Return to Training Roots Key for Lightweight Title Challenger Eddie Alvarez

By Tristen Critchfield Jul 5, 2016

Like many mixed martial artists, Eddie Alvarez has been somewhat nomadic throughout his MMA career.

It’s also good to go home again, and that’s what Alvarez did recently, reuniting with longtime coaches Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida as well as former training partner Frankie Edgar. The Philadelphia native believes the reunion will be critical to his success against reigning lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night “Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez” in Las Vegas on Thursday.

“I’m back in Philadelphia with the team I started with….It couldn’t be better timing,” Alvarez said during a recent conference call. “I needed to be with Mark Henry to improve upon some things. The growth that I had in the past five, six months is growth that I needed the past couple years that I’ve just gotten. Even fighting for 13 years understanding there’s still more to improve, it gets me excited. I think what everyone’s gonna see [Thursday] is there’s a lot more to me than what you already see.”

The road to a 155-pound title shot has not been an easy one for Alvarez, a former Bellator MMA champion. He debuted in the Octagon with a decision loss to Donald Cerrone but recovered to post back-to-back split-decision triumphs against Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis. That type of competition is exactly what Alvarez sought when he left Bellator for the UFC, and even after a disappointing initial foray he had no designs on seeking out a lower-ranked opponent as a confidence boost.

“I never thought that I’d lose my UFC debut. That wasn’t an expectation of mine. Unfortunately that happened. I could have done what  lot of fighters do and fight a top 30 guy and build myself back up,” he said. “It was important to me to stay with the same plan I came here with and fight the absolute best that the UFC has to offer. 

“I know fighters and how they think and how they feel. They like to build their confidence back up and get a big win against whoever it is. It’s just not my style and it’s not where I’m at in my life right now,” Alvarez added. “I want to fight the absolute best. I think we’re defined by our opponents. I want to make sure my opponents are always quality. That’s the only way I can tell people that I’m the best in the world.”

During his camp, Alvarez often found himself looking at a like-minded training partner in Edgar, who will face Jose Aldo for the interim featherweight title at UFC 200 on Saturday. That proved to be helpful on days when inspiration may have been lacking.

“We got together in 2007. We both came a long way...when you’re having a day when maybe you’re not feeling it, you look across the room, he sort of gives you that energy, that extra boost,” Alvarez said. “In the later rounds and you’re doing rounds four and five and you’re feeling tired…it’s really easy to pop off when you have other champions around you pushing you and wanting the same things you do.”


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