With his Bellator contract nearing an end, Eddie Alvarez could not afford to lose his April 20 rematch against Shinya Aoki.
Alvarez was already coming off a loss to Michael Chandler in November. A second consecutive defeat would have hurt his bargaining power when it comes time to strike a new deal with Bellator or move on to a different promotion, possibly the UFC. Plus, it would have marked his second loss to Aoki in as many meetings between the two.
Alvarez was determined to get back in the cage, though, and getting revenge against Aoki provided plenty of motivation.
“I’ve been sitting for so long,” Alvarez told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “They made me sit for six months. I get to fight twice a year. I’m not 45. I’m 28 and I just feel like if an opportunity presents itself for me to fight, I feel like I should take it. ... If I wasn’t into gambling, I wouldn’t have fought Shinya Aoki for a second time. If I would have lost, I feel like it would have been career suicide for me. I’m a gambling man.”
Aoki heel-hooked Alvarez just 92 seconds into their December 2008 encounter in Japan. In the rematch at Bellator 66, the submission specialist came out aggressively on the feet.
“I didn’t expect him to throw any punches,” Alvarez said. “He just never throws punches. It definitely threw me off guard. He got me with a hook. He caught me with a hook and I went, ‘Whoa, man. He’s throwing some punches here.’”
It didn’t take Alvarez long to adjust. He cracked Aoki with an uppercut and then pounded him out on the ground at the 2:14 mark of the first.
“In my head, I think I was the most calm, the most relaxed, and the most empty minded I’ve ever been,” Alvarez said. “Although I was very aware of what the fight meant and if I won or lost what it would mean, at the same time I found myself able to focus on only the things that I could control and I just sort of took everything else and threw it out. I was very different going into this fight, [more] than any other fight in that I was very calm, relaxed and I felt like all my preparation was done correctly.”
Alvarez actually left his home in Philadelphia to train for the bout in Florida with the Blackzilians camp at Imperial Athletics. His training went so well, he might move there. In fact, Alvarez plans to live with his family in Florida for part of the summer as he weighs his career options.
“We’re going to live down there for maybe half the summer and see how everything works out and possibly seriously consider relocating,” Alvarez said. “I also, in all fairness, love my home and what’s going on, but these next couple of years are going to be defining moments in my career. I’m going to do everything I can to take full advantage of the opportunities that are given to me. If that means having to relocate, my wife is completely a part of my team and is behind me and so are my kids. We’ll just do what I have to do.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:11:55).