Former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez has two good reasons be happy. Last week he rebounded from the loss to Michael Chandler with a sensational and swift revenge victory over Shinya Aoki at Bellator 66. Additionally, UFC President Dana White has flat out stated he "likes" Alvarez, which is code for wanting to sign him once the lightweight's services become available for negotiation.
While the Philadelphia native is certainly encouraged by the aforementioned, not all has necessarily been well. Alvarez recently went through a "rough patch" that had nothing to do with his loss to Chandler. While he's on the other side of that trouble and change now, those tough times have forced the lightweight to prioritize what's most important in his career.
"The last couple of months for me have been rough,"Alvarez told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "I have three kids and a wife at home and financially I've been struggling a little bit, to be honest with you. I had to make so many changes since the Chandler fight. They were necessary changes, but they were a lot to deal with. I left my home, I left my kids, I left my wife to move to south Florida and sleep on my friend's couch just so I can train properly and focus properly and make sure I win this fight."
"I'm a fighter, but I'm also a father and a husband," Alvarez said after reflecting about his actual identity. "That's a really big, important part of my life. I'm not willing to sacrifice that for fighting. I need to adjust and find a balance and I'll do that. I've done it in the past and I'll do it again."
So, how did Alvarez get to a point where he was barely holding on to pay the bills?
He's adamant it wasn't frivolous spending, but rather, putting up too much capital in too many investments at once. "I'm not one to blow money," said Alvarez. "I'm very smart with my money, but I made too many investments at one time and i didn't really think too far ahead, thinking 'I'm just going to keep fighting' and got ahead of myself and paid for it."
Alvarez also pointed to his inconsistent competition schedule as a contributing factor.
"They keep having me fight and then don't have me fight for six and eight months and stuff. The well dries up. Little by little, I just run out of funds." Ultimately, Alvarez was able to hang on through the storm and credits his management for stepping in and scrounging up sponsor money to keep him afloat between fights.
Now on the other side of a bad spot and with the wind at his back, Alvarez is at a crossroads. He has several attractive options. One of the better ones? A future in the UFC lightweight division and it's one he'd admittedly love to have. "I'd be lying if I said, 'nah, I'm not interested in fighting for the UFC'. I'd be crazy. That's the Mecca of all fighting and that's what we all sort of strive for: to get in there and win that belt."
For now, Alvarez is tied up with a Bellator contract. He can take one more fight or wait out four months. However, if he accepts a bout between now and the end of the four month period - something he told Helwani he isn't opposed to doing - he'd be able to start negotiating with other promoters.
That isn't to say he's unhappy at Bellator. He's been with them for years and doesn't blame Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney for his own financial mismanagement. In light of recent events, however, securing a strong financial future has never been more important. And if precedent is any key indicator, Alvarez believes he's due for a raise. "I'm not trying to be a bad guy," he said. "I'm not trying to do anything, but like an employee if you're at a company for four years - I think everyone who's at Bellator so far who's been there for four years has got a raise."
"I'm an employee of Bellator. I feel like I have that right after four years," Alvarez said candidly.
It's probably safe to say Alvarez isn't unconcerned with UFC championship glory. Everyone fighting at Alvarez's level probably cares to some degree. And Alvarez isn't suggesting he hasn't been taken care of well by Bellator. Looking ahead, though, the top priority in his career is the top priority in his life: taking care of his family.
"I just feel like my only loyalty is to my family," Alvarez said. "It's not to Bellator, it's not to UFC, it's not to anyone. It's to make the right decision for me, my wife and kids that's going to benefit us the most."
Does he want great opponents? Sure. Would he like to fight in the world's biggest stage? Absolutely. Does he want to test himself against the UFC elite? There's no question. But in Alvarez's mind, any deal he signs isn't about him as a fighter. It's about him as a husband and father.
"To be honest with you, I don't feel like I have any loyalties to any one promotion. My loyalties are my family and to make the right decision for our future. That's it."