Conical hats, oriental headbands, yellow Bruce Lee-like jump suits and many more traditional martial art threads are part of what makes Alex Caceres one of the most colorful and memorable personalities in MMA.
Many fans have enjoyed Caceres' unique persona, which stems from the main character of the 1985 cult classic film The Last Dragon, since his appearance as part of Team Georges St-Pierre during Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, which aired in September 2010 on Spike TV.
But this Saturday, things are about to change for "Bruce Leeroy" as he fights for the first time under the UFC's Reebok sponsorship deal and the UFC Athlete Outfitting Policy.
"I haven't fought under the Reebok deal yet. I can't entirely say whether it's benefiting me or not," Caceres told MMAFighting.com. "What I don't like about it, when they brought us together and talked to us about it, was I feel like it kind of kills the individuality and uniqueness of the persona of the people in the sport.
"I feel like we can't necessarily be ourselves anymore because we have to wear what they want us to wear, do what they want us to do. I mean, we can't even have our own walkout themes anymore in that sense or have banners. So it kind of takes away the person's uniqueness, their own personal feel that they bring to the sport, to the art. So I guess that part of the deal has disappointed me because, I don't know, it's just weird they took away the individuality of the sport. It just makes it kind of bland and blanded out," Caceres said.
Earlier this month, news emerged that several fighters had been fined for violating the UFC's Athlete Outfitting Policy by wearing non-Reebok apparel during the UFC weigh-ins and their respective fights. Unlike Donald Cerrone, who said on The MMA Hour that he is willing to sow the American flag to his shorts despite the risk of getting fined again, Caceres plans to follow the rules.
"I guess I would have to [follow the rules] because they would fine me," Caceres laughed. "I mean, what else could you do? If they're going to threaten to take away the time and effort you put in there and what you go out there to earn by literally risking your f-----g neck out there, then you know, I mean, what else could you do for them except for abide by their b------t rules or laws that they want to put up there?
"Do I think they should take away individuality from people? Hell no. It definitely brings color to the sport. All they did was just make the sport a lot more gray. Now, it's just generic fighters out there, and they seem to promote and blow up whom they want to. And that's about it. No one really gets a shot at the spotlight anymore because of the way they are or who they want to be anymore. It's just whoever they pay the most money to promote. That's all," Caceres said.
However, Caceres's personal feel that he brings to MMA is composed of more than a wardrobe. Spinning leg kicks and jabs to his opponent's thighs are just a few techniques that make up Caceres' distinct fighting style. And he insists that will remain the same.
"Once the night is there and once you're walking in or inside of the cage, they can't stop me from doing what I do anyway," Caceres said."The most they can do is alter what I'm going to wear to the weigh-ins to whatever, and that's fine, do what you need to do, because for me personally, once I get inside there, you can't make me fight like a Reebok fighter. I get to fight like myself. I get to express myself in my complete entirety once I'm in there."
Regardless, the UFC's Reebok deal will not be making fighting less fun for Caceres, because he still gets to do what he loves, which is fighting. However, he does think it can make it boring for the people watching.
"From an outside perspective to me, it does make it boring. It makes it more into a sport like the NFL or NBA or stuff like that," Caceres said. "And I think what we're losing and what we don't see, it's that it's not a sport, it's an art form. It's an expression, and we can't lose that as martial artists. But then again, there are not many martial artists in the sport of fighting. You have fighters, cage fighters. Once again, it's probably, maybe it's just me as being the odd ball out in a place where it was made for sport fighters, but to me, I look at it as an expression of myself."
Caceres' opponent for Saturday's UFC on Fox 18 is tough Mexican fighter Masio Fullen, who competed in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America.
This fight will take place in the featherweight division. Since becoming a vegan, Caceres says he has gained a lot of lean muscle, making it "miserable" to cut down to bantamweight.
"Moving up to 145 has to be my next choice because it was just taking a lot out of me moving down to 135. I'm more of a relaxed, easygoing, fun-loving fighter. I like to get in there and smile and have a good time, but with the weight cut, by the time I got to the fight I was pissed off," Caceres said. "I was literally eating muscle just to get down to 135. It was just unhealthy, and I don't want to put my body through that kind of stress."
Once a top-10 UFC bantamweight, Caceres is currently riding a three-fight losing streak. Despite the position he finds himself in, he feels no extra pressure leading up to his fight with Fullen.
"I'm completely aware of the situation," Caceres said. "The only pressure I feel is obviously the pressure of my training and the pressure of the fight, and that's about it. But whether I stay in the UFC or not, like I said, it's a means to an end. Would I like to stay in the UFC? Of course. Would I like to win? Of course. These are the goals I aspire to, but having that as a do-or-die situation to pressure me, I don't even consider it at all because it's a fight.
"There is going to be two people in there, and somebody has to lose. I'm damn well going to try and make sure that's not going to be me, but at the end of the day, I'm a martial artist and this is what I do as a lifestyle, not as a living. So whether I have to do it somewhere else, then so be it, and whether I can keep doing it in the UFC, so be it as well. Either way, I'm going to perform to the best of my abilities."