What a day it has been for Eddie Alvarez. Just hours after he was released from Bellator, the now former Bellator lightweight champion agreed to terms with the UFC on a new deal and a debut fight against Donald Cerrone at UFC 178.
MMAFighting.com spoke to Alvarez 40 minutes before the new UFC deal was announced about his release from Bellator and his hopes of signing with the UFC. Below is a transcript of that conversation.
Ariel Helwani: When did you find out that you were going to be released?
Eddie Alvarez: I believe we were in talks, where lawyers were talking to lawyers, that whole thing that Scott said that was true. The lawyers were talking about a possible release, they just needed to correct some language that was in the contract and make sure that the release was a full one. That started around three or four days ago.
When were you told that that was the plan?
It was around then. Before then, we spoke with Scott, Kevin Kay and the people at Bellator, and they just basically got it. They got that I was going to move on. We had some good conversations. I think they understood where I wanted to go and where I wanted my future to be and they just finally said, 'Let's leave it in the hands of the lawyers to figure out the paperwork,' and Scott got it done.
What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to be a free man?
I was completely shocked because you guys know what I dealt with in the past, there's no need to go over it again, but after a while of dealing with the people that I was dealing with, it was hard to believe anything like that could happen. It's a testament to where Bellator is going and the direction they're heading in that they're being straightforward, straight up and when they say they're going to do something they do it. Although I was shocked, it's a testament to where they're headed and their direction.
Did Scott try to re-sign you to a longer deal when you met?
Yeah, we spoke about possibly re-signing and things like that, but I just think the damage was done. I explained to Scott and the guys at Bellator, all the new guys, my decision had nothing to do with them. I think Scott Coker is a great promoter, a great guy, and I followed him and his promoting for a while. Everything he does he does with class, and he does it well. There's no doubt in my mind that Bellator is going to do well under his leadership. I just think for me, you and the fans know the past, the damage is done. I was ready to move on.
Do you think Bellator made the right call to release you, considering the fact that you had one fight left on your contract?
Absolutely. If they have me fight, it would be a very, very short-term gain. It wouldn't be worth it. I think Scott just wants to do things a little bit differently than they were done in the past, and this is showing that. They could have said, 'Hey, you have one more fight. Let's stick to it.' He could have done that. I think he understands the long-term value in Bellator and what this means for the long-term for the company. My hats off to him for thinking that way and not as short term as the old regime was thinking.
Do you want to sign with the UFC now?
Sure. I would love to join the UFC. I'm sure my management and everybody is in talks with them. I worked out today, I turned my phone off for a long, long time. Glenn said, Turn your phone off because we had an idea things were going to be released, so I turned my phone off. I will be able to speak to Glenn later today to see what's in store for the future. But my mind is set. That's where I want to be. That's where I want to head.
Do you know if your management team has talked to them yet?
No, literally, I got done practice, picked my kids up from school, I talked to Glenn right before the release, I turned my phone off, went to lunch, and I just got back home, and now I'm speaking with you. I have another practice at 7 o'clock tonight. I'll do that training session, then I'll give Glenn a call to see where the talks and negotiations are at and then move on from there. But I'm pretty hopeful that things will get done.
Is it hard to focus on regular life with all of this going on? It feels like Christmas Eve for you.
No, not at all. I guess from an outside point of view people think a lot of people are calling and texting me, but things never changed for me. I'm glad I did things the way I did them and got the experience of dealing with everything. I've experienced being a champion, I've experienced losing, I've experienced going to other countries, I've experienced it all. So nothing ever changes for me; I don't lose focus. I know what's real; I know that my training is the only thing that is actually real and really matters. Everything else for me is a big illusion -- it changes really quickly. You're here today and gone tomorrow. But the one thing that has been consistent my entire life has been my training, my work ethic and getting into the gym every day. That's the only thing I can really control. Everything else is really like a roller coaster.
Is it UFC or bust for you? Are you willing to talk to any other promotions?
I think my mind is made up to head to the UFC. I hope that Glenn can do the right things and get the right deal done. It comes down to competition for me and dollars, because I have a family. If I didn't have a family I would have joined the UFC a long time ago. I need to support a family, first and foremost, and secondly, I need the proper guys in front of me to get excited about to go after and get the No. 1 spot. I think at the UFC I have that. I have the right guys that they can put in front of me to show the world that I'm the best lightweight.
It's been well-documented that the original deal they offered you was a very good one. Do you think you'll get the same deal?
I don't know, man. I really don't. When I got offered a deal from the UFC a year and a half ago, times were a lot different. I wasn't a champion, I just lost to Mike Chandler, and it was a different scenario. It wasn't the same. I'm going to speak to Glenn tonight and see where everyone's heads are at and hopefully we can get to a good middle ground and get things happening.
Does that mean you think you are in a better spot and deserve a better deal?
I feel like I'm in a better spot. I wasn't a champion, right? When I did my first deal [with the UFC] I wasn't a champion of any other organization. I wasn't ranked as high either. So I feel something should be a little better.
What if another organization comes along and offers you a crazy amount of money? What will you do then?
I just think the timing of this whole thing ... it would have to be pretty ... I don't know, man. I don't think there's a number you can put on it. I really don't. I'm not sure there's a number you can buy me for right now. I think I know where I want to go, and I think that no matter what number comes in elsewhere, I just don't think that I could be bought. There's just certain things that I want to do in my career and certain things that I wanted to achieve, and I've done almost all of them. There's one more thing that I want to accomplish before I can be OK, before I can sleep easy at night. Just being there, that's one of them. Becoming a champion for another organization, that's one of them -- the one organization that I've haven't been a champion for yet.
There was a report that the UFC was hoping to book you vs. Donald Cerrone at UFC 178. Was that true?
No. I think that was people talking because Cerrone wanted a fight. I think there was some speculating going on there. They booked a fight for him. I think it was just people trying to do some MMA mate or whatever they were trying to do.
So what's the dream scenario for you? Who do you debut against in the UFC?
Dream scenario would be to debut immediately against Gilbert Melendez. That's my dream scenario, because I'm actually willing to sign a contract and not fake sign a contract and willing to fight him. I've been chomping at the bit for a long time, he's been talking a lot, and I think I match up really well with that guy. That's the dream scenario. But I want the title. And I'm willing to fight whoever I have to fight and willing to prove whatever I have to prove to whoever to get there. A lot of people are going to have their opinions and they're going to say what they're going to say, but the hardcore fans and the people who know MMA and know fighting they know who the underground king is, who doesn't have the belt yet, and it should happen very soon. So I'm hoping that I get a very tough opponent, who's going to put on an exciting fight. Just put someone in front of me who's dangerous so I can show the fans what I'm capable of.
How healthy are you right now? When could you debut?
I'm ready, man. I'm ready to fight. I can fight in a month, I can fight in two months. The one thing I got to do was understand the life of a lot of these UFC fighters, and it seems like you need to be ready at all times. With Bellator, I got to call the shots, when I fought, when I didn't fight and things like that. I think the UFC is a little different, people get scrapped, people get hurt. You gotta be ready at all times. I'll be one of those guys who's ready to go at all times. If Pettis decided that he wanted to get hurt or something like that, I would love to fill in for that fight.
Since you're the Bellator champion, do you think you should get an immediate title shot?
I'm not the one who determines what I should get or shouldn't get. I know what I'm capable of and I know the guys that I can beat. I've been helping my training partners get ready for all these guys for years. Every single one of them. I imitated a lot of these guys in the top-10, for sparring partners and friends, guys who were going up against them. I know them. I know what they do. I know what they're good at, what they're weak at. I understand a bunch of them. I actually could fight like a lot of them, so I'm just excited. I'm excited for something new.
If you can't get Melendez first, who do you want?
The only reason Gilbert comes to mind is because my name came out of his mouth an awful lot in the past. If this is able to happen and I'm able to join this organization I don't have any personal vendettas against anyone else. No one has been able to say stuff towards me because I haven't been in the organization. Personally, I don't really care about the other guys. I feel like I can pretty much take on anyone in the division. On a personal level, the only one that I think we should fight and get this shit over with is Gilbert. Everyone else, I have nothing personal against. It's just business. I am not here to be a measuring stick for anyone. I'm here to be the champion, bottom line. Whoever wants to fight me before i get that opportunity, it's going to be hell for them.
When do you want to get this deal done?
The sooner the better. That's all I can say.
Any parting shots for your old friend Bjorn Rebney?
No, I wish Bjorn well. No sense in bringing up the past. I know fans want me to go there but no sense in beating a dead horse. I'm going to do my thing, and I hope that all the underground fans who understand MMA, who've been following me and wanting this to happen and been behind me throughout, I hope they continue to follow me and just know that I'm going to get everything that everybody thinks I'm going to get.
Before I go, I just want to thank my manager Glenn Robinson and attorney Frank Smith for all their hard work and diligence. No man is an island, and I could have never done this without these guys on my side.