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Thiago Alves on fighting teammates: ‘We fight every day in the gym, so why not make good money with it?’

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David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Robbie Lawler won the UFC welterweight championship in December, and fellow American Top Team fighter Thiago Alves wouldn’t mind getting inside the Octagon to try taking his friend’s belt.

Alves, who fought for the UFC gold against Georges St-Pierre in 2009, returns to action against Jordan Mein at Saturday night’s UFC 183 in Las Vegas, and explains why he would be down to fight anyone in the division, including other ATT members like Lawler, Tyron Woodley and Hector Lombard.

"Our job is to fight,’ Alves told MMAFighting.com. "Unfortunately, sometimes you have to fight a training partner in order to get the title, which is everyone’s goal. But that’s not a problem. That’s normal. It is what it is.

"We have a lot of great training partners," he continued. "We train together but not the whole time because we have like 15 welterweights training here. When we get to this point, it’s professional. Everybody wants to become champion and we understand that. We don’t have any problem fighting each other. We fight every day in the gym, so why not make good money with it?"

In fact, "Pitbull" explains that having some of the best welterweights in the world training inside the same gym is what took American Top Team to the next level.

"That’s the difference not only at 170 pounds, but in the other weight classes as well," he said. "We have high level athletes and that makes the difference. Every day it’s a war in the gym. No easy training there. That’s the difference, that’s why we’re on a good streak."

To keep that good streak alive, Alves has to get past Mein on Saturday night. But if you thought the Brazilian had a tough time recovering from another knee injury, think again. The welterweight veteran, who fought only once since 2012, had three fights cancelled and underwent multiple surgeries, but feels good now.

"It was easy," he said with a laugh. "After what I’ve been through, one surgery after the other, this was nothing at all.  It was pretty easy.

"My injury was an accident, I was taking a training partner down with a judo throw and he fell over my knee. It could have happened to anyone, it’s not like my body was weak or anything like that. It was an accident."

"Young Gun", a 25-year-old Canadian with a 3-1 record in the UFC, faces "Pitbull" after knocking out Mike Pyle in 72 seconds. Alves doesn’t expect an easy fight, but finishing Pyle quickly doesn’t mean much to him.

"Mike Pyle took the fight on short notice and I don’t think he was well prepared, but the fight didn’t last that long," Alves said. "I expected that already. We know Mike Pyle and Jordan Mein. If you put pressure on Mike Pyle in the beginning of the fight, he doesn’t fight well. Put the pressure and it can end quick, and that’s what happened."

Alves’ teammate Tyron Woodley was the last man to beat Mein before joining the UFC, but that didn’t help him in training.

"Tyron Woodley fought him at Strikeforce and also trained with him, so I know him well," he said. "We talk all the time, he’s my training partner, but Mein is also his friend, they trained together for the Carlos Condit fight, so I respect his decision to not get involved and talk too much. I’m ready. I have a great strategy for this fight. I’m going to execute the strategy and finish the fight."

"Pitbull" hasn’t finished a fight since a first-round submission over Papy Abedi in 2011, and plans to put an end to this story on Saturday night.

"It’s going to be a great fight," he said. "Fans will get excited with this fight, and I’m going for the finish. I’m going to knock him out. This fight won’t go the distance."