A short but powerful man with wide eyes and the cauliflower ears of a fighter, Alexis Vila Perdomo scaled the heights of the wrestling world. He won world championships and an Olympic bronze medal for his native Cuba before defecting to South Florida.
His life, however, tumbled when he crashed his car into a terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2004, causing fears of terrorism and sending him to federal prison for three years.
Then, when Vila emerged, he reinvented himself as a mixed martial artist nicknamed The Exorcist, winning his first 11 fights — seven by knockouts — before hitting the national fight scene.
But Vila, who runs a martial arts gym in Kendall, hasn’t been able to shake his demons.
He fought for local groups such as G-Force (created by former Miami Heat star Glen Rice) and Mixed Fighting Alliance, distinguishing himself with a boxer’s aggression despite his wrestling background. Frank Morejon, a Miami MMA marketer and promoter, recalled meeting the frenetic fighter at a couple events.
“For four years, he was riding high, winning and winning,” Morejon said. “He’s only 5-foot-4. Every small guy has something to prove. When you talked to him, he was all over the place. When I talked to him, he was at 100 miles per hour.”