Eddie Alvarez won the Bellator lightweight championship by roaring through the promotion’s first 155-pound tournament in 2009, submitting all three of his opponents.
He capped the tournament with a rear naked choke finish of Toby Imada in June 2009. That was the last time the belt was on the line.
Alvarez will make the first defense of his title – just under two years after winning it – Saturday night at Bellator 39 against surprising youngster Pat Curran.
It’s not that Alvarez didn’t fight after his championship success, he reeled off three victories since the Imada fight. He defeated Japanese standout Katsunori Kikuno for Dream, and UFC veterans Josh Neer and Roger Huerta in Bellator non-title fights, none of which went to a decision.
Even with all the success that Alvarez has had – a 21-2 overall record and six-straight victories – he sits at number five in the MMAWeekly.com World Top 10 MMA Rankings. That’s largely because, being outside of the UFC and Strikeforce circle, Alvarez isn’t often afforded the opportunity to fight the crème de la crème of the division.
It’s not that he doesn’t face tough fighters. There is no question that he does. But fighting and beating other Top 10 ranked fighters is typically what separates those at the top from those that are close to the top, an opportunity that isn’t often afforded him with the UFC’s stranglehold on much of the world’s top talent.
But all the banter about the Top 10 doesn’t mean much to Alvarez, at least not when it comes down to brass tacks.
“They hold no bearing in who is who and who can beat who. That’s all nonsense. A number one guy can lose to a number 10 guy any day of the week,” stated Alvarez. “It’s just how we get paid and how we negotiate our pay, to me.”
He’s not into the banter over this guy could beat that guy, but that last reality, “it’s just how we get paid and how we negotiate our pay,” that still makes being regarded as the top fighter in the world a worthy goal.
Alvarez prefers to settle the battle, as do most fighters, in the cage. That’s why he works so hard to do just that so that he will one day be regarded as the top fighter in the world.
Leading up to Saturday night’s fight with Curran at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Alvarez revealed his secret weapon in continuing his quest… his family.
“(My wife), she knows that it is for the better good that I will be number one in the world. And she knows the sacrifices that come along with that for her and for me,” said Alvarez. “I’m very fortunate to have the support I have.”
It’s that support that allows him to focus in on the opponent in front of him, disregarding everything else to the point of it driving him to the brink.
“It actually makes me quite dangerous because I get crazy with watching tape, watching video, studying moves over and over and over. It gets monotonous, but when I get sick of it, that’s when I know I’m ready.”
But he doesn’t get so focused on technique that he forgets the intangibles that play into the fight. As well as Alvarez knows Curran’s fighting style from watching his bouts in an endless loop, he has picked up on a separate element that Curran brings to the cage that means just as much, if not more… heart.
Curran entered the Bellator Season 2 lightweight tournament a heavy underdog, but upset his favored opponents every step of the way. He knocked out highly touted Canadian prospect Mike Ricci then proceeded to take decision victories over former UFC star Roger Huerta and submission specialist and Bellator vet Toby Imada.
Alvarez sees a similarity, aside from a couple common opponents.
“He’s done a great thing (winning the tournament) and it’s something that I’ve done. In 2008, nobody knew who I was and I put myself to the fire at the Dream tournament and I came out victorious as well. I think a lot of people are counting this kid out.”
Alvarez is not counting the kid out. He only hopes that Curran brings the attitude to make his first title defense a memorable one.
“I’m hoping and praying that Pat comes to fight me and doesn’t come to quit on me,” said Alvarez. “I want him to fight me and fight me like he wants to win.”
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