Within a span of a few whirlwind hours on Tuesday, Eddie Alvarez went from Bellator lightweight champion, to unconditional free agent, to co-headlining what -- injuries aside -- may still be the most anticipated UFC pay-per-view of the upcoming MMA schedule. Alvarez is now scheduled to fight Donald Cerrone at UFC 178, and after everything he's been through of late, he couldn't be happier with the quickness with which a deal came together.
"I think it was a matter of people just knowing what they want," Alvarez told MMAFighting.com. "I think the UFC knows what they want, and I think I know what I want. And I think it's easy to come to an agreement when both people are in the same boat. They understand their wants and their needs, and I understand my wants and my needs, and we came to a quick agreement."
Tuesday's sudden flurry of movement brought an end to the largely tumultuous two-year standoff between Alvarez and Bellator officials, as new Bellator president Scott Coker elected to grant Alvarez's wishes rather than repeat the same litigious errors of his predecessor, Bjorn Rebney.
Alvarez was first offered a UFC deal in late 2012. In terms of UFC contracts, it was a particularly lucrative one, presenting Alvarez an immediate title shot, a starting salary comprised of a $70,000/$70,000 show/win split, a tiered $250,000 signing bonus, pay-per-view points, and guaranteed appearances on various UFC-branded media.
Alvarez's stock, which was already high at the time of the offer, has actually risen since, as he avenged his loss against Michael Chandler to reclaim the Bellator lightweight strap. And while the UFC was only bidding against itself this time around, rather than trying to piece together a deal that would make Bellator reluctant to match, Alvarez says he was pleased with the end result.
"Numbers-wise, it's a bit different," he explained. "I'm not going to go into detail, but I'm sure you guys will find out soon enough. Someone will find out. But I'm very happy with the structure of the deal. It's more than enough to give me a kick in the butt to wake up in the morning and go to bed late at night and work hard and turn my key."
Alvarez may not be getting an immediate title shot for his UFC debut, but in Cerrone, he's getting the next best thing. Within the past year, "Cowboy" has ridden a four-fight hot streak all the way into the top-five of the lightweight rankings, and Alvarez made it clear that he hopes to receive a title shot after he dispatches Cerrone in the electrifying fashion fans have come to expect.
"Cowboy has been putting on great fights for a long time," he said. "It's no mystery, the guy is an exciting fighter. He does really well, and I do the same. Look, the only fights I want to be involved with at this time in my career, at this time in my life, are big fights. Dangerous guys, big events, where fans are biting their fingernails and they're asking themselves, ‘oh my god, we have no clue what's going to go on.' Those are the sort of fights that I want to be involved in.
"I don't want to wait around. I'm here for the title. I want to make that clear right from the beginning. Don't get me wrong, the UFC is the premier company, the best company in the world. But I'm not here just to be a measuring stick. I'm here for the world title. That's why I signed and that's what I'm here for. It's nothing personal, but I'm going to get after these guys hard, man. I'm going to be a dangerous guy to fight."
For a time, when courtrooms and settlement discussions dominated his day-to-day, Alvarez wasn't sure he would ever get the chance to make things right. Now, at age 30, he finally has the opportunity he's been waiting for, and he intends to make the most of it.
"A year from now, I would love to put me at three fights, 3-0 in the UFC and the UFC lightweight champion. That's my goal," Alvarez said.
"For years, all these guys have been in front of me. It's tough because I could be undefeated (and it wouldn't matter). ... Every lightweight I've ever fought, I've won against, and still it never put me in a number-one position. It's kind of daunting, seeing people in front of me who I feel, I could beat those guys but I can't get my hands on them. It's not possible for me to get my hands on them.
"Now I'm in a situation where I can get my hands on whoever I want, and I have an opportunity to get my hands on the number-one guys in the world. And I'm going to take full advantage of that opportunity. I'm going to show people what I'm capable of. If anybody has any questions or doubts, or doesn't believe in my ability or what I'm capable of, the answers to those questions are going to be found out very soon."