MMA: Eddie Alvarez chasing special slice of history with ONE Championship

Alvarez is a former Bellator and UFC champion.
Alvarez is a former Bellator and UFC champion. Photo credit: Getty

Lightweight great Eddie Alvarez says he had no shortage of suitors for his services, as he neared the end of his UFC contract.

Ultimately, for the former UFC and Bellator champion, the opportunity to claim a unique slice of combat history saw him put pen to paper with emerging Asian giants, ONE Championship.

"We got offers from all around the world," said Alvarez. "Just about everyone you can think of."

"ONE Championship is the only major organisation where I haven't held a world title. This would mean I have a chance of making history - possibly history that can never be made again.

"It would take a fighter 20 years in the fight game to be able to fight for these organisations. It's almost like a lottery ticket to be able to win one world title.

"The whole idea of flying to Singapore, it's a whole new experience for me. It brings nerves like I was young again."

While most western fight fans equate MMA with the UFC and Bellator, ONE Championship has established a foothold on the sport in Asia to rival both North American promotions in terms of reach and fanbase.

It's become the largest sporting league on the continent, and the addition of a fighter of Alvarez's reputation and quality represents a major coup.

'The Underground King' (29-6) is synonymous with show-stopping fights. His heavy-hitting, aggressive style results in some of the most captivating bouts in the sport's history and he's still very much at the peak of his powers.

"I believe the offer from ONE was too good to turn down. The UFC did its best, considering what the average pay of an athlete is there.

"They did their best to keep me, but they have a business model where they pay a certain amount to certain fighters for certain reasons, so everybody's a different case.

"It is what it is - no harm, no foul - but it's a business first. ONE looked out for me and my family, they understood my wants and needs.

"It's also something new to me."

Another hugely appealing aspect of fighting with ONE was the prospect of never having to endure another brutal weight cut.

The promotion has banned dehydration as a method of cutting weight to encourage fighters to compete at their natural weight, rather than attempting to shed water in an 11th-hour attempt to meet the division's limits, with often disastrous consequences.

Alvzrez delivers a knee to Justin Gaethje.
Alvzrez delivers a knee to Justin Gaethje. Photo credit: Getty

ONE's lightweight limit sits at 77kgs, while the UFC's is set at 70kgs.

Alvarez believes it will only add to his abilities, sending a warning to the rest of the lightweight ranks.

"I love the idea. I've been an advocate of it for years.

"I'm going to enjoy being fully dehydrated. I feel like I'll keep my explosiveness. There's not a healthy weight to cut weight, the whole idea of it is unhealthy.

"I'm very, very excited about not making that weight cut and being able to compete at my walk around weight.

"If I could pick a dream weight to compete at, this would be it.

"It's going to be healthy for me, but I feel like it's going to be dangerous for my opponents."

The date and location for Alvarez's debut have yet to be determined, but many are calling for a trilogy fight against Japanese icon Shinya Aoki.

That includes Aoki himself, who has already been harassing chairman and chief executive Chartri Sityodtong to book a decisive third bout between the two. Aoki won via first-round heelhook submission in their first match in 2008, before Alvarez returned the favour with an opening round KO in 2012.

Fresh off a win over New Zealand's Ev Ting, Aoki is booked to fight for the vacant lightweight title at the promotion's debut event in Tokyo in March.

Alvarez began his professional career in Japan and the stars seem to be aligning for him to also make his ONE debut there.

"I'd love to give the Japanese fans what they want - I owe a lot to them," noted Alvarez, who admitted his first fight would likely be in early 2019.

"We have a laundry list of exciting matches on the cards and I've never been one to pick opponents. I just take the guy who's in front of me."

One such option would be Ting, who sits among the elite of the promotion's lightweight division.

"Whether it's in Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore, I want to fight the best guys in the world. No matter who that is, I look forward to it."

Alvarez also expressed interest in a 'grand prix' for the vacant lightweight belt, where a slew of contenders would compete in a tournament in a bid to claim the strap.

Whatever the location, expect to see the same old Eddie Alvarez.

"I pride myself on being high-paced and violent. I don't necessarily train to win, I train to be violent and that's what I'm going to bring."

"It's going to be incredible… you're in for a show when I don't have to cut this weight."