Eddie Alvarez could retire as a Hall of Famer tomorrow with a resume that already includes championship runs in both the UFC and Bellator.
On the cusp of his 35th birthday, however, Alvarez is just now entering the next phase of his fighting career after inking a lucrative contract to join ONE Championship.
‘The Underground King’ admits that money obviously played a factor in his decision, as it should for all free agents in mixed martial arts, but he says ONE Championship had something that he wanted beyond the monetary gain.
“When you look at the promotion itself, they have something I don’t have,” Alvarez explained.
“I’m a competitive person, I always have been. I’ve conquered every promotion I ever went to. I beat the best guys in that promotion and became their champion of every promotion. ONE (Championship) happens to be one promotion from what I think is going to be a major, major player in the coming years and they have a world title that I don’t have.”
The belt collector
Collecting championships is something Alvarez has done his entire career and that means current ONE lightweight king Eduard Folayang has a big target on his back.
First things first, Alvarez has to make his official ONE Championship debut in March when he faces Russian knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin at the recently announced ONE: ‘A New Era’ show in Japan.
That will also help to launch the ONE lightweight world Grand Prix where Alvarez will compete with hopes of walking away at the end with another championship.
Alvarez hasn’t exactly studied the field when it comes to the opposition he’ll face in ONE Championship but he remains extremely confident that he’ll do well in this tournament.
Unlike most fighters in 2018, Alvarez has competed in a couple of high profile grand prix style tournaments in his past and he still sports an unblemished record across both Dream and Bellator MMA.
“I have never been in a tournament I didn’t win,” Alvarez said.
“Even the Dream tournament, I was the only undefeated fighter in the whole tournament. I got disqualified (due to injury) so I didn’t finish but I was the only guy who won every single fight.
“I’ve won every tournament and I’ve never lost a tournament fight. Coming from a high school wrestling background, where we wrestled sometimes four to six times a day. I thrive off tournaments. I do well there so I’m looking forward to it.”
Alvarez will probably enter the Grand Prix as favorite based purely on the level of competition he’s faced throughout his career.
Alvarez has faced nothing but the best fighters in the world for the past decade but he’s not discounting the opposition he’ll see in ONE Championship even if they aren’t household names in the U.S.
“I think they are highly skilled,” Alvarez said about the lightweights in ONE.
“I think where the guys are strong, they are very strong. So where you see high level striking, it’s world class striking. When you see high level grappling, it’s world class grappling. I don’t consider myself high level at one particular art. I just think I can put it together well and I know how to deal with an immense amount of failure and adversity, more than anyone I ever fight.”
As dangerous as Alvarez has been throughout his career, the scary part about his upcoming entry in the ONE lightweight Grand Prix is that he may be even better than before.
Alvarez admits that when his career started he was fighting to make money, provide for a young family and prove that he was ‘the baddest mother f***er’ on the planet. As time passed, Alvarez competed for different reasons but giving his wife and children everything the could ever want was always at the top of his list.
Now as 2019 approaches, Alvarez says his family is healthy, happy and thriving and with businesses that he runs on the side outside of fighting, he no longer has to depend on his fighting career to pay the bills.
Coming to ONE Championship was about winning another world title and finally doing something for himself for a change.
“There was a time in my life where I was fighting for a number of reasons. Whether it was for money, I just fought for a lot of different reasons in my life, none of them for myself,” Alvarez explained.
“None of them was I fighting because I purely wanted to fight. This will be my first world title where I’m fighting simply because I want to fight. If I don’t want to fight anymore, I simply don’t have to fight. I could do a number of different things. I’m fighting because I want to fight and because I want to become a world champion.”
Alvarez received a lucrative offer from ONE Championship. But at this stage of his career it’s about the glory, not the money.
“I want to do it for myself. That’s what this world title is about.”