To Eddie Alvarez, the stage is irrelevant.
What matters right now is that he's fighting Rafael dos Anjos July 7 for the UFC lightweight title. Those are the only pertinent details.
"I don’t give a s**t where [this fight takes place]," Alvarez told MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour. "I don’t care if they even got a ref in there. Where this thing is and when it airs and where it airs, that ain’t got nothing to do with me. I’m getting a world title shot. I’m getting the opportunity to do something that I’ve been fighting 13 years for. I don’t care where they view this or if they view this at all. I couldn’t give two sh**s. I just want that title shot."
Many fans, however, don't share Alvarez's view. When his matchup with dos Anjos was announced, considerable blow-back followed. The fight will be shown live on UFC Fight Pass, marking the first time a men's title fight ever aired via the online streaming service.
Alvarez reiterates: This point just does not matter.
"We can make it [the fight] on the walkway on the way out," Alvarez said. "We could fight right there. Fighting, it doesn’t matter, man. We’re going to get this thing done, and it’s going to be done violently, in a high-pace, violent fashion. That’s it. It don’t matter what venue it’s on, what channel it’s on, if it’s on at all. The title fight is happening, and Eddie Alvarez is about to be the next lightweight champion whether you like it or not."
While he maintains supreme confidence in his ability to secure gold July 7, Alvarez acknowledges his opponent's skill. He's not taking anything away from what dos Anjos (25-7) has accomplished – particularly in claiming and defending the belt – but, much like the venue, these details will be made irrelevant on fight night.
"I don’t know if there’s going to be a single person or anything that’s going to be able to get in my way come that date," Alvarez said. "Not a chance. I will not fail. I’m going to win this world title. I’ve told a lot of people this for a long time. I made a lot of promises. So, he’s [dos Anjos is] good. I’m not taking a single thing away from him, the guy is good at what he does, but that night, there’s not much he’s going to be able to do [to stop] me from winning that world title. Not a single thing."
Dos Anjos has shown a remarkably well-rounded game during his current five-fight winning streak, winning three times via knockout while still proudly touting a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu should he be forced to fight from the canvas. Alvarez is not blind to the improvements in dos Anjos' game of late, but he pinpointed one potential weakness that he may exploit July 7.
"If you look at history, everybody who’s beaten him – history, I’m not saying recently, but throughout his career – he’s been beaten by the better wrestler," Alvarez said. "Gleison Tibau, Clay Guida, Khabib [Nurmagomedov], so if I had to say he has a weakness, it’s his wrestling.
"But he has good wrestling technique. I think we all have a certain spirit to fight, and whether it’s a spirit to fight wrestling or a spirit to fight jiu-jitsu or a spirit to fight stand-up, that’s spirit’s different. A guy like [former UFC lightweight champion Anthony] Pettis doesn’t have a strong spirit to wrestle, so you wrestle him and break his spirit [by] wrestling. Then you can fight him. Then there are guys who can’t stand up, and you force them to stand up because they [don't] have [a strong spirit] to stand up. So if I had to say one weakness, I think his spirit to grapple and get in those grappling exchanges and wrestle, I think that’s where history has shown that’s his weakness."
Should a wrestling-centric game plan not work out for Alvarez on fight night, that's even better as far as Alvarez is concerned. He hears critics calling his most recent performances "boring," and he welcomes the chance to silence them.
"I get blamed about [my split-decision victory over] Pettis," Alvarez said. "The truth is, I did what I wanted. I did what I wanted. He didn’t get to do what he wanted, and now he’s a sore loser about it saying, ‘It wasn’t a fight.’ I did what I wanted to do, he couldn’t do what he wanted to do, and that’s a fight.
"I think this fight, in particular, Rafael’s well-rounded. So if I go for takedowns and he defends off, we’re going to get in a fight. It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be adversity. I hope he punches me. I hope he hits me clean and hits me hard. This is when I thrive. This is when I get excited, when people punch me upside the head or nearly knock me out. This is the kind of fight I want to be in. I think this is the right dance partner to do it with, and I’m hoping he pulls that out of me. I hope to god he pulls that out of me so fans can be a little more excited about the fight."