WSOF 11 Primer: The Fall and Rise of Pablo “The Hurricane” Alfonso
He was this close to calling it quits. Almost exactly three years ago, Miami-born fighter Pablo “The Hurricane” Alfonso had just lost his third straight fight for the first time in his career. He was in a career-low slump, having gone winless in 2010, and when he dropped a unanimous decision to Chino Duran – a fighter who, though his record rests at a nigh-pedestrian 8-7, is no slouch himself – he was a hair’s breadth from hanging up his gloves and moving on to the next chapter in his life.
“He was a guy who I was supposed to beat,” Alfonso said during a phone interview three weeks ahead of his nationally televised fight against former The Ultimate Fighter cast member Cody Bollinger. “When I lost the decision, I almost quit. I almost retired. I had actually said to myself, ‘If I lose to this guy, I’m going to retire.’ I almost did, but my wife told me, ‘No, you shouldn’t quit. You’re talented. You should fix things in your life and get back to your career.’”
And he did. After getting his proverbial ducks in a row, he returned to Jorge de la Noval’s Championship Fighting Alliance reinvigorated. The Florida-based organization offered him (current UFC fighter) Patrick “The Animal” Williams as an opponent and he accepted.
Alfonso knocked him out cold in less than 90 seconds.
“Ever since I had my kids, I’ve been more motivated than before,” said the 31 year old bantamweight who trains under coach Daniel Valverde at South Florida’s MMA Masters. “Before, I was a single guy who didn’t take much seriously. I was on a winning streak early in my career and then I started losing because I was getting too confident, too cocky, and I didn’t train as much because I thought I was a superman. My kids changed my life. I had to change things in my life. Before, I was going though depression – especially during those losing streaks – and I had to change something to fix my life and myself mentally. I took a year off to fix my life and do everything I needed to do. Once I did that, I returned to training. I now train harder and with more focus.”
That focus has inarguably paid large dividends. Since coming back, Alfonso has racked off three consecutive first-round finishes. After defeating Williams, he took on well-rounded Freestyle Fighting Academy product Shah Bobonis, submitting him by rear-naked choke.
It was his next bout that would earn him the greatest notoriety of his career thus-far, however. On the strength of his two previous wins, the World Series of Fighting offered him a contract.
His first opponent: former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Angel Torres.
By now, we all know what unfolded. After a brief feeling out process that saw both fighters offer up decently effective offense, the southpaw Alfonso took advantage of an opening and swarmed, landing a pair of gorgeous overhand lefts, the second of which wobbled Torres and sent him falling back to the mat.
He worked steadily from within his opponent’s guard, at one point risking his own neck to counter with an identical guillotine choke just a few movements later.
For the second time in his career, Miguel Torres tapped out to a submission.
I asked him if he was surprised that he was able to catch such a notoriously slippery opponent – one that even current WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes couldn’t finish.
“I imagined that I was going to submit him or knock him out,” he recalled. “I’d been studying his fights and I saw that Joseph Benavidez guillotined him. He exposed him. I thought, ‘He’s submittable. ‘ I thought I could submit him with a guillotine or a rear-naked choke. Miguel Torres, he’s no slouch. He’s the real deal, he’s been a black belt in jiu-jitsu for a long time and he’s a great guy; I’d met him before and he’s a great guy, but a fight is a fight. Anything goes. To answer your question, I wasn’t surprised. I’m a submission artist; I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu for 10 years and I’ve submitted a lot of black belts.”
Alfonso’s introduction to combat sports was similar to that of many modern combatants; he started off wrestling and followed its natural path, rounding out his submission deficiencies with jiu-jitsu and his striking gaps with boxing and Muay Thai.
“In the beginning of my career, I used to go for submissions,” he said. “I liked to take people down. Now, I like to strike. I discovered I have heavy hands and have dropped people back-to-back in my fights. I feel very comfortable standing. I look for openings. Whatever’s open, I’ll go for it.”
This weekend at WSOF 11: Gaethje vs. Newell, he plans on extending his win streak to four – a first in his career – and he wasn’t the least bit coy when asked what he believed was his surest route to victory.
“Jiu-jitsu,” he said almost immediately after I finished asking the question. “I think it’s [Bollinger’s] jiu-jitsu. He’s well rounded, but I think I have better jiu-jitsu than him and he knows it, too. I believe it’s going to start off as a striking match. It’s going to be a very interesting, exciting fight.”
He also, to paraphrase a certain French Canadian former welterweight champion, was not impressed with Bollinger’s performance.
“I guess he was injured. That’s what he said in his interview, that he had rib problems. I thought Tyson Nam won that fight.”
Pablo Alfonso belongs to that rare subset of fighters who use their time outside of the cage or ring to heal and enhance the lives of others. When he isn’t fighting, he works as a personal trainer and Charot-Marie Tooth Syndrome (a neurological disorder which causes damage to the peripheral nervous system along the spinal cord which relay sensations such as pain and touch to the central nervous system) therapist for NFC Amenity Management, a growing New Jersey-based company who oversees the operations of fitness and spa centers inside properties from Manhattan to Miami.
“I help a lot of people here,” he said proudly. “Where I’m working, it’s a private condo. There are a few people with multiple sclerosis or CMT syndrome and I just help them out, which is great. It feels good to make people feel better.”
Pablo Alfonso is fighting Cody Bollinger on the main card of WSOF 11: Gaethje vs. Newell. Click HERE for more information.
(Slider image courtesy of Team MMA Masters.)
- Brazilian jiu-jitsu
- Championship Fighting Alliance
- Chino Duran
- Cody Bollinger
- Combat Sports
- Daniel Valverde
- Freestyle Fighting Academy
- Jesse Scheckner
- Jorge De La Noval
- Joseph Benavidez
- Marlon Moraes
- Miguel Angel Torres
- Miguel Torres
- Mixed Martial Arts
- MMA Masters
- Muay Thai
- New Jersey
- Pablo Alfonso
- Patrick Williams
- The Ultimate Fighter
- Tyson Nam
- World Series of Fighting
- WSOF 11
- WSOF 11: Gaethje vs. Newell