Bellator’s next lightweight season kicks off on March 23rd, but one name is notably absent from the list of entrants: recently deposed king Eddie Alvarez, whose crown was taken by Season 4 winner Michael Chandler in an epic war back in November. Despite Bjorn Rebney’s urging, Alvarez chose not to enter this season’s tournament and work towards a rematch with Chandler, opting instead for a chance to avenge his 2008 loss to DREAM champ Shinya Aoki. Alvarez says they’re aiming for April 20th (presumably Bellator 66) and it’s just down to the paperwork, and Rebney’s talking like it’s on too, so that’s a good sign.
Alvarez used to talk like he was cool with hanging out in Bellator and fighting relative unknowns for the time being, with the plan to build up his name and resume until the UFC would welcome him with much hype and money. Considering he’s making “six figures” per fight under Bellator, much more than Zuffa offered, it was hard to fault him. Except that plan only works as long as you continue to dominate, and your stock suffers when you lose to one of those relative nobodies. Alvarez is now more or less admitting that he’s learned this lesson the hard way.
“It makes no sense for me to rejoin a tournament and fight three guys that people don’t really care to see me fight rather than fight someone a Shinya Aoki, who is ranked in my weight class. I haven’t fought anyone ranked in my weight class in God knows how long. I’d be stupid not to take this fight. He’s ranked top five in my weight class, I believe, and it’ll get me back into the rankings. I’ll be able to forward positively.”
Not only is Alvarez looking for higher-profile opponents now, there’s two other big reasons why he’d rather take a “super-fight” than run the gauntlet again. First, he doesn’t think he should have to win the tourney to earn a rematch with Chandler.
After Alvarez and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney spoke, Alvarez was unhappy that Rebney suggested he enter the lightweight tournament again. The Philadelphia Fight Factory mainstay believes that because he and Chandler were involved in a Fight of the Year candidate and that warranted a rematch.
“I’m definitely not happy with the decision of putting me back into the tournament and having me do all that,” Alvarez told MMAWeekly Radio Weekend Edition.
“I feel like if I went out and I fought Mike Chandler and he just completely dominated, I could understand them saying, ‘alright go back to the tournament, go back to the drawing board, and work your way up.’ I sort of look at it like you work your way up the corporate ladder and you show up 15 minutes late for work one day and you drove me back to the mail room.”
Second, he has only “one or two fights” left on his contract, and the talks aren’t going so well.
Both sides have been in negotiations on a new deal for some time but a source tells Fighters Only that he and Bellator and “miles apart” on the value of a new contract.
The source says that the tone has “soured” recently and that a resolution now seems all but impossible, with the respective parties adamant that they cannot move from their stated positions.
Bottom line, Alvarez will soon be a free agent, and he needs to finish his contract on a big win to maximize his bargaining position with both Bellator and the UFC. Aoki is pretty much the only other high-profile lightweight outside Zuffa, so he fits the bill perfectly. Aoki may have heel-hooked Alvarez in just 92 seconds last time, but Gilbert Melendez already provided the model to defeat the dreaded butt-scoot, so my money’s on Eddie.