The debut of ONE Championship on U.S. network TNT did not go as planned. At least not for lightweight star Eddie Alvarez.
Alvarez, a former Bellator MMA and UFC lightweight champion, saw his night end early, disqualified due to illegal blows to the back of the head of opponent Iuri Lapicus. The American fighter immediately protested the call; Lapicus, for his part, didn’t get much of a say, leaving the cage inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium on a stretcher.
“It was a bad call on the referee’s side,” Alvarez said after watching the fight, speaking at a virtual post-fight press conference. “The American media is in uproar right now, and so are the American fans.”
While some no doubt were, others sided with the fallen Lapicus. To be clear, the initial strikes were legal, but once Lapicus had turned his head, it appeared a few illegal blows got through. Alvarez, however, believes he has grounds for an appeal. “I’m going to respectfully ask [ONE Championship] to look back at the video, and reverse the call.”
ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong has already done so, however. And his statement doesn’t jibe with what Alvarez saw.
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) April 8, 2021
“Eddie, the problem is, there were four or five illegal blows. I reviewed it three times,” stated Sityodtong, adding that he knew Alvarez “didn’t mean to do it.”
During Wednesday’s ONE broadcast on TNT, there appeared to be some confusion as to whether the fight would end in a DQ or a No Contest, even after Alvarez was handed a red card. In the end, it will be a loss for Eddie Alvarez, but he clarified the scene in the cage post-fight.
“The referee came to me and said ‘don’t worry, take a deep breath, I’ll take care of it.’ Basically saying, ‘nothing funny’s going to happen here,'” he recalled.
Alvarez recognized that both he and the ref were in the heat of the moment. But still, he added, “whoever made that call, it was a bad call. And that’s fine. That’s totally fine. People make bad calls all the time in sports. Emotions run high, fights are split seconds,” he observed. “Literally you have split seconds to make a decision. No problem. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s do the right thing. That’s it.”
Based on Sityodtong’s statement, Alvarez’s wish to have the loss overturned will not be granted. To the credit of “The Underground King,” his main concern following the bout was the well-bring of his opponent. According to Sityodtong, he’s in stable condition. The loss, meanwhile, dropped Alvarez’s record to 30-8, with one No Contest.