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Alex Caceres wants to shake gatekeeper label with UFC 250 win over Chase Hooper

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Alex Caceres understands his position in the UFC, and he wants to change it.

“Bruce Leeroy” thinks he’s very much entered the gatekeeper realm in his professional fighting career and wants to do everything he can to shake that tag as quickly as possible. Caceres (15-12 MMA, 10-10 UFC) has been fighting in the UFC since 2011, and though that in itself is an achievement, he’s won just as many times as he’s tasted defeat throughout his stint on MMA’s biggest stage.

Caceres returns to fighting Saturday at UFC 250 in Las Vegas, where he’ll take on undefeated 20-year-old prospect Chase Hooper in a bantamweight bout. It’s a fight that will see most eyes on his opponent, but Caceres is determined not to be the B-side of the matchup and will do all he can to halt Hooper’s momentum and shed his own gatekeeper label in the process.

“It won’t be my first time fighting and welcoming the newcomers into the game,” Caceres told MMA Junkie during a Thursday virtual media day. “I feel like I tend to have a few fights like that. I feel good going into the fight. I’m not worried with the way things have gone with my record and my career.

“I know that I’m somewhat of a gatekeeper at the moment. I will accept my position, but I won’t be satisfied with it. I’m trying to push further every single day, but I know where I’m at this point — especially when it comes to rankings, and I guess what everyone else sees. But I know what I’m capable of. So for me, it’s a good proving ground.”

Caceres hasn’t fought since July 2019, when he defeated Steven Peterson. The 31-year-old fighter wants to build off that victory and thinks he has a good opportunity to do so in the bout with Hooper while he battles to establish some consistency in his results.

“Definitely, I have to win fights – and that’s the major thing,” Caceres said. “I think that’s probably the only factor: I have to put together victories in my fights. Being exciting, it comes with who I am. I don’t have to try to do that. All I have to do is try to put together victories.

“It’s hard for me to see it after the fight because you are also down if we do lose, but I do see improvement. I do see my game getting better, and wholeheartedly, my goal is to improve myself every single day. Of course, it would be nice to try to win as many fights as I can and put my name out there and get the title and become a contender and become a top five ranking spot – that’s a beautiful thing.

“I know it comes with hard work and trying to be better every day, so I just have to continue that journey and whatever happens will happen. But at the end of the day, I’m a martial artist and I just want to fight. Everything else is extra. I can take those gifts and rewards and relinquish them, because there’s nothing more than actually getting in there and testing your abilities with the best in the world.”

Caceres thinks the nearly yearlong layoff has been good for his career and is excited to step in the cage with Hooper.

“It feels good. The time off was necessary,” Caceres said. “I did try to come back a little earlier, but then this whole virus thing happened. But I’m excited to show my skill because I’ve improved a lot in the places I needed to improve and I’m quite ready.”

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