To say it’s been a long, arduous journey for Eddie Alvarez would be an understatement. The Philadelphian has taken on all comers and toiled in smaller promotions for years before finally climbing into the UFC’s Octagon late in 2014.
And on Thursday night in the main event of a UFC Fight Night event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Alvarez finally captured UFC gold.
The man dubbed the “Underground King” scored a sizeable upset when he starched reigning lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in the first, becoming the first combatant in MMA history to capture a world title in both Bellator and the UFC. He rocked the champ with a sizzling right to the jaw, buckling his knees with the blow. Dos Anjos tried to fight back and recover, but Alvarez was all over him, doling out a truckload of punishment before Herb Dean stepped in and halted the mugging 3:49 into round one.
“You can’t allow a guy like that to overcome that situation,” Alvarez said at the post-fight press conference. “I remember saying don’t let this get out of the first. I kept saying to step on the gas because if he gets out of the first, this could be a long night.”
Alvarez listened to the voice in his head. The relentless pursuit of his wounded prey eventually ended and a lifelong dream of his was finally fulfilled. Through a bitter split from Bellator to a loss in his UFC debut to turmoil in his personal life, the Philadelphia-based fighter had to battle through plenty of adversity to make everything come full circle against dos Anjos.
“I'm going to be honest, I was put through the ringer before getting to the UFC,” he said. “I was dwindling down to the nothing. My mind was really getting bitter toward MMA. This sport asks everything of you but sometimes in gives back nothing. I lost to Cerrone and a lot of people were saying I was just a Bellator guy and I would never make it in the UFC. It was a really troubling time and I kept telling my wife that something big was coming. Enjoying life was really tough for me.”
But Alvarez said he is a positive person by nature and he persevered through it all, culminating in his triumph on Thursday night. As for what’s next, Alvarez mentioned several elite fighters at 155 pounds, knowing he’ll have to face a murderer’s row of opposition if he’s to keep his title for any extended period of time. But, he is also open to what he perceives to be an easier alternative.
“I’d like to ask Dana White to give me an easier fight like Conor McGregor,” he said. “I’d like a gimme fight. I think I’ve earned it after all these years. There are a lot of guys in the UFC who are good at one thing and they are matched up well. And they make it to the top. These guys sneak around and are never tested, they never fight the best there is. He’s is one of them.”
There is much to be resolved before Alvarez’s first title defense can be determined. But given his history of thrilling fight fans with mesmerizing brawls, his next outing is bound to be memorable no matter the opponent.