Joel Alvarez heads into UFC Stockholm looking for his first Octagon victory and is one of just two fighters representing Spain in the promotion.
The UFC returns to Europe this weekend with UFC Stockholm. To kick off the card, we will see a lightweight clash between Joel Alvarez and Danilo Belluardo. The Spaniard is a decorated prospect and is one of the two MMA fighters currently with the promotion from his country. Ahead of his clash, he took some time to answer a few questions.
Paarth Pande: What is your combat sports background? What got you into MMA?
Joel Alvarez: I started directly with MMA and BJJ at the age of 17. A friend from the Canary Islands came to my city and asked me to go to a gym to train MMA. Back then I did not know what MMA was but I went with him. I tried a class and I liked it a lot, since that day I have not stopped training and fighting.
PP: Who was your inspiration? Who are the people who have supported you in your journey so far?
JA: I have always admired Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. My coaches from the day I started. I continue to train with them in my city, the teammates and other teams with whom I have gone to train in Spain when I could, and my manager all have supported me in my journey so far.
PP: You are one of the few UFC fighters from Spain. Is MMA popular there? What is the overall scene like? Is the environment supportive?
JA: Currently, Juan Espino, who won the TUF and I are the only two UFC fighters. I hope we will have more soon. In Spain there is still a lack of enthusiasm for MMA, national events are not receiving the support and impact they deserve. We have a lot of support on social media, but little in the mainstream media. We hope it will grow.
PP: In your last performance, you were on the wrong side of a decision. You weren’t very active in the fight and showed hesitation at points. Were the “Octagon jitters” a factor?
JA: They warned us with very little time to prepare for the fight, so there was a lot of stress. Also, I only had three weeks, between medical tests and documentation, to prepare. It was my first time in an event of these characteristics. The nerves and pressure, they affected me more than I expected. But it will not happen again.
PP: You were on an impressive win streak. Does your last performance affect you in any way? How do you deal with defeats?
JA: It does not affect me at all. We knew that the defeat would eventually come and it came with Damir [Ismagulov]. After all, we stay the same. Train hard, improve some details and go for the next.
PP: What are your thoughts on your opponent Danilo Belluardo? He has in past shown powerful striking and is best known for his strong ground-and-pound game, how do you see this fight going?
JA: He is a good fighter, he is complete, sure it will be a good fight. The victory this time is mine for Spain. He is good, but I am better. The win will be mine on June 1.
UFC Stockholm will be live on ESPN+ in the USA, TSN 5 in Canada on June 1, and Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD in India on June 2.