KO artist Alex Nicholson on opponent Muhammed De’Reese: “We’ll shake hands and try to kill each other”
By all accounts, multi-promotional and multi-divisional mixed marital artist Alex “The Spartan” Nicholson is a damn nice guy outside of the cage, as his past and future opponents—namely his next one, Muhammed “Da Beast” De’Reese—can attest.
Inside it, however, the 24-year-old is a verifiable monster. He’s gone 5-1 as a pro and only a two opponents—Island Fights’ marquee fighter and lauded heavyweight prospect Dillon Clecker, who before meeting Nicholson had a pristine 8-0 record comprised almost entirely of first round knockouts; and Mark Inge, who we’ll discuss shortly—have managed to escape the first round against him.
As he tells it, his action-oriented style and propensity for staying busy (he’s already punched his time card twice this year, knocking out both opponents in less time than it takes to boil water) hasn’t gone unnoticed by MMA’s Mount Olympus.
“I was told that, as I stand, I could probably get into the UFC if I just waited,” he said. “I could just sit on these wins and the momentum I have and be a fill-in or something like that, if I just waited, at 205 or as a heavyweight. But I just don’t… I didn’t get to where I am by sitting around and waiting. That’s not my style.”
Nicholson cut his teeth in martial arts at an early age. His father, a Marine, professional kickboxer and bodybuilder, introduced him to Tae Kwon Do and Gōjū ryū, one of the main Okinawan styles of karate. He is currently a black belt in the former. At 17, he had to make a choice between basketball—a sport the 6’4” fighter was physically suited for—and the hard road of combat sports. He chose the more honest, self-reliant route.
He trained jiu-jitsu and is now a blue belt. However, he says he might be due for a promotion; he just hasn’t applied for it yet.
“I haven’t tested in a long time. I roll with guys all the time and can roll with the higher-level guys with no problem.”
He won several Muay Thai titles, competed in the Golden Gloves and secured four amateur MMA titles before deciding to turn pro early last year.
If he’d had it his way, he would have gone pro even sooner.
“I actually tried to go pro when I went up for an amateur fight [along with] Din Thomas in Alabama,” said the part-time ATT Orlando and Swat team member. “My guy backed out and I was like, “Well, I’ll just go pro.’ I asked around, but none of the pro guys wanted to fight me, which I thought was kind of funny. I was [fighting at 185 lbs.] and I was like, ‘I’ll fight at 205, whatever. I came all the way up to Alabama. I want to fight. I’m good.’ Nobody wanted it.”
As he gained experience in the amateur circuit, Nicholson found making the 185 lb. weight limit an increasingly arduous task. He could make it, sure, but it taxed his body and he found himself alternating wins and losses. His lone professional excursion below 200 lbs. resulted in his only loss to date (the Mark Inge fight at Top Alliance Combat 1 in April 2014).
“I’d go down to 185 if I had to—I would—but I prefer 205 and I like heavyweight because I feel I have a speed advantage over most of those guys,” he said. “I’ve got that grown man weight on me now. I’ve got more muscle. I could do it now if need be, but it’s tough.”
Regularly fluctuating in weight is tough for a fighter, but Nicholson—who already has his next fight scheduled: a possible heavyweight title fight at Island Fights 34 against Chaz Morgan (5-1)—has found support in the most unlikely person possible: his opponent next Friday at FCF Pro Live II: Muhammed De’Reese, a part-time Blackzilian member, former semi-pro footballer and aspiring gangsta rapper who Nicholson refers to familiarly as “Mo.”
“It’s funny, because I messaged Mo and said, ‘Are you okay with fighting at 215? I don’t want to go all the way down to 205 and have to gain all the weight back for heavyweight.’ And he was cool with it.”
His and “Mo’s” relationship is so friendly it’s almost hard to believe sometimes that he’s actually going to step in the cage with the highly-touted, undefeated (4-0) former Titusville state wrestling champion and three-time University of Central Florida all-conference honoree.
As for how he plans on dealing with De’Reese’s wrestling acumen, which easily is the most pedigreed he’s faced yet:
“I’m not going to shy away from wrestling him,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of wrestling. Against [Dillon Clecker], I shot my underhooks well, made it hard for him to hold me down and worked on popping up quickly. In this fight, I think I’m going to go with the GSP strategy: play into his strength and show it’s not a weakness of mine. I told him, ‘I’m kind of disappointed I’m going to have to wait so long to show you my wrestling skills!’ But me and Mo, we’re cool. We’ll shake hands and try to kill each other.”
As for how he envisions the fight playing out:
“It’s going to be a good fight. I see either me standing over him knocked out or him standing over me knocked out. I’m not going to talk too much trash. Of course, I’m always confident in myself. I’m confident in my submission game as well, but I don’t see either one of us as the type of guy to tap, so I think I’ll outclass him with my striking. Like I said, I won’t be afraid to wrestle. I see myself victorious either way.”
Florida Championship Fighting: Pro Live II takes place on May 22 at the Shrine Auditorium in Orlando, FL. The doors open at 6 p.m., with the first fight starting at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit FCFighting.com.