Former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez has a pretty big decision to make in the coming days. Ranked in the Top 10 in the division, the 28-year-old fighter is a free agent and, as such, has both Bellator and the UFC interested in having him put his name to a contract. The question now facing Alvarez is not only which organization will he choose, but also which organization should he choose?
The knee-jerk reaction here would be for Alvarez to ink with the UFC. After all, they are the biggest mixed-martial-arts promotion in the world and could provide Alvarez with the most exposure and allow him to pit his talents against the best fighters in the world.
If Alvarez signed with the UFC, he would be walking into a lion’s den in the lightweight division—a division that features Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis in its upper echelon. Just below that level, you have Matt Wiman, TJ Grant, Clay Guida and Joe Lauzon. In short, if Alvarez is looking for some tough fights, he’s going to find them in the UFC.
He’s also going to find that he’s not the big dog in the division. Sure, he’s an exciting fighter; sure, he’s a fighter that has name recognition, but in a division as stacked as the UFC’s lightweight division is, he’ll be just another fighter looking to work his way up the food chain.
If Alvarez decides to stay with Bellator, he’ll be the No. 2 guy in the lightweight division, right behind the man, Michael Chandler, that took his title in what many thought was one of the best fights of 2011. In Bellator, he’s a big dog, one of the promotion’s biggest names, a fighter whom Bellator should be able to promote and use as a draw.
Alvarez told ESPN, “For me, it’s about going and fighting where I can make the best living that I can for me and my family. Wherever that is, that’s where I’ll go.”
Those words make it sound like money will be the big motivator for Alvarez. No one can fault him for that; he’s in a sport in which athletes have a very short time during which they can earn a significant amount of money.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told MMAFighting that they have tabled an offer to retain Alvarez and are awaiting his decision. If he decides to pass on that deal, odds are that he will head over to talk to the UFC. If the UFC offers him a better deal, Bellator has 90 days to match that deal, a fact that recently caused some tension between UFC president Dana White and Rebney.
Rebney said that the promotion would not drag the process out, and if Alvarez decided the grass was greener on the UFC side of the fence, he would cut short the matching period and bid adieu to his former champ.
The other thing Alvarez has to consider is the big “What if?” What if he moves to the UFC and fails? What if he finds that when a top UFC fighter rocks him, they don’t allow him time to recover and they finish him? What if he follows in the footsteps of other highly-touted fighters who made the transition only to find out that things were much tougher than expected in the UFC?
Where should Alvarez sign
As a professional fighter, Alvarez has to have supreme confidence in his abilities, but not looking at both the positives and the negatives of the situation, no matter how confident he is, would be a mistake.
The wild card in all of this is Spike TV: Can Bellator and Spike TV owner Viacom sweeten the pot to keep Alvarez in the fold? Viacom has cash to throw around if they want; in the first quarter of 2012, they made a profit of $585 million on revenue of $3.3 billion. So the money is there for them to invest in Bellator if they so desire. Plus, with an FX executive saying, “Spike should watch their ass,” they may have some interest in slinging some of their profits in the direction of Bellator.
Alvarez (24-3) is an exciting fighter; only three of his 27 professional fights have gone the distance, and no matter where he signs, that promotion will be obtaining a fighter who will be a draw—there’s no doubt about that.
Who gets that draw? Well, we’ll find out in a few days.