ONE on TNT IV’s Eddie Alvarez Focused on Christian Lee: “My Eyes Are On the Prize”

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You’d be forgiven for believing that Eddie Alvarez appearing on the ONE on TNT IV card this week is a direct response to his DQ loss (now overturned to a No Contest) to Iuri Lapicus earlier this month.

To some extent, that may be true — the other dominoes don’t fall until the first one is tipped, after all. But asked just that at Monday’s ONE on TNT IV media day, Alvarez said that if the opportunity had presented itself regardless, he’d still be fighting.

“Yeah. The answer to that is yes. I think so,” Alvarez (30-7, 2NC) told Cageside Press. “If I was presented this opportunity that I was presented, to come back, to stay active, to take advantage of— I had almost two or three camps that I missed, that got cancelled because of COVID. So it was important to make up as many fights as I could in a short amount of time. I missed a lot of fights, that was a year and a half off. I went to the gym, I owned my craft, I innovated, I worked at some things, I got better at some things. I think not staying active would have been a disservice to me.”

ONE not only gave him an opportunity to compete, said Alvarez, they game him a chance to come back and fight one of the top guys in the division in Ok Rae Yoon. “It’s an opportunity that I needed to take advantage of.”

Also on the card Wednesday is a name Alvarez is very familiar with: fellow lightweight Shinya Aoki. The pair both hold a win over the other, and a rubber match is something that has interested fans ever since Alvarez arrived in ONE, where Aoki is a former champ.

Alvarez seems less than enthused about the possibility, however. “Whatever. I’m really fixated. I feel like Aoki, to me, it’s in the past. He beat me very early on in my career. When he did beat me, it was very early on, I didn’t know anything.”

In the pair’s rematch in 2012, “when I was a full-fledged MMA fighter and I was well-rounded,” continued Alvarez, “I beat pretty him quickly. So I don’t feel the need to beat Shinya Aoki to put it to rest. But if the trilogy match happens and the fans want it, then it happens. But it’s not something that I necessarily care for or want or need.”

He may wind up in the fight regardless. Later during Monday’s media day, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong expressed interest in the trilogy bout.

In the meantime, “my eyes are on Christian Lee. My eyes are on the prize,” said Alvarez. “He has the belt, and that’s who I’m lasered in on.”

Lee defended the title once again earlier this month, against Timofey Nastyukhin, and earned considerable praise from “The Underground King.” The Philly native said Lee’s performance “was excellent. Great hook. He got his head off, he threw the hook, landed clean, put Timofey away. Christian Lee never ceases to amaze me. He goes out and puts on phenomenal performances. I’m just wondering when we’re going to fight.”

That sense of bewilderment comes from having heard Lee call for a fight with him, but not seeing that fight ever materialize. “I don’t care who he beats in the division. He has the opportunity to beat someone who’s great. I’ve done great things and I’ve beat champions all over the world for almost two decades. If he don’t fight me, he’ll be losing the opportunity to do something great.”

Watch the full ONE on TNT IV media day interview with Eddie Alvarez above. The event takes place this Wednesday, April 28, live on TNT. The main card airs at 10PM ET.

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