Eddie Alvarez is officially a member of the ONE Championship roster.
The former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion made the announcement on Monday night when he shared a video of him putting pen to paper.
Speaking with the media during a conference call Wednesday, the 34-year-old walked through the free agency process and explained he inevitably chose to join Asia’s marquee mixed martial arts promotion.
“Without getting too much into it, we had offers from all around the world,” said Alvarez. “We got offers from just about everyone you can think. Everyone expressed interest. The idea of ONE Championship, it’s the only major organization I haven’t held world title in. I won the Bellator title twice during my career, I won the UFC title during my career and as far as I’m concerned, ONE is the only major organization that I haven’t got to touch that world title belt.
“For myself, for my family, for my fans and everyone, this would mean that I would have a chance at making history. Possibly history that could never be made again. It would take a fighter 20 years in the fight game to be able to fight for these major organization, and it’s almost like a lottery ticket to be able to win one world title. So to be able to go to every major organization, fight their best guys in the world, to fight the best guys in that organization and then beat them all one-by-one and win that world title, means the world to me.
“If I was to retire, and there was an organization out there that was the best in the world and I wasn’t able [to fight there], and people would come to me and they would go, ‘Yeah, but he didn’t win the ONE world title’ – that would bug me. I’m going to save myself that bother and fly to Asia and take on the best lightweights there and win that world title.”
Alvarez (29-6) had been with the UFC since 2014. His contract officially ended following his TKO loss to Dustin Poirier to in July. During his run in the UFC, “The Underground King” earned the promotion’s 155-pound title with TKO over reigning champion Rafael dos Anjos in 2016. He would, however, drop his belt to Conor McGregor at UFC 205 later that year. The Philadelphia native also earned victories over Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and Justin Gaethje while coming up short against former title challenger Donald Cerrone.
As for whether the UFC brass was interested in bringing him back, Alvarez revealed they “did their best” but just couldn’t compete with what ONE was offering.
“The offer from ONE was too good to turn down,” said Alvarez. “Considering what the average pay of an athlete is at the UFC, I believe the UFC did a great job. But, they have a business model. They pay a certain amount for certain fighters for certain reasons. It is what it is. There’s no harm, no foul. It’s a business first with these promotions. ONE looked out for me, looked out for my family and understands my wants and my needs and I think it’s important to return the favor.”
A wrinkle in Alvarez jumping to ONE is the fact the promotion has a ban on weight-cutting by dehydration in favor of having their fighters compete at their “walk around weight.” This means Alvarez would no longer have to deplete his body to make 155 pounds since the lightweight limit in his new promotion is 169 pounds.
“I love the idea,” said Alvarez when asked about ONE’s weight cut regulations. “I’ve been an advocate of it for years. If people haven’t followed me long enough, they would know I started my career at welterweight (170 pounds). I never cut weight. I went 10-1 as a welterweight. Almost every single fight, I won in the first round by way of knockout by not cutting any weight at all. That’s how I started my career. It wasn’t until my 11th fight that I actually cut down to to 155. So I’m going to enjoy being full hydrated. I’ll keep my explosiveness. I believe I’ll fight at 169 because we’ll need to be full hydrated.
“I’ve been cutting weight since I was 15 years old. There’s not a healthy way to do that. The whole idea is unhealthy. To have to compete within a 15 or 20 hour frame immediately after being severely dehydrated is a tough thing to do. I don’t mind it and I’ve done it for years but I’m very excited at the idea of being full hydrated, not making that weight cut and being able to compete at my walk-around weight. It’s healthy for me but it’s going to be dangerous for my opponent.”
Of those potential opponents awaiting Alvarez in Asia is his old nemesis Shinya Aoki. During their rivalry, both men split the first two matchups. Aoki (42-8) submitted Alvarez with a heel hook in their initial matchup in 2009. Alvarez would later get revenge with a first-round TKO in 2012.
Now, with both men under the same umbrella once again, it only makes sense for them to settle the score in their inevitable rubber match.
Too bad Alvarez doesn’t seem overly concerned with Aoki’s presence.
“I don’t think signing with ONE was about the opponent,” said Alvarez. “Nor does it ever mean anything about the opponent when I sign with a promotion. I know the best guys in the world are unfound. I’m a testament to that. When I hear fans say ‘the best guys fight here or the best guys fight here or the best in the world are here,’ I know that’s not completely true. I’m the guy that fought for every promotion, was virtually unknown and became champion of every promotion.
“So, again, I’m looking for the best crop of lightweights in the world who are possibly known. I’m going to welcome that with open arms going after this title. It’s more the ONE world championship title that I’m after than an actual guy.”
If Alvarez is able to capture the ONE lightweight title, he would become the first fighter to hold championships in all three major fight promotions on the planet. Outside of the UFC and Bellator, Alvarez has also earned gold in BodogFight, Reality Fighting and Mixed Fighting Championships while competing in the defunct EliteXC and DREAM promotions.
“I honestly don’t have the ability - and this could be a sickness of mine - I don’t have the ability to be happy with my current achievements,” said Alvarez on his motivation to keep fighting. “No matter what I’ve done, fans say ‘what more do you have to prove? You won the Bellator world title and the UFC world title.’ Inside, I wish felt like that. But I never do. There’s sort of a war going on inside of me that says ‘there’s more to do, there’s more to improve and there’s things to be done.’
“I have trouble resting. I have trouble being comfortable. After fighting for so long, being comfortable is being uncomfortable.”
So when can fans expect Alvarez to make his debut with ONE Championship?
Alvarez says he first has to make the trip to Singapore and meet the rest of his new bosses before taking in the upcoming ONE: Heart of The Lion card next month. Once he gets settle, he’s hoping to make the walk - full hydrated - early next year.
“I’d imagine early 2019 is when I’m going to debut,” said Alvarez. “We haven’t gotten the details yet. The biggest thing is getting to know each other and gaining trust from each other…So I believe I’ll debut in early 2019. It’s going to be incredible. Everyone who has seen me fight at 155, you’re in for a show if I don’t have to cut this weight.”