The best story regarding Eddie Alvarez’ move back to Philadelphia from sunny Florida would be that the hard-nosed lightweight contender had gotten too civilized in Boca Raton and needed to get his grit back in the City of Brotherly Love.
That wouldn’t be true though. Instead, the 31-year-old’s decision to go back home and work with the Ricardo Almeida Fight Team for his Jan. 17 bout with Anthony Pettis has nothing to do with fighting. It’s much more important than that.
If you’ve paid attention to Alvarez over the years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s an old school fighter with old school values. Family comes first, hard work is the most admirable attribute anyone can have, and when it’s time to do your job, you do it. As a fighter, Alvarez brings a style that should come with a black and white filter on the television screen, as he’s a throwback to another era. There is no flash, and that’s why he’s a fan favorite and a fighter’s fighter. And he never lost that, whether in Florida or Philly.
“I didn’t come from a Super Team,” he said of his formative fighting years. “I came from a basement where a couple guys were training together. My original team was the Fight Factory. It was just a group of guys – one wrestler, one boxer, one jiu-jitsu guy – and we all understood that it wasn’t about the facility. It wasn’t about the resources that you could get your hands on. It was about working hard, everybody in the room having a good attitude, and having the mentality to be a champion.”
“A room is only as good as the people that are inside of it. I knew that early in my career that I didn’t need 40 of the best guys in the world in order to become a champion. It’s important to have good teammates, but more importantly, your mindset always needs to be that of a champion, whether it’s in Florida, Philadelphia, Japan or Mexico. No matter where you’re training, you’re the one who has to get in that cage.”
And while the pay is better, the fights are in arenas and viewed by millions on television, Alvarez has remained as hungry as he’s always been. It’s a different hunger though.
“Before, when I first started, it was always ‘I want to make as much money as I can and gain as much notoriety as I can.’ Now, where I’m at in my career, I want to be involved in fights where people don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he said. “Both guys are really evenly matched, both have got a ton of confidence, both guys are champions, and those are the fights I want to be in. I don’t want to be in anything else. I don’t want to build myself or fight a guy who’s ranked 15, 20 or 25. I want to fight the best guys and thank God I have a promotion that’s able to do that for me.”
The Pettis fight fits that bill on so many levels, and while the matchup promises action, it’s also a high stakes battle. For Pettis, it’s his first fight since he lost his 155-pound title to Rafael dos Anjos last March. Alvarez, coming off his first UFC win over Gilbert Melendez, can put himself in the title picture with a win, but to a lot of fans, he’s Pettis’ truth machine, the man who will see if the Milwaukee native is still an elite fighter after the loss of his championship.
“A hundred percent,” Alvarez agrees. “But more importantly, I’m gonna see what I got. Every fight is never a discovery of my opponent. I could care less about his self-discovery or who he wants to become or whether he wants to be a better form of himself. It’s a selfish thing. I want to see what I’m made of. Am I a *****? Can I hang in there with one eye, a broken orbital, a broken nose? Can I hang in there with a broken leg? How much adversity am I able to overcome and still keep fighting? It’s really for myself, and not the other guy. So every time I step in the cage, I find out a little bit more about who I am.”
History has already proven that when faced with the worst case scenario, Alvarez has always risen to the occasion. When confronted with this fact, he laughs.
“You can always get better,” he said. “And at this point in my career, I know I can handle adversity, I know I can deal with the worst of the worst and be in terrible situations and overcome them.”
So what’s next for Eddie Alvarez?
“I don’t want to waste my time. I’m not gonna be here for another 20 years. I want to get my hands on the best guys, ones that can get me up early and send me to bed late, guys that I personally get excited about and I know fans are biting their nails about. I want to feel like I’m alive.”
Featherweight king Conor McGregor and bantamweight queen Holly Holm will both be in action at UFC 197 in March, according to reports in America.
The bouts are yet to be confirmed but Bleacher Report has said McGregor will move up to 155lbs and take on lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
Holm, meanwhile, will defend the belt she sensationally claimed from Ronda Rousey for the first time against Miesha Tate in Las Vegas.
Holm had shared the news of the two main events via her Facebook page before quickly deleting it. The agreements have not been signed but sources have confirmed the bouts to ESPN.
The event will take place on March 5 at MGM Grand Garden Arena or Mandalay Bay Events Center.
McGregor is the UFC’s hottest property after his 13-second knockout of long-reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo last month.
After capturing the 145-pound title, the Irishman has set his sights on replicating his Cage Warriors feat of holding two belts simultaneously, which is unprecedented in the UFC. He will look to become just the third fighter ever to win UFC titles in multiple weight classes after Randy Couture and BJ Penn.
However, Dos Anjos will provide a stern test and is coming off an impressive first-round knockout of Donald Cerrone in December.
Having just signed a contract extension last weekend, Holm will take on Tate, who is on a four-fight winning tear, her last defeat coming against Rousey, who is expected to fight again this year.
There is no date on when that will be but UFC president Dana White told Fox Sports: “You will see Ronda Rousey fight again. Ronda has dedicated the last three-plus years to working hard here. Not just fighting, but promoting and taking the sport and the UFC to a whole other level but she will fight.”
With less than two weeks to go, Fight Night Boston is set to headline one of the most intriguing bouts in recent memory.
UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw takes on former title holder Dominick Cruz in a fight that has been gaining steam ever since Dillashaw shocked the world at UFC 173, finishing former champion Renan Barao in dominant fashion.
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If you don’t remember Dominick Cruz, here is a quick crash course:
Cruz has a 20-1 career record with four UFC/WEC bantamweight title defenses. He is one of only two fighters to beat current UFC flyweight champion and No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Demetrious Johnson. He has never lost at bantamweight, putting together a 10-0 career mark capped by his most recent win, which came over Takeya Mizugaki in jaw-dropping fashion.
UFC president Dana White thinks this fight matches two guys who have dominated their era in the bantamweight division.
“It’s a great fight because Dominick looked so damn good in his last fight it was unbelievable,” White said. “This is actually a really good fight.”
Cruz and Dillashaw’s former teammate Urijah Faber have a storied rivalry going back several years. The two coached against each other during Season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter.
So Dillashaw’s ties made his upcoming bout with Cruz extra intense. But the Sacramento-based champion recently left Team Alpha Male to train with Team Elevation in Colorado.
Dillashaw has received some blowback from his decision, specifically from Faber and other members of Team Alpha Male. But White thinks that every fighter has the right to make the best decision for the good of his or her career.
“I think that TJ made a move that he felt was right for him and you can’t fault a guy for that,” White said.
As far as Cruz-Dillashaw goes, White is counting the seconds until this awesome title fight.
“If Dominick had been here the whole time he probably would have been the champ. And now TJ has come in and TJ looks real good,” White said. “This is going to be an unbelievable title fight.”
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC