At this point of his career, Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez says he's more concerned with building his name than competing for the UFC.
Already well-paid with Bellator and the company's main attraction, he could easily become another face in the crowd If he were to join the UFC. That's why he's out to turn himself into a valuable commodity in case it ever comes to that.
"I want to be someone so I have some sort of leverage," Alvarez said Monday on The MMA Hour. "I don't want to be the next disposable 155-pounder who can be thrown out the window if he has a loss or two. I want to make myself indispensable and make a name for myself before I ever negotiate with a company like [the UFC]."
The problem that lies with not fighting for the UFC, especially now that Zuffa has acquired Strikeforce, is that it's almost impossible for Alvarez to be considered the No. 1 lightweight in the world when practically every other top-ranked lightweight competes under the Zuffa banner.
As much as Alvarez would want to prove he's the best in the world against ranked opponents, there are other considerations. Alvarez enjoys the exposure he receives from fighting on MTV2 and estimates he earns as much as he would anywhere else.
"I'm one of the top paid 155ers in the world," he said. "I don't know if anybody knows that, but now you do."
In fact, when it comes to compensation, fighting for the UFC could be a bigger gamble for the 27-year-old father -- one he's not willing to accept right now.
"I can't tell my three kids, 'Hey, daddy's going to take a shot and take a risk and take a paycut and hopefully I make it," Alvarez said. "It's got to be more than that for me. I got to secure myself and secure my family.
"I'm going to do the right thing to become No. 1," he continued. "That's one of my main concern, but it's also to protect my financial security with my family too."
This Saturday, Alvarez will put his belt on the line against season two lightweight tournament winner Pat Curran at Bellator 39. Curran is another name out there considered a prospect, but not someone who will improve Alvarez's position in the rankings.
Still, Alvarez is giving Curran all the respect in the world. He can't afford not to, as all it takes is one mistake to erase years of hard work.
"If I don't come focused, I could very well lose," he said. "Any given night, anybody can win, but I have to be on my game and be focused and do what I know how to do and put him away."
After all, if he eventually wants to claim No. 1 status, Alvarez can't look past anyone in front of him. The effort he puts into any fight needs to be as much as it would be against the Frankie Edgars or Gilbert Melendezes of the world.
"I pretended that [Curran] was No. 1 in the world," Alvarez said. "I'm going to perform the way I always perform no matter who I'm going up against."
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