Alex Lohoré – the man behind the mask

“Every time I came home from school I was always alone.”

For some mixed martial artists, fighting was a hobby that developed into professional success with hard work and determination. For others – the prize fighters – the sport serves to feed their family or provide them with an affluent lifestyle. Then there are those who are hooked on the relentless adrenaline found in combat, or the idea of reaching the pinnacle of their own ambition.

For Cage Warriors welterweight Alex Lohoré, fighting served as an escape from a life which could have turned him into a different man altogether.

“I grew up in France in the ghetto of Paris,” recalls Lohoré.

“My life was quite tough because my Dad has never been around, so it was quite difficult for me growing up. My Mum was always working. Every time I came home from school I was always alone. I used to see my friends eating what they want, nice food… but with me and my mum it was very tight.

“We had what we needed but never extra.”

These feelings of want birthed negative energies that Lohoré was unable to control at a young age, which led him down a path that shaped most of his early life. Although he looked promising as a young footballer, staving off these energies was not easy and kept him from pursuing a career on the pitch.

“…after training, seeing all the kids having all the food they wanted and the support they had, it kind of put me off football, even though I liked the sport and I was quite good.”

Alex Lohoré embraces his team during his walk to the cage at CW100

In an attempt to find the means to enjoy the lifestyle his friends and teammates took for granted, Alex Lohoré took to the streets.

“I started falling into the bad stuff, because I wanted a bit of stability and comfort – to do the things that my friends were doing. You always want a little bit more as a child. I was out in the street very late. Up to no good. Getting into trouble, getting into fights.”

Eventually, Alex was arrested by French police at the age of 13.

“A year after that, Mum sent me to the U.K to start a fresh life. And that’s where I found MMA.”

Landing in the U.K was a turning point in Lohoré’s life, but one that brought it’s own set of challenges. Although embarking on a new path offered the chance to learn a new language and get back on his feet, trials that would test his character to it’s limit continued throughout the initial years.

“Coming into the U.K was really frustrating. I felt newborn again, because was in a country that couldn’t understand me. First of all I had to learn the language, second I was young, only 15 and quite reserved – so it was hard for me to get into the system.

“I couldn’t understand and couldn’t communicate properly. That’s until I found the gym. It was a dream come true.”

On a night that would change the course of his journey, one of Lohoré’s early friends introduced him to an MMA gym. At first, the allure of mixed martial arts came not in his natural talent but in the opportunity for self growth and improvement. In fact, as a young man at the gym, Lohoré admits to having much less of an upper fighting hand than he was used to on the streets of Paris.

“I was overwhelmed by it. Where I’m from, I was involved in a lot of street fighting and every time the fight went to the floor it was game over. The person on top won.

“But when I went to the grappling session I felt like I was not dominant at all. After leaving the gym, I said to myself – I can’t feel that. I can’t feel that again. And from there I fell in love with making progress. Since then I didn’t look back. I fell in love with the sport.”

A new energy had grown inside Alex Lohoré, one moulded not from jealousy or envy but from raw ambition: a force which has driven many of history’s combat sports stars from struggle to purpose since the dawn of fight sports. But even still, as he embarked on an incredibly successful early MMA career, Lohoré’s family at home were oblivious.

“At first I hid it from my Mum because I knew she wouldn’t be happy about it. But a while after I turned pro, she found out. And after a while she saw I was sticking to it and things were happening for me. I was winning titles. Then, she became more supportive… and then she was behind me every time.”

As Lohoré’s rise gathered momentum, he became known for a persona that was instantly recognisable but seldom fully understood. The balaclava made ever regular appearances, paired with a myriad of flags and even – on one occasion – a high vis jacket. Fans could have been forgiven for failing to dig deeper to find meaning in ‘The Killa Kid’s image. But it was there.

“The balaclava is about who I could have been, and who I am at the same time. I could have been wearing it on the street, but I’ve chosen to wear it as a professional athlete. I still use that same energy, but in something positive.

“The flags are the countries that represent me and made me who I am. The Ivory Coast is the country my parents are from. They moved to France from there. And the U.K is where my Mum moved me to change my life and to start fresh, which is the best thing that could have happened to me.

“In these flags, I show that I appreciate these places and that I want to give back. People have problems with it, they say ‘you shouldn’t fly that flag because you’re not English’ or whatever. But I don’t do it for them, I do it for me and for the people that have supported me.

“The hi-vis? France is going through a crazy period at the moment, so I was showing support towards them because at the time it was properly going crazy out there.”

Whether it was protesting economic injustice alongside France’s Yellow Vest Movement, remembering the family members who aided his journey or using the balaclava to represent his harnessed energies, Lohoré’s ‘Killa Kid’ persona was anything but superficial.

For him, discovering MMA was the ultimate turning point in his career, and the catalyst for the change in energies that he attributes to his success today. And, as he makes clear, the power of the sport shouldn’t stop with him.

“I feel like martial arts is a remedy. If you go to a gym and learn you aren’t as special as you think you are, you don’t want to fight on the street again any time soon. You want to become something. You want to learn those new skills.

“Where I’m from in South London, it’s crazy out there. The kids have so much energy. Young people need to be doing something that helps them release that energy and helps them keep discipline. The kids of nowadays need discipline. They don’t have any guidance. The main thing about martial arts is discipline. You don’t win fights if you don’t turn up to training, you don’t stay healthy and ready if you eat a lot of crap, it’s all discipline.”

For Alex Lohoré, a change in path, a change in environment, was all it took to turn things around. And now?

“I’m fighting for life, fighting for freedom, fighting for my family, fighting for everything. Its not just for a shot at the world title.

“Being the best fighter I can be is good enough for me. And if I can inspire young adults along the way… that would be very rewarding.”


Alex Lohoré takes on Aaron Khalid at Cage Warriors 106 on June 29th, live around the world on UFC Fight Pass.

Words by Matt Jones. Images by Dolly Clew.

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