Matter of Survival

By Yael Grauer Jan 16, 2014
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Alex White has finished seven opponents.
Alex White is lucky to be alive.

Before he ever stepped foot in an MMA gym, he fought for his life after accidentally ingesting gasoline at the age of 4.

“I was on a vacation to Walt Disney World, and on the way there, I guess we were having some car problems,” White said, “so my dad had to pull over and was working on the engine.”

While playing tag with his brothers, he became thirsty and began to drink from a lemonade jug, not realizing the lemonade was gone and his father had poured gasoline into the container in its place.

“I just drank right out of the jug,” White said, “and I fell over, passed out and they rushed me to the hospital and I died on the way.”

White was not expected to survive.

“The next day, I was just playing around, and they said it was a miracle,” he said. “My dad said I was a fighter from the very beginning.”

Although White overcame the odds and survived the harrowing ordeal, he suffered some lasting effects from the incident.

“It did burn his vocal chords,” said Joe Worden, White’s coach, “so he does talk with a lisp, a speech impediment, and that’s what he got bullied for all his life.”

White’s childhood was not easy after the near-death experience.

“It was rough growing up,” he said. “We were kind of poor and I was being picked on in school because of how I talked, and I didn’t have the cool clothes like the cool students. It was a little rough, but I had my brothers and sisters and I looked up to them, even though they were getting picked on, too.”

When he was in elementary school, White endured the sight of his brother, who was in high school, being beaten up.

“Ever since then, I wanted to be able to do something if it happened again,” he said. “If something happens in front of me, I want to be able to do something about it. I’ve always been like that.”

White did not start his mixed martial arts training until he was 19. Worden had opened a gym right next to the McDonald’s where White worked.

“I did cross country and track in high school,” White said. “Cardio-wise, I guess I got it from that, but other than that, I guess I was a natural.”

Worden noticed his athleticism from the start.

“He didn’t have any background, no boxing, no karate, no martial arts, no anything,” he said. “I said, ‘Alright, if you wanna try it, we’ll try it.’ And the first couple of days, I was like, ‘Wow, this kid is pretty athletic.’ And from then on, he just kind of soaked it up and it went from there.”

After about six months of training, White’s mother relocated, but he did not want to quit training or move away from the gym to which he had grown attached. Instead, he moved into a 10-by-10 camper, training and showering at the gym. “I lived there for four months. I still worked and I still trained,” White said. “You gotta make the best of it; that’s what I kept telling myself.”

Worden understood White’s loyalties.

“He just wanted to stay with us,” he said. “He felt comfortable there. Everybody kind of took him in, and it was the first time he’d ever been a part of anything, you know.”

Eventually, White found a roommate and moved into a house. He is now married with a 1-year old daughter. White also traded his job at McDonald’s to work for his coach’s wife at a medical supply delivery business. The 25-year-old featherweight went 15-0 as an amateur mixed martial artist and owns an 8-0 mark as a pro. He holds a 5-0 record in muay Thai and a 13-1 record as an amateur boxer. Although primarily a striker, White has won four of his professional MMA bouts by submission.

White will face fellow striker Adam Rider in the Rumble Time Promotions “Rumble at the Chase” on Saturday in St. Louis.

“He’s a standup banger like me,” White said. “I’m looking forward to that. If it’s something where I can push myself, I’m down for it. I’ve been trying to get well-rounded everywhere. I’m pretty ready for this fight.”
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