BJ Penn.Com Exclusive: Eddie Alvarez on His Future, Past & His Family
The more people you ask the more you will hear that Eddie Alvarez is going to be joining the UFC once his contract with Bellator expires later on this year. It’s hard to begrudge the man after all he has accomplished in the sport, he has every right to want to test himself against the best lightweights in the world and at the same time maximize his earning potential.
The 28-year-old native of Philadelphia has tasted success in every organization he has fought for. He was the initial Bellator Lightweight Champion, the first BodogFight Welterweight Champion and the first and last Mixed Fight Championships Welterweight Champion. He made it to the 2008 semifinals of the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix, but was forced to withdraw from the finals because of an eye injury he sustained earlier in the night against Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Some of his other accolades include the 2008 Inside MMA Fight of the Year award for his bout with Joachim Hansen at Dream 11, that bout was also named Fight of the Year by Fight Magazine. His thrilling back and forth battle with Michael Chandler was named the Yahoo Sports Fight of the Year for 2011. Now as he prepares to face Patricky Freire at Bellator 76 he knows this could be his last time in the Bellator cage.
“I am just going to take it one fight at a time like I always have,” Alvarez told BJPenn.Com. “I’m still waiting on Bellator to send their offer to me, I have a good relationship with Bjorn Rebney so once we get the contract we’ll take a look at it. Other than that I am taking it day by day. I have one fight left and that’s what I have to focus on. All I am thinking about is my fight with Freire.”
After losing his title to Chandler at Bellator 58 Alvarez campaigned for an immediate rematch, but because of the tournament format that Bellator employs he was told that it wasn’t in the cards unless he won the next lightweight tournament. That could factor in his decision on whether he re-signs with the organization he has called home since 2009.
“It would make a difference if they gave me a rematch with Chandler because I only had the one fight left on my contract,” explained Alvarez. “In order for me to go through the tournament I would have to sign a new deal. That would obviously limit my options. That’s the only fight that made sense for me and that would have gotten the fans attention, but we will have to wait and see what happens.”
There has been talk of a fight with Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez for a few years now. In fact, Rebney issued an open challenge to Scott Coker for the two champions to meet before Strikeforce was purchased by Zuffa and Alvarez lost his title, but that never materialized. It’s an opportunity that Alvarez would still welcome with open arms.
“If Rebney made the last fight on my contract a super fight with Melendez I’d be out of mind and ready to take it,” said the Philadelphia native. “I don’t feel like Strikeforce would offer me a one off deal and its tough because fights like that need to happen for the fans. They want to see those fights (Champion vs. Champion), but the promoters have to take care of their business as well. In a perfect world for fighters it would be great to go there and just fight Melendez, but that wouldn’t happen without signing a contract.”
Staying on the subject of Strikeforce and Melendez, Alvarez gave his opinion on the bout between Josh Thompson and Melendez that took place in May. Many fans felt that Thompson won the third bout between the two men while others thought Melendez did enough to retain his championship.
“I thought Gilbert won the fight, he was a bit more aggressive and did some more damage,” Alvarez offered. “He may have been a bit more busted up than Thompson, but overall he controlled the fight and did more to win. It was a fun fight to watch and it was close, but I’d have to go with Melendez on that one.”
Alvarez is now represented by Glenn Robinson and Authentic Sports Management. He took advantage of the relationship by going down to Florida to train with the Blackzilians. The trip was something he needed to enhance his skills and it also gave him a new outlook on MMA.
“It’s been unbelievable, it’s changed my game, it’s changed my outlook,” said the 28 year old Alvarez. “I feel like I was at a point in my career where I needed something different to spice things up. It’s easy to get stagnant when you’re in the same gym every day with the same training partners. It brought some excitement back and got my competitive juices flowing again. Going down to Florida for those two months really was a re-awakening for me. The coaches know what they are doing; there is a wealth of knowledge in the room on top of the fact that you have some of the best fighters in the world training together. It’s like iron sharpens iron, overall it’s a great environment to be in.”
In a career full of great fights, Alvarez knows he has more great moments in front of him as he is just entering his prime. When asked to reflect back on some of his favorite match-ups he chose one fight in particular to talk about.
“I think the fight I had with Tatsuya Kawajiri in 2008 was the one I like to watch the most,” admitted Alvarez. “It was named the 2008 Fight of the Year. I was at a point in my career where I wasn’t really established and that helped me make a name for myself. I was young and hungry and looking to prove myself. It was a fight; we both went after each other and tried to finish each other off. We didn’t dance around; it was certainly something for the ages!”
This past April Alvarez had an opportunity to get back one of his three career losses as Shinya Aoki made his second trip to the States and took on the man he defeated in December of 2008. This time around the tables were turned and Aoki was sent back to Japan after just two minutes of action. The win showed the marked improvements in Alvarez’s game since they last fought.
“When I lost to Aoki people said that I wasn’t a top 10 fighter,” Alvarez said. “People base their opinions on who you beat and who you lose to. That’s the sport of MMA, when we first met he had a better night than me. When we met in 2012 I had a better night than him, that’s how things go in this sport. You win some and you lose some. It was important to get that win back because I made some mistakes in the first fight and I wanted to show how much I have grown since.”
Family is very important to Alvarez and while he doesn’t have a lot of free time for friends or personal activities he tries to make the most of what little time he has outside of fighting.
“When I’m not fighting most of my time is spent at water parks with my wife and three kids,” Alvarez said. “They are my best friends and because so much of my time is spent training I try and spend what free time I do have with them. Most of the time we will find stuff to do, we go on a lot of trips together. Other than that I enjoy a good round of golf. When I go to Florida I play with Melvin Guillard on our off days. Family is my priority and being with my wife and kids is what makes me happy.”