Eight months of anger, resentment and legal roadblocks came to a tidy conclusion last week when former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez reached a settlement with the promotion that built him into a star then threatened to cage his livelihood away for years in the courts.
The U.S. justice system never got around to determining whether Bellator matched the terms of the UFC's contract. But nonetheless, Alvarez now is scheduled to rematch Michael Chandler in the co-main event of Bellator's inaugural pay-per-view, providing a cordial end to his rocky year.
"We've been trying to settle since the beginning of this thing. Just, none of the meetings we had really went anywhere. I drew a line in the sand, they drew a line in the sand, and we were sort of butting heads," Alvarez explained on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"The thing is, in every relationship there's good, there's bad, and there's ugly. People get a little caught up -- I got a little caught up, I got a little emotional -- and they want to take a side. But really, both sides needed to compromise. We both needed to sit down and really listen to each other and each other's needs, and we were able to do that. They put a deal on the table. It was fair enough."
Throughout the interview, that ominous phrase -- ‘enough' -- reared its head more than once in Alvarez's vernacular. Over and over, Alvarez, almost begrudgingly, referred to the deal as "fair enough," and said that he was "happy enough" to accept it.
Yet in the fuzzy afterglow of a conflict now resolved, it's easy to forget just how nasty and personal things grew between Alvarez and Bellator a scant few months ago. At times the relationship seemed frayed beyond repair, with each side lobbing public potshots at the other and sinister undertones lining every exchange.
Alvarez eventually reached a point where his options were simple: he could either sit on the sidelines until, at best, late-2014, or accept defeat. Given the lose-lose nature of that situation, it's hard to believe a settlement could heal all those old wounds.
"Are we okay? I don't know. Ask Bjorn (Rebney) that," Alvarez said. "It is what it is. Look, we're in business together. I don't agree with everything that's done, and he doesn't agree with everything that's done, so we're sort of butting heads. That's the nature of this business. When you're at the end of a contract, that's sort of the way things go. I don't know what more can be said. Someone's got to get their way, right? Someone's has to get their way and somebody needs to compromise."
For the most part, what exactly that compromise entails is still clouded in mystery, largely because Alvarez is unable to reveal specifics. All he can say is that certain terms within his new contract differ from the contract he was offered in January.
"It's not the same deal. There's some differences," Alvarez explained. "I can't get into the details or the structure of the deal. It's just not, it's not what I agreed to. But it's fair to say that I'm happy enough to get work in, and more than anything, just fight Mike Chandler again. I had a s--tty night. I think when you're champion, it's okay to have a s--tty night, but it's also important to redeem yourself. And I'm lucky enough, I'm very grateful, that I get a chance to redeem myself."
All dramatics aside, the match-up itself needs no defending. Alvarez and Chandler's first meeting easily turned into one of, if not the greatest fight in Bellator's history, and interest in a rematch has only intensified since late-2011. For that reason, many within the MMA community consider Chandler-Alvarez II to be the real draw of Bellator's inaugural pay-per-view, despite the bout being marketed underneath fading legends Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson.
Alvarez, however, either doesn't view his co-main event slot as a slight, or at this point simply doesn't care.
"What's it matter?" Alvarez asked. "Second, third, fourth? A fight's a fight. What does it matter?
"We're the main event. In my eyes, it's the main event."
Alvarez‘s road to this moment has been long. Viacom essentially made an example out of him, and at times the light at the end of the tunnel looked quite bleak. Even now, if Alvarez does avenge his loss to Chandler and emerges victorious in the inevitable rubber match, he'll still be stuck where he was before, defending the Bellator lightweight strap against men ranked far lower than him on the divisional ladder. If that's what it comes down to, Alvarez is okay with it, but only if "everything is a fair playing field and everybody can be given a fair shake."
Ultimately the 29-year-old will play with the hand he's been dealt, because if nothing else, Alvarez can once again walk into the gym with a sense of purpose. It may not have worked out how he dreamed, but finally Alvarez is able to train with a goal in mind and a date circled on the calendar. Not long ago, that notion seemed impossible.
"That was my biggest concern," Alvarez admitted. "I had an investment property that I bought that actually did really well for me. I made good money off of it. I planned on never, never selling it. Just holding onto it and being able to maybe pay for my kids' college. It was a good investment, but I had to sell it. And the minute I sold that, my intentions were to sell it, make the move to Florida, and train for a world championship title fight.
"Everything happened exactly the way I thought about it in my mind, and I'm glad it did. By the end of this year, I'll fight the best fight you guys have ever seen. My first fight against Mike Chandler, I might've had the worst first round I've ever fought in my whole life. And I still almost came back and won the fight.
"I'm a way more focused person," Alvarez continued. "I look at Mike Chandler as a dangerous opponent now -- which in the first fight, I really didn't. When I see my opponents like that, when I look at them as dangerous and a threat to me, they're the guys that I do the best against. They're the guys that I put away and I put away fast. So to me, this is a completely different fight. Mike Chandler can think what he wants. He can think had the best of me, and he can think that he took my best shots in the third. That's complete bulls--t. He didn't take my best shots. November 2nd, he'll take my best shots. And we'll see if he's able to get out of even the first."