Following a lengthy legal battle, the path is finally clear for Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez to jump ship and sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Alvarez already tried to sign with the UFC after initially completing his Bellator fight contract, but that resulted in lawyers battling over Bellator’s right to match the UFC’s contract offer and whether or not they truly could match the offer.
Instead of sitting on the sidelines for years while a legal battle played out, Alvarez came to an agreement to return to Bellator and fight. He fought one more time under the promotion’s banner, recapturing the lightweight title.
He still wasn’t happy, however, and despite Bellator management being removed from Bjorn Rebney and handed over to Scott Coker, the resolution was Bellator and parent company Viacom finally relenting and granting Alvarez his unconditional release.
Coker, Bellator’s president, announced the release on Tuesday.
“We’ve granted Eddie his unconditional release. Eddie is free to explore the free agent market, we hold no matching rights, and we wish him the best in the future,” said Coker.
“We sat down with Eddie and his team a few times, and it became pretty clear early on that he just wasn’t interested in fighting for Bellator in the future. We want guys in this organization that want to be here, and after the history Eddie and the former regime had here at Bellator, we decided to move on. We wish Eddie the absolute best of luck with whatever is next for him. It’s a new chapter for everyone involved.”
Alvarez issued a statement of his own as part of the Bellator release, saying he didn’t hold a grudge against his now-former employer.
“This was a long process but it’s a decision that everyone seems happy with. I think it’s important to say that I am genuinely thankful for my time at Bellator. I know that sounds a little crazy given everything I went through, but I’ve fought there since 2009, and have been involved in some really amazing fights,” he said.
“The staff there always treated me great, and I’m going to miss seeing a lot of those familiar faces around for sure. Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter in my career.”
What that next chapter holds is likely to include fighting in the famed Octagon. With Alvarez being granted his full release without any matching rights or other entanglements, the UFC would be free to sign him without all the hassles that emerged when they attempted to sign him just over a year ago.
UFC officials at the time of publication had no comment on Alvarez’s release or the prospect of him signing with the promotion.
Alvarez is the second Bellator champion in less than a year that the promotion has allowed to walk away. Bellator released undefeated welterweight champion Ben Askren last November.