage in and out of the ring.
“I got picked on a lot in school,” she said. “I went to six different high schools. Kids bullied the hell out of me. I took it and took it and took it and then, I snapped — and I was a bad guy. So, I’ve developed a bit of a temper. And this is a nice outlet to try to do something positive.”
After an incident over a year ago where she defended herself and posted about it on social media, women in the community and around the globe who follow her praised her for her actions. They also informed her, she was an inspiration to learn more about the different martial arts available outside of normal self-defense classes offered.
“It was awesome,” she said of learning about her inspirational story. “The first 19 years of my life I was just told I was this angry, worthless, hateful thing and I wasn’t capable of anything. And to hear that, I’m not such a bad guy after all.”
Florez walked into Rico Steele’s Martial Arts Academy three years ago and was hooked from the beginning she said.
Owner and coach Rico Steele saw something in her and found out she was interested in competing.
“When she came in, she said she wanted to do it,” he said. “And there’s a lot of people that come in, they say they want to do it, say they want to do whatever — but she actually came and she followed through. She’s put the work in, and from where she was at versus where she’s at right now — it’s been incredible to watch.”
Steele was also able to personally relate to her background.
“The whole reason we’re even having this conversation right now is because I was bullied as a kid, and that’s how I got into martial arts,” he said. “So, for her to kind of come up the same way, I can definitely relate with that. When she gets in there, I think she kind of feels like an alley cat because she has something to prove. I think subconsciously maybe those things were there like ‘hey, you know, I’m being bullied again I’m not gonna let this person have that power and control over me.’”
Four days a week Florez can be found in the gym working out. When she changes from a normal routine to one to prepare for a fight, she just picks up the intensity, she said.
“I show up Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 9 p.m., do Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu (and) I’ll do a few rounds on the bag to try keep myself in shape,” she said. “During a fight (camp), it’s just amped up nothing really changes.”
Fight camp lasts for about six weeks leading up to the fight. Unfortunately, this time Florez was given four weeks to prepare for a Feb. 1 fight in Junction City.
She was originally scheduled months ago to fight, but her opponent backed out. Around the New Year holiday she was asked by Steele if she was interested in a fight.
Steele said there are just a few areas he and her other coaches, Markus Barrett and Doc Holiday, are working on during this high intensity phase.
“There’s just some technical things I want fixed,” he said. “Really just her kicks, like mixing her punches and kicks together better for the transitions and just her movement — that’s it.”
Barrett said the training portion of a fight is the hardest thing to overcome.
“Well, just training for a fight — it’s hard,” he said. “The training itself, if you go through a hard camp, that should be the hardest part of the fight. The fight is just the icing on the cake it’s nine minutes. Here, she’s on the mat for three hours a day, which was rough. It’s brutal, trying to go through it. Waking up sore every day, trying to get everything moving. You have to stretch out, gotta do roadwork. Gotta do your grappling, gotta do your spars — getting hit in the face, getting kicked, bruises on the legs — I mean, that’s just rough.”
With just under a week to finish preparing, Florez said she was confident in herself, yet nervous at the same time. That is something Steele said he likes to hear from a fighter.
“So the thing about the nerves is this, I like to say, and it’s what my coach told me, he said ‘That nerves keep you sharp,’” Steele said. “It’s not one of these things where you want to go into the fight and if I’m not nervous and I go into the fight I don’t respect my opponent and respect what they can do to me that I might get knocked out. I might catch a shot. But at the same time, if I’m too nervous and I’m too tense, it messes with my breathing, messes with my muscles. I’m already adrenaline dumping so I’m just going to be burning energy — I’m not gonna throw a punch, my arms are going to feel like concrete. So you gotta have just a good balance of nerves.”
Florez will square off against Annabel Kelly, a 19-year-old fighter out of Minnesota who is 0-3-0 in her short amateur career. Kelly has gone the distance once, falling to a judges decision. Her other two losses have come from submissions in the first round in each of those fights.
Florez, 2-0, defeated Rosa Medrano in September via triangle choke in the third round and defeated Jessica Link last March — in Junction City — via technical knockout in the first round due to referee stoppage from strikes.
Never Surrender MMA Full Battle Rattle 3 takes place Saturday at the Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center at 7:30 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m., and will feature Florez and a co-main event with one fighter making his pro-debut.