The Underground King believes there’s a serious shift going on in MMA, one that will see fighters likely following in his footsteps towards free agency.
Las Vegas, NV — The UFC wasn’t the only promotion in town in Vegas this past week. While UFC 235 was the biggest news, ONE Championship also debuted some of its newest stars. From Demetrious Johnson to Vitor Belfort, plenty of names were present. Another big one: former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. All came out for ONE’s media day and open workout in Vegas.
A slightly… bigger looking Alvarez? Especially given he’s just weeks away from his debut fight under the ONE banner. “It’s hydrated weigh-ins,” he pointed out to reporters including Cageside Press. “You guys are used to seeing me thinned out. But we’re five weeks away from a fight.”
Alvarez certainly did look buff. He assured us, however, that “this is kind of what I normally look like, walking around. You guys are used to seeing me the week of the fight, where I’m cutting water and doing all that.”
“I’m a meat-eating dude,” he continued. “When I’m walking around, I can get as high as 191, something like that. But right now, in the mornings, about 78, 79.” That gives you an idea of how much weight he would have been cutting back in the UFC. In Bellator, things should go much smoother. It’s a much healthier approach.
“There’s a shift, there’s a serious shift going on in MMA. People are starting to understand that the money is being shared a little bit better than it’s always been.”
Alvarez makes his debut at A New Era in Tokyo at the end of March. After that, there’s the possibility of a third fight with Shinya Aoki. ‘The Underground King’ and the Japanese standout are 1-1 in their career series. Aoki is fighting for the lightweight title on the same night as Alvarez’s debut.
A rubber match, however, isn’t something Alvarez is dwelling on currently. “I have trouble talking about that, because I personally don’t feel like he’s going to win against Eduard Folayang,” he said. “I think it’s a good style match-up for Eduard. He’s already beaten him. I don’t want to speak about someone who’s not going to be champion, or who I don’t feel is going to be champion. If he’s champion, then we can talk but for right now, he’s just a contender. I want to keep my eye on Timofey [Nastyukhin], my next opponent, and not on contenders. My eye is on the belt.”
A title win, of course, would give him championships in three major promotions. Hopefully, fans follow. “A real fan of fighting will follow a fan anywhere. I believe that, and we’ve already proven it,” Alvarez suggested.
“There’s a serious shift going on,” he said in regards to other fighters inquiring about following in his footsteps. “No one’s allowed to talk about this sh*t, let’s keep it quiet, and ‘hey, what do you think I can get here, how much do you think I can get?'” Those are the questions Alvarez is now hearing. “There’s a shift, there’s a serious shift going on in MMA. People are starting to understand that the money is being shared a little bit better than it’s always been. And in order to do that, you’ve got to test free agency.”
As to why that shift is happening, Alvarez feels it’s not just about money, but also the UFC turning more toward entertainment. “A little bit of both,” he suggested, adding that feedback he’s had from fans often focuses on how few recognizable names are on upcoming cards.