Eddie Alvarez has fought in his fair share of tournaments over the years.
His first taste of stardom on a global scale came during his participation in the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix back in 2008. He then took part in the inaugural Bellator MMA tournament where he was eventually crowned lightweight champion.
Through it all, Alvarez has learned more than a few lessons about what it takes to win those tournaments. But perhaps none are as important as the one heâs kept running through his head leading up to his ONE Championship debut on March 31.
“One guy at a time, if you donât get past that one guy you donât got to worry about anybody else,” Alvarez explained ahead of his next fight at ONE: ‘A New Era’.
“Just one guy at a time. Iâve got tunnel vision and thatâs on Timofey Nastyukhin for right now.”
Eye on the future
Obviously, Alvarez is aware that getting past Nastyukhin sets him up for a semi finals showdown against fellow American Lowen Tynanes, who made quick work of Honorio Banario in his opening round fight in the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix.
While his focus remains solely on the Russian wrecking machine heâs about to face, Alvarez has definitely kept an eye on the rest of the competition that he will face throughout this tournament.
Unlike some fighters who claim to never research their opponents, the 35-year old former UFC champion fully admits he down right obsesses over the people heâs going to fight because he wants to know everything about them before stepping into the cage to do battle.
âI watch everybodyâs fights. Iâm not one of them guys âI donât pay attentionâ. No, I pay attention to everyone,â Alvarez explained. âI want to see what everyoneâs good at. I want to do more than everyone. I want to be better than everyone.
âI watched them all. Iâve got my eye on the future a little bit but for right now itâs about one guy.â
Plenty of research
When it comes to Nastyukhin in particular, Alvarez says heâs done plenty of research not to mention the hours upon hours of study that his head coach Mark Henry pours into his training camps as they get ready for the upcoming fight.
Thereâs nothing about Nastyukhin that Alvarez wonât know by the time they square off in Tokyo, Japan in less than two weeks time.
âIâve done my homework. I know all his strengths. I know all his weaknesses. I know the camp heâs from. I know all their strengths and all their weaknesses,â Alvarez said.
âI know the coaches who are surrounding him. Iâm familiar. I think fighters who say they donât watch their opponents one, theyâre either lying or two, theyâre ignorant.”
âI think in order to defeat and put yourself in the best position to succeed, youâve got to know your enemy and youâve got to know yourself. The more familiar you are with both of those people, the more likely you are to succeed.â
The one thing that Alvarez wonât rely on too much going into this fight is just expecting his experience to carry him through.
On paper, Alvarez is likely a heavy favorite to storm through the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix and then march into a title fight against either Eduard Folayang or Shinya Aoki.
As much as he wants that exact scenario to play out, Alvarez refuses to approach this first round fight or any other in the tournament like heâs guaranteed to win just because of the long list of championships heâs already won.
âIâve seen fighters get into that (mindset) thinking âoh Iâve faced it all, I know it all, it wonât be differentâ. Well, everyone is different, every situation is different and the truth is if you think that youâve experienced it all and youâre just going to go in there and be successful because of your past experiences, youâre a fool,â Alvarez said.
Alvarez thinks that a willingness to learn has been a bit part of the longevity that has seen him win titles with two of the world’s biggest MMA organizations and potentially earn the opportunity to add a third,
“This is a sport where you have to continue to innovate, you have to continue to change, youâve got to continue to get better or youâre just slowly dying,” he said.
âI have a resurgence because I changed my mind. Iâve been guilty of feeling that way before, thinking Iâm a veteran and Iâm going to beat these guys up on past accomplishments. Whatâs in the past should stay in the past and youâve got to grow everyday in order to succeed.â
More than anything right now, Alvarez is just excited to get this Grand Prix started so he can continue that journey towards his ultimate goal â to become ONE lightweight champion
“You have short term goals and long term goals. Short term is to defeat Timofey Nastyukhin in dominant fashion. The long term goal is to get to that gold belt and be the first fighter in history to have every single belt, all the belts from every major organization around the world,” Alvarez explained.
While this ambition burns bright Alvarez is not getting ahead of himself,
âThe short term goals for now is about the guy in front of me.â