Tag Archives: Houston Alexander Foundation

The Duality of Houston Alexander

September 26, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Houston Alexander is in love with two art forms. He works hard catering to both of his passions, maintaining a foothold in the metro area’s burgeoning hip-hop scene while fighting for worldwide promotions as a professional mixed-martial arts combatant.

Alexander has found success in the world of MMA, traveling across the nation to headline big-time bouts in Bellator and UFC. At the same time, he is a staple in urban radio, hosting independent shows like the Neighborhood Watch on Omaha’s Power 106.9.

ip-hop is ingrained in the man’s soul, while training and fighting is his way of life. This is why Alexander sees these activities as interconnected.

“I’m a strong believer in the concept of old people learning from the young, and youngsters learning from their elders,” he says. “Hip-hop and MMA are strong examples of how this approach can help a culture thrive.”

The ideologies of combat and hip-hop culture may be an offhanded comparison for some, but Alexander has used both to make a name for himself. Entering a sparsely populated coffee shop dressed in a gym-ready black T-shirt, cap, and sweatpants, he greets everyone with the air of a local celebrity; flashing a smile before shaking hands and taking pictures.

Alexander gives everyone a chance to experience his magnetic aura, a quality his long-time coach and uncle, Curlee Alexander, appreciates. A successful combatant and mentor, Curlee’s multiple accolades include the NAIA Wrestling Championship and induction into the UNO Hall of Fame. He believes that his nephew’s good looks and charisma have made him very marketable in the world of professional MMA.

“I can remember one fight that Houston lost in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Curlee recalls. “Afterwards, he made sure to hang out with the fans and sign autographs. The winner just came out of the locker room and walked past all of those people without even being recognized. I told Houston then; not every fighter has the gift of charm.”

Alexander admits that he avoided his uncle’s intense training regimen for his state championship-winning wrestlers back in his student days at North High.

“I always admired the physiques of the wrestlers he was coaching, but I stayed away from his sessions. They were always too hot!”

But when Monte Cox Promotions presented Alexander with the chance to fight one of the top-five-ranked fighters in the world, he immediately sought out his uncle’s expertise. Curlee would bring in heavyweight wrestlers and state champions from around the metro area to train his nephew in preparation for his UFC debut in 2007.

The hardcore sessions paid off, and Alexander would go on to win over Keith Jardine with a first round knockout within 48 seconds of the bout.

“The only difficulty I had training Houston was his stubbornness,” Curlee says. “I knew that was because he didn’t have much formal training. He was more of a street fighter, so I tell him if he gives me 30 pounds and 30 years I will kick his butt.”

Alexander credits a wide range of gyms and trainers for his success in the MMA ring, including Joseph Baudler, Ryan Jensen, C.W. Boxing Club, and the Combat-Do Martial Arts School in Illinois where he learned dirty jiujitsu.   

“Houston developed a unique punch where he hits a guy in the thigh to throw them off balance,” Curlee explains. “This kind of move is illegal in boxing, but it works well in MMA. I’ve seen other fighters adapt the technique into their own fights.”

A student of the sport, Alexander calls boxing legend Mike Tyson the greatest fighter of all time, but declares the fabled war between “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Thomas “the Hitman” Hearns as his all-time favorite fight.

“I just remember the guy with the Jheri curl lost,” Alexander jokes.

High praise is also directed towards current WBO welterweight champion and Omaha native Terrence Crawford. Alexander is quick to point out DMX’s song “What’s My Name?” as a shared entrance theme between Crawford and himself.

“That track has the aggressive attitude that we crave before combat,” he says.

A telling gleam appears in Alexander’s eyes when he mentions the song, and the conversation effortlessly switches to hip-hop. A lifelong fan of rap music, he recalls his first taste of the young art form, listening in his father’s car back in East St. Louis.

“When I heard ‘The Breaks’ by Curtis Blow it was over,” he says. “After that, I immersed myself in hip-hop culture. I purchased my first rap single, ‘Pack Jam’ by the Jonzun Crew, and my first album was Teaching You How to Breakdance. I still have the poster that came with it giving step-by-step instructions on how to move.”

The East Coast is credited as the birthplace of hip-hop, which explains why an early adopter from the Midwest would choose to specialize in many of the culture’s fundamental elements including graffiti, break dancing, and DJ’ing.

“When people think of hip-hop, I want them to think of the culture created by pioneers like DJ Hollywood and Kool Herc out of the Bronx,” Alexander says. “Block parties, graffiti, break dancing, and true emcees are all a part of the hip-hop experience. I grew up loving the great rap songs from innovators like Run-DMC, Kool Moe Dee, and KRS-One, and I still enjoy today’s real emcees like Kendrick Lamar.”    

Michael Dunham has watched Alexander navigate between the worlds of hip-hop, radio, and MMA since the beginning. Known as DJ Rip on the airwaves, Dunham is a founding member of the Alliance All-Star B-Boys crew and current owner-operator of the nationwide branding and marketing company, The Spin Firm. He remembers when Alexander was an energetic local graffiti artist and break-dancer nicknamed Scrib from the Scribble Crew.

“Houston’s persona started way back in the 1980s when we were creating the foundation of Omaha’s local hip-hop scene,” Dunham says. “Before radio we created Alliance Records and dropped a single in 1997 called ‘Rock the B-Boy Language.’ When I helped Bizzy B launch Hot 107.7 in the early 2000s I knew Houston would be perfect for our promotional team. He had the hottest name in the streets.”

Alexander quickly moved from promotions to running his own independent radio show on Hot 107.7, Sunday Night Raw. When the popular station grew into Power 106.9, Alexander stayed on as one of the station’s most popular voices.

“Houston brought credibility, local independent artist love, and hip-hop knowledge to the radio station,” Dunham says. “Urban Radio needs a foot in the street and credibility to be successful. Houston was our key to success.”

While Dunham is able to recall many fond memories of their legacy in hip-hop, he cites Alexander’s philanthropic work through his Houston Alexander Foundation as his most awe-inspiring accomplishment. His ongoing Culture Shock Tour has been a huge success, educating children about leadership, hip-hop lifestyle and culture since 2003.   

“Houston is teaching the history of a black music genre in our children’s schools. Just let that sink in,” Dunham says before making a bold declaration. “Houston Alexander is one of the pillars of this city’s notable sports figures. He’s this generation’s Johnny Rogers.”

Alexander is humble when talking about his charitable work, recalling his younger days helping the MAD DADS organization, and speaking at President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light nonprofit organization. Hip-hop and martial-arts culture are integral to his cause, offering free personal training sessions, self-defense classes, mural projects, and anti-bullying programs to uplift the youth.

“I think it was my destiny to be involved with my community and help kids,” Alexander says. “I just try to live by my grandmother and mother’s simple rule—always do the right thing.”

And he can often be found doing the right thing, whether in the fighting ring, behind the mic, or in the community.

Visit houstonalexander.org for more information about the man and his charitable work.

This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Houston Alexander at Axios

Felines, fashion, and a festival

January 17, 2019 by
Photography by contributed

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Thursday, Jan. 17: Allen Strickland Williams will perform at Infusion Brewing Company tonight! And you can see him for only $10 (if you hurry!). You may have seen him on Conan O’ Brien or Tosh.0. and he can currently be seen in Cooking On High on Netflix and Corporate on Comedy Central. Allen will film his Comedy Central special in early 2019. So if you like laughing (and who doesn’t?), then you don’t want to miss this show! Buy your tickets here asap.

Friday, Jan. 18 to Sunday, Jan. 20: Hop in the truck, or Subaru Outback, and head to the Pheasants Forever: River City Hunting, Fishing, Boat and RV Expo, happening all weekend at the Mid-America Center. They’ll have more than 100 exhibitors on hand showing off their latest products. Attend a seminar on anything from bear hunting to dog training. Or just get a little advice on your next family trip from one of the outfitters or lodge owners. And bring the kids so they can test their archery skills and learn how to call turkeys. Get all the details here.

Friday, Jan. 18: Feel good dancing, feel good drinking, feel good doing good—catch Twista Unplugged at The Waiting Room this Friday and all of this can happen for you. Twista will be performing backed by a live band. Enjoli will also take the stage. Houston Alexander will be hosting, as this show is a fundraiser for the Houston Alexander Foundation (I know, he’s everywhere right now!) to support the Culture Shock Tour. You’ll also be treated to music by DJ Shor-T and DJ Mista Soull. Get your tickets here now.

Saturday, Jan. 19: Fashion, turn to the left; fashion, turn to the right—and now you’re dancing! Which is what you can do at the upcoming Dance Party + Fashion Show with Anastasia at Scout: Dry Goods & Trade. See the latest ’90s minimalist styles from Anastasia, have some drinks (did you know Scout now has a liquor license?), and do some voguing, courtesy of the sweet tunes DJ Crabrangucci will be busting out. Learn more here.
Photo by: Maranda Loughlin 

Sunday, Jan. 20+: What’s more relaxing than yoga? Maybe petting a purring kitty? Well, now you can do both every other Sunday when you attend Yoga and Cats at the old Wag location on 24th and Harney. Don’t forget your yoga mat, or you’ll be rolling around in cat hair! Just kidding, you’ll be doing that regardless. Best of all, all proceeds go towards the Felius Cat Café and Omaha Wags to Riches non-profits. Sign up here now, and remember this event is ongoing, so if you can’t make it this round just set yourself a reminder. Everyone needs a little relaxation.

Sunday, Jan. 20: Debating what you want for Sunday dinner? Let us help you out. Head to the first Pad Thai Fest! at Thai Esarn, where you can get a pad thai dinner for the special price of just $8. This is the Thai American Society’s first event, and all proceeds benefit the organization. You can watch traditional dances at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., but we recommend buying a ticket beforehand if you want to be sure to catch the show. Find out all the details here.


Finding Hope in the New Year

January 3, 2019 by

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Thursday, Jan. 3: Start your new year on the right foot at the Omaha Magazine Launch Party for our January/February “Health” edition. The party is free, but please RSVP here. Free appetizers and adult beverages are compliments of Sol’s Jewelry and Loan. The new issue’s big story looks at organ donation and its effects on both the recipient and the donor/donor’s family. Houston Alexander of the Houston Alexander Foundation (who donated a kidney to his daughter) and Dr. Alan Langnas, the director of the Center of Transplantation at will share some words on organ donation. Continuing the health theme, there will be a performance by flautists with The Nebraska Medical Orchestra (a collaboration between UNMC and UNO School of Music). There will also be special opportunity to meet community influencers featured within 60Plus in Omaha Magazine’s “Prime Time” story, highlighting the fashion and wisdom of local seniors. To RSVP, please click here.

Friday, Jan. 4: The Transcendence Opening Reception kicks off the first exhibition of 2019 for The Little Gallery Benson. An invitation to delve into unsung stories more commonly shared behind closed doors, these works provide a glimpse through the cracks at these private stories. The exhibition was curated by Marie-Elena Schembri and will feature several of her pieces. Mark Andrew, Brandi Bentley, Mary Daley, Mary Ensz, Bekah Jerde, John David Munoz, and Nadia Shinkunas will also be exhibiting pieces. To learn more, please go here. Read about one of the artists showing by clicking here.

Saturday, Jan. 5: The new year doesn’t have to mean a new you—but it can mean an improved you. Help make those resolutions a reality by attending Setting Your Intentions 2019: A Vision Board Experience at the AIM Institute. Materials for your vision board will be provided, but feel free to bring any personal items or specific images you would like to use with you. Light refreshments and drinks are included in the cost. To purchase tickets, head here.

Saturday, Jan. 5: Afraid you missed out on all the New Year’s Eve fun this last weekend because you just couldn’t justify leaving the house in that cold? You’re in luck. You can still catch some NYE glitz this weekend by attending the rescheduled Downtown Omaha fireworks show at Gene Leahy Mall. The wind was just too much last week, but this week promises to bring better weather. Find out more here.

Sunday, Jan. 6: Did you know there’s a snow sculpting competition coming up in February? Well, you do now! And if you would like to participate, get over to the Snow Sculpture Workshops at Main Street Studios and Gallery in Elkhorn. They are offering these free workshops every Sunday in January. Learn more about the workshops here and more about the First Annual Nebraska Snow Sculpting Competition here.

Saving a Life, Chasing the Dream

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Houston Alexander knew that his first-born child would be a fighter from the moment he laid eyes on her. Elan, his daughter, was born with kidney disease.

“We knew that one day she would need a kidney, and the day finally came where her kidney functions were so low that she needed a donor,” says Alexander, an MMA fighter and a radio personality on Omaha’s Power 106.9.

She was only 10 years old when that day came. Alexander already knew that he was a perfect match to be an organ donor.

“No questions asked,” he says. “There are things that you don’t think about; giving your child a kidney—or any type of vital organ—is something you don’t think about.”

Her life-saving transplant took place in 2000, a few years before Alexander’s own professional fighting debut. At the time, he was working in asphalt maintenance while pursuing his passion for hip-hop on the side.

Health and fitness continued to be a major cornerstone of Alexander’s lifestyle, which he says is essential for any organ donor or transplant recipient following a surgical operation.

In 2003, a few years after donating his kidney—around the same time he started working in local radio—Alexander began fighting professionally. His Ultimate Fighting Championship debut followed in 2007 with a huge upset, a knockout of UFC celebrity Keith Jardine within 48 seconds.

Elan was not a fighter in the same sense as her father (aka “The Assassin” in the ring). But she has been fighting health-related battles since her birth.

“My daughter is probably the toughest young lady I’ve known,” Alexander says. “I’ve never seen somebody so strong. My daughter is tougher than I am in a lot of ways.”

After more than a decade with one of her father’s kidneys, her body rejected the organ. Unfortunately, the body’s rejection of a donated organ remains a common reality for organ donor recipients. Elan is now living in New York with her name on the national transplant waiting list.

Meanwhile, Alexander often speaks about organ donation in Omaha. It’s one of many community outreach efforts with his nonprofit, the Houston Alexander Foundation (visit houstonalexander.org for more information).

Alexander will also speak at the launch party for the January/February 2019 issue of Omaha Magazine. The issue* carries a special health focus with articles on medicine and wellness topics.

One of the main feature articles  (available to subscribers and those picking up the magazine from a newsstand) is an in-depth look at the stories of organ donors, their families, and the organ recipients who received the gift of life.

The subject of organ donation carries special personal significance for me. My twin brother, Connor, was an organ donor. As a teenager getting his first driver’s license, he checked a box designating that his vital organs should be donated in the event of his death. That check mark took on real meaning after a tragic car accident in 2004.

While my brother’s life was cut short, the Connor Meigs Art Award offers other young artists help in pursuing their own artistic dreams. And, of course, the organs that he donated gave others a second chance at life.

This letter was printed in the January/February edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.