Eddie Alvarez has a very realistic view of his mixed martial arts career, and that’s why he’s doing everything he can to lengthen his time in the sport.
After UFC Fight Night Boston, Alvarez received some criticism for the strategy he employed in grinding out a split-decision triumph over Anthony Pettis in the evening’s co-main event. In earning his second Octagon triumph, the Philadelphia native landed six takedowns and forced his opponent to spend significant periods of time with his back to the fence. Given Alvarez’s previous penchant for all-out brawls and Pettis’ flair for the spectacular, it wasn’t the fight many observers expected.
Even if it wasn’t a crowd pleaser, it was just what Alvarez needed.
“I’ve taken a lot of damage over these last couple years and been in these wars that I didn’t need to necessarily be in,” Alvarez said during an appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show.. “Just being a little more tactical, the coaches I have now, they want me to use my brain. I need to find a balance between using my brain and using my hands at the same time.”
The performance against Pettis was in to stark contrast to, say, his epic battles with Michael Chandler in Bellator MMA, where it only took a few blows landed by his opponent to flip an internal switch in Alvarez.
“More than anything that I’m happy with is I stuck to a plan. I never do that,” he said. “I always get emotional. Guys hit me and I start going nuts. I take so much damage because of it. Hopefully I can keep my head about me somewhat and keep a longer career because of it.”
Alvarez still has vivid memories about life before MMA rescued him from the 9-to-5 scene. He has won titles in multiple organizations and currently ranks among the UFC’s top lightweight contenders, but Alvarez has not forgotten his blue-collar roots.
“I still lose sleep at night thinking about not wanting to go back to construction,” Alvarez said. “No matter how successful I am the thought is still there: The pain of waking up and doing a job I don’t want to do for someone who is making more money than I am is something that is never going to leave me. Especially with four children and doing what I do. I don’t consider this a career. It’s more of an opportunity that I want to take full advantage of.”
“I’m doing my best, and I never rest easy. I haven’t. No matter what belt or what ranking I hold, I never rest easy. it just doesn’t happen for me. I feel like there’s always some 20-year-old kid out there who lives in a gym and is training day and night. That’s my competition.”
While Alvarez might be concerned with longevity, he is well aware that retirement is not an option. When his time in the sport ends, he fully expects to have to re-enter the workforce eventually. That’s just the reality of the pay structure in MMA today.
“Nobody’s making that kind of money these days where they’re able to sit back and retire. That’s crazy talk. Especially with four kids, the money I’m getting from Reebok pays for a Costco order,” said Alvarez, who makes $2,500 based on his tenure in Reebok’s tiered payment system. “There’s no retirement going on anytime soon. I invest my money as good as I can. But the possibility of working again is a reality. It’s a reality for any one of these fighters.”
Alvarez is currently 32 years old and coming off consecutive wins over Pettis and Gilbert Melendez. His career resume puts him in the conversation for a spot among the sport’s 10 best lightweight ever. He is also proud of his clean record when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, which he believes, along with a smarter in-cage approach, will help extend his career.
“People ask me all the time, and I tell them it was never my intention to do this in the first place. So I’m never going to start making plans now about how many years I’m going to do it,” Alvarez said. “I’m great. I think a big part of the reason is I’ve been drug free my whole career. I haven’t done enhancements, I’ve never been big into supplements. I don’t think I’ve put the stress on my body that a lot of the athletes have. I think because I have been drug free my whole career I’m going to last for a lot longer.”
During the time that remains, Alvarez hopes to add a UFC belt to his collection -- not necessarily for himself, but for his family.
“I will have the UFC title. If I die tomorrow, I die a happy man 100 percent. But more of proving to my children because I try to explain to them if you have a goal you don’t quit on it, if you have a dream you don’t let other people tell you what you can and can’t do,” he said.
“All these lessons I’m trying to teach to my kids. It’s important to manifest for them, not for me. I think kids are impressionable. When it manifests and it happens they’re gonna go, ‘Holy s--t, dad talked the talk. He walked the walk. He made it happen. He made his dream come true.’”