by Luis Cruz – MMAWeekly.com
Breaking onto the scene by way of Philadelphia, Eddie Alvarez just a short time ago was not much of a household name in the MMA world. Ask fans now, the ones who watch more than just the UFC, and they’ll be quick to tell you how exciting he is to watch.
As he enters the semi-finals of the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix, Alvarez looks set to make his mark as a top lightweight in mixed martial arts. It won’t be an easy road, but anyone counting out this Philadelphia warrior may be in for a rude awakening come July 21.
MMAWeekly.com recently had a chance to talk to Alvarez about his upcoming opportunity in the grand prix and he is not lacking any confidence, even with the names of Kawajiri, Uno, and Aoki sharing the tournament bracket alongside him.
MMAWeekly- First, how is everything going with training and are you doing anything different?
EA – Training is going great. I’m just starting to peak and I’ll probably be peaked in about a week or so and I’ll start to wean down from there. But as far as training goes, everything’s been going great and my weight is coming off like I want it to and at the right time.
MMAWeekly- You are competing in this grand prix, but are under contract with EliteXC. What are the main differences for you fighting in a cage for EliteXC and a ring for Dream?
EA – I only fought once for EliteXC and their cage was kind of small. In that aspect the area to move around doesn’t favor the striker, it favors the grappler because he can get you against the cage pretty easily. But that kind of stuff doesn’t take me off my game and I try not to concentrate too much on if I’m fighting in a ring or a cage. No matter where I’m fighting, it’s a fight and I try not to concern myself on where I’m fighting or what arena.
MMAWeekly- So you’re training is pretty much the same with either one?
EA – Of course there’s a couple things you can use like the spring action of the cage for takedowns. You can pin the guy up against the cage and take away a guy’s jiu-jitsu. Those types of things you can use, but other than that I think the area and square footage most times in a cage or ring is pretty much identical, so it’s not too much of a difference.
MMAWeekly- This grand prix has really put you on the lightweight radar. You had a fight of the night candidate for the year in your bout with Joachim Hansen in the last round. You showed excellent submission defense even when it seemed you were caught a couple of times. Is that something you have worked extensively on recently?
EA – No, not particularly. My trainer, Stephen Haigh, is a great jiu-jitsu and MMA coach. I’ve been with him for five years. I just think it’s a part of my game that people don’t think is very strong. I have good submissions and good submission defense, it’s just something I don’t choose to attack with. I like to keep the fight exciting and high paced. I don’t particularly like the clinch because it slows the pace of the fight down and jiu-jitsu does that, so that’s why I don’t use it as much as maybe some people would like me to. But I do constantly work on submissions and submission defense to improve like everything else.
MMAWeekly- This grand prix is actually playing itself out for you in a way that a tournament actually should be with each fight being a higher caliber of opponent. You started with Andre “Dida” Amade, then it was Joachim Hansen, now you have the Top10 Kawajiri, and what most people are expecting is a finals match-up with Shinya Aoki. There are no guarantees in this sport and Kawajiri and Uno are anything but sure wins, but let’s say you are victorious here, what do you feel that does for your career?
EA – As far as winning the tournament and beating Kawajiri and Aoki that would be like the end of a perfect year for me because I’m going to take some time off after this tournament regardless of the results. But it’s going to take my career off man. People will know at 155 pounds I’m going to be a threat and someone to reckon with. I have all the belief in myself to do it, it’s just when July 21 comes around and me stepping in the ring and being as focused as I can be and perform the way I know how. If I do that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t win this tournament.
MMAWeekly- What’s your status with EliteXC and what do you expect when you return?
EA – I’m signed with EliteXC and I’m also signed right now with Monte Cox’s promotion (Adrenaline MMA). I have to see how this tournament plays out first and foremost, then I have to see when I come home what makes the most sense for me and my career then take it from there. I don’t really want to take fights that don’t make sense and don’t build me up. I want to fight the best people out there. I’m young and want to get that experience with the better guys.
MMAWeekly– How many fights do you have left on your current EliteXC contract?
EA – I believe I have two or three fights or something like that.
MMAWeekly- I ask because if you win this fight, this tournament, or even now actually, I can see EliteXC possibly making you a contender to the winner of Noons vs. Diaz II, if and when that happens. Would that be a fight of interest to you for the EliteXC lightweight title?
EA – Oh yea, of course. When I come home I don’t want to fight a nobody or fight an up and comer, I want to fight the best. I’m not going to leave a tournament that has top fifteen lightweights in the world and come home and fight chumps or whatever. Both of them are top-level guys and I would love to fight whoever has the title at the time.
MMAWeekly – Would you have a preference of the two if you got to choose? Is one or the other a better style match up for you?
EA – Whoever wins the fight and is holding the belt at the time is who I’d rather face. I don’t like to look at guys and say yea that’s who I want to fight. I don’t like to pick my opponents; it’s not something I do. I just want to face whoever they consider the best so I can hold the top rank at whatever promotion I’m at.
MMAWeekly- Another bout I think a lot of fans would like to see is Alvarez vs. Melendez. Melendez holds a win over your next opponent, Kawajiri, did you use that fight at all in preparing for this?
EA – Oh of course. I watch all my opponents’ losses and his wins and see his tendencies because it’s going to teach you a lot going into the fight. You can see some of their bad habits and what they’re weak at. So I definitely watched that fight and Gilbert did a good job exposing Kawajiri, breaking him with his conditioning. He did things to Kawajiri most guys weren’t able to do. It was definitely a good learning tool for me to watch that fight, so I’d like to thank Gilbert for putting on a performance like that against him because I was able to study that fight and learn a lot before stepping in the ring with him.
MMAWeekly- What do you feel is Kawajiri’s biggest weapon he brings to this fight that you are most concerned with?
EA – I would say if he is able to take me down. I don’t think he’ll be able to, but if he does, he likes to try to hold you down. Not really do anything, just hold you there. So the fact that he is strong enough to hold a fighter down is a strength. I’m also fighting him in Japan, so I know they’ll be favoring him a little more and they’ll be more inclined to letting him work the way he wants to work.
MMAWeekly- So you feel that in Japan he has the ability to ride out a decision like that, almost like a lay and pray style?
EA – Yea, that would be my biggest concern.
MMAWeekly- Keys to victory for you, takedown defense?
EA– Yea, I think so. As long as I stop Kawajiri’s takedowns I can have my way with him. I’ve heard he has a hard punch, but I feel I can expose him because I have a reach advantage on him; I’m slightly taller than him. Normally when I fight guys his stature, who have less of a reach than I do, I fair very well because I’m used to fighting longer guys that I have to work to get inside. On him I feel like I can do a lot of damage on my feet. Even if I take him down I feel that I can get some good ground and pound.
MMAWeekly- How much do you feel you have grown as a fighter in the last couple of years? Where do you feel you are at with your potential?
EA – I feel like I’m still in the beginning stages in my career. Everyone at some point something clicks. It happened to me in a stage in my career in wrestling. Something clicked and I was able to put moves together.
I think I had my first click at the beginning of this year and just being able to be consistent in the gym and I feel like it’s just the beginning. That’s why I’m trying to take fights with the best guys now because I know the end result. I put my time in with stiff competition and I’ll have the know how to take care of these guys in the future. So I’m still learning and still feel like I got a lot more years until I can become completely dominant.
MMAWeekly- I’d like to get your take on a couple of things. First, the fight between Caol Uno and Shinya Aoki.
EA – A lot of people think Aoki’s got it, but after seeing Uno fight Ishida and put that game plan together and take him out the way he did, I think Uno wins. I think I’ll be facing Uno in the finals. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Uno has ever been subbed. So I think he’ll be ready and with his experience he can pull out a decision.
MMAWeekly- How about K.J. Noons vs. Nick Diaz II?
EA – I’d have to say K.J. again because he has a lot of momentum right now. He did a really good job the first fight counter-punching against Nick. I think if he sticks with that I’m not sure Nick is going to be able to take him down and they’ll be standing up again. So I don’t see it going any other way than it did the first time.
MMAWeekly- Who are the Top 5 lightweights in the world?
EA – I would say B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Takanori Gomi, myself, and honestly I couldn’t even pick a fifth because there are so many guys.
MMAWeekly- Is there anything you want to say to your fans, any last shout outs?
EA - FightMA.com they do all my supplements and give me all my pre-workout drinks. They also do my physical therapy and keep me healthy for all my fights. Full Contact Fighter, they’re always with me. Go to AlvarezFight.com , that’s my website, check it out. All my Philly street team, I love you guys. I’m going to do my best to come home with that belt and represent the United States and Philly to my full potential.