Half of the drama heading into the coveted rematch between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez was in all the unspoken things lying underneath. After having filed lawsuits in what essentially became a custody battle over himself upon signing with the UFC as a restricted free agent, Alvarez and Bellator finally reached a settlement that would return him to action. While it was good news that he would carry on professionally, not everyone considered his new agreement with Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney a truce.
As he got back to work on Saturday night in Long Beach, there was still plenty of unresolved tension in the air. And Alvarez did exactly what he said he was going to do, and that was to reclaim the lightweight belt. The sequel was another classic battle with Chandler, only this time Alvarez won via a very narrow split decision. Though the victory sets up a trilogy fight that might be bigger than anything Alvarez could find currently in the UFC, there are still plenty of questions hovering around as to what happens next.
On Monday, a "banged up" Alvarez was at home in Philadelphia celebrating with his friends, family and neighbors at his home. In the midst of his party he took the time to speak with Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour and fill us in -- as much as he legally could -- as to where the victory leaves things between him and Bellator. And also, if it felt weird fighting for the promotion again after so much public acrimony.
"Nah, not at all. That was my… that was how I thought I was going to feel going in," he said. "Because I have trust issues. I don’t trust anyone. Especially in this game. I have issues with that. That’s my own feelings. But honestly man, the people at Bellator treated me no different than they always do. The guy Dean Lassiter and all the guys at Bellator welcomed me with open arms. They even picked my wife up from LAX when she came in. I was treated as always. it was no different than any other time out."
Though Alvarez was still cryptic when it came to the details of his deal -- and as to whether or not he ultimately lost out on the pay-per-view points that created the "language" barrier to begin with between the Zuffa and Bellator contracts -- he did say that he had made peace with the ordeal before he got in the cage.
When asked if he felt like he was fighting against Bellator as much as Michael Chandler, he took the high road.
"I let all that stuff go," he said. "I let everything go. I said good luck to Mike before the fight. I said thank you to Bjorn before the fight. I let every ounce of anger, every ounce of animosity I had…I let it all go. I felt so good, man. I really felt like I was going to become champion again. My training, I just felt like more than anything I deserved it. Because me and my wife and my kids, we moved out of our house. We did so much. We sacrificed so much. So I just felt like if anything I deserved it. So if I didn’t win, I would have been a little bummed out. I did a lot. I did a lot to get that title."
Alvarez has been training with the Blackzilians in Florida, and has now avenged his only two losses at 155 pounds (against Chandler and Shinya Aoki). The win over Chandler will return him on his northbound trajectory in the rankings. The prospect of leapfrogging back over Chandler with a win warmed him to the idea of returning.
"At this point, I want to get to No. 1 in the world," he said. "That’s why I fought Mike Chandler, because the idea kind of grew on me when I saw he was No. 3 in the rankings. I stopped looking at it as, aw man, they were doing something bad to me and I started looking at it as an opportunity to jump into the top of the rankings again and get closer to being that No. 1 spot. The ultimate goal is to get to No. 1 in the world. And all I can say is I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there. That’s all I can say. I can’t answer any further."
Alvarez did say that he and Rebney needed to sit down and open a line of dialogue with one another, which is something that of late they haven’t done.
"We spoke shortly, right after [the fight], basically like we got to sit down and talk and figure some things out," he said. "It hasn’t been the best relationship. I can’t lie. He can’t lie either and say oh, yeah we’re buddies we’re pals because, we’re not. Things aren’t the way they used to be. More than anything, there has to be a better open line of communication and maybe things can be talked about.
Asked if he thought Rebney was upset that he won the title -- as many believed Rebney showed his disappointment in the cage right after the fight -- Alvarez once again took the high road.
"People were twittering that he shook his head," he said. "I don’t know if he was misinterpreted, I don’t know if he shook his head because he really was upset. He didn’t seem like he had been upset when I was there. He could have shook his head because of how crazy this sport is. I don’t know why he shook his head. I don’t know what that was about."