Eddie Alvarez has always been a bit of a nomad when it came to his fighting career with stints in the UFC, Bellator MMA and now ONE Championship.
A big part of the reason why he signed with the Singapore-based promotion was the opportunity to add another world title to his resume after he was already champion in both the UFC and Bellator.
His debut in ONE Championship didn’t go as planned after Alvarez was knocked out by Timofey Nastyukhin in a fight that saw his eyelid get split in two prior to the stoppage. He bounced back with a submission victory over former ONE Champion Eduard Folayang and now he’s positioned as a finalist in the ongoing lightweight grand prix that will wrap up in October.
Alvarez faces highly touted prospect Saygid “Dagi” Arslanaliev, who doesn’t have a household name but has earned a strong reputation amongst hardcore fight fans who have witnessed him earn eight career victories — all by knockout or submission — with only one opponent making it past the first round.
With two fights under his belt and a third on the way, Alvarez has seen the kind of competition that ONE Championship is going to offer him and he refutes any claim that the athletes on that roster aren’t on the same level as the ones he faced in the UFC.
“That whole theory is crap that everybody who’s the best is a UFC guy,” Alvarez said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “It’s complete crap because I was the guy who didn’t fight in the UFC. I went there and won the belt. I beat arguably the best lightweight in that history. [Rafael dos Anjos] at the time was killing everyone. Like literally murdering the who’s who. So to go to the UFC, win the belt and be a guy from the outside that never fought there, I’m the guy you’re talking about.
“I wasn’t a UFC fighter per se but I went there and I won the world title. If I could do it, isn’t it true that anybody from the outside could possibly go there and win the title? It’s not arguable. It’s fact. The best fighters in the world, they’re all over and they’re virtually unknown.”
If there was a particular discipline where Alvarez feels the fighters in ONE Championship truly excel, it’s on the feet.
He’s seen some truly spectacular striking since he began studying the athletes in ONE and he feels that is far and away an aspect superior to the fighters currently competing in the UFC.
“As a fight fan myself, it’s clear that the level of striking is easily in the favor of ONE Championship. That can’t even be argued,” Alvarez said. “When you watch ONE Championship, and when you watch what goes on in the Muay Thai bouts and even the MMA bouts, the striking is vastly better in ONE Championship.”
If there’s a major adjustment that Alvarez has been forced to make since moving to ONE Championship, it’s the size difference he’s dealing with while still competing as a lightweight.
ONE Championship has a strict set of rules when it comes to weight cutting for its athletes, which essentially means athletes are competing up a division while still technically fighting at a weight class below. In other words, Alvarez is fighting at 170 pounds, which would mean he’s a welterweight in most promotions but in ONE Championship that makes him a lightweight.
Alvarez has faced that type of adversity in his first two fights where both Nastyukhin and Folayang were visibly bigger than him but he knew that would be a problem on the day he signed with ONE Championship and opted to compete in the lightweight division.
“It’s an adjustment that I agreed to. The guys are bigger. My opponents are bigger but they’ve also been fighting in ONE Championship and made that adjustment for years,” Alvarez explained. “I am just now making that adjustment to fighting at a high grade at 170. I’m not going to come in as the biggest 170-pounder. There are advantages and disadvantages to that. I can sit here and say ‘oh they’re bigger’ or I can focus on the good things like I’ll be more conditioned because they have to move around more weight or I’m faster because they’re more muscular. There are pros and cons.
“Being bigger doesn’t always correspond to being better. I’m a true believer that fights aren’t won in a size discrepancy. Fights are won and lost in the spirit of the two guys inside the cage.”