Eddie Alvarez, on April 20, will get the chance of a lifetime when he gets an opportunity to rematch Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki and work his way back among the lightweight elite.
After a great, eye opening year, Alvarez closed 2008 succumbing to defeat for a second time in his professional career. It was at Dynamite 2008, where Aoki submitted the Philadelphian in the opening round via heel hook.
The former Bellator champion believes he wasn’t ready for the likes of Aoki being that he was so young in his career and was still finding himself as a fighter. Since the loss, Alvarez would prove to be right as he defeated the likes of Josh Neer, Roger Huerta, Toby Imada, and Katsunori Kikuno.
“In a way I was still finding myself as a fighter,” Alvarez told MMAWeekly Radio Weekend Edition.
“I didn’t believe in my own abilities. I was shocked that I beat Joachim (Hansen) and I was shocked that I beat (Tatsuya) Kawajiri. I never looked back and thought I should’ve beat that guy, I was still finding myself career-wise and confidence-wise. Going into the Aoki fight, I mean pretty much if I had beaten Aoki, I would’ve been No. 1 in the world at the time and it was a lot to deal with at such a young part of my career.
“The fight itself, I definitely believed I could win, but I made mistakes in the fight. I over-engaged a guy who is simply a counter fighter.”
Now after building his confidence up with much more experience, Alvarez is ready for the elite opposition in the world. It took a while for him to get used to the fact that he’s a main event caliber fighter. With that state of mind, he turned down entering the Bellator lightweight tournament, so he could avenge his loss to a big named fighter.
“It makes no sense for me to rejoin a tournament and fight three guys that people don’t really care to see me fight rather than fight someone a Shinya Aoki, who is ranked in my weight class. I haven’t fought anyone ranked in my weight class in God knows how long. I’d be stupid not to take this fight. He’s ranked top five in my weight class, I believe, and it’ll get me back into the rankings. I’ll be able to forward positively.”
For the 28-year-old, he feels now is his time to shine and that he only wants to climb up the ranks where he can build a future at the top of the sport instead of only facing up-and-comers.