Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez is not motivated by a desire to keep his belt. He is motivated by the fear of losing it.
“I have a lot of demons, and that boosts me,” he said. “That helps me prepare the way I do for these sort of belts, so I always, always, always, fight up.”
At first glance, though, it would appear he’s not fighting up, but rather down. The third defense of his title is against a guy with the fraction of the fights he has – a mere eight outings compared with his 24. But as Alvarez notes, it’s those kind of guys that often surprise you.
“The only way you can make up for experience is through good work ethic,” he said. “From watching Michael Chandler, it looks like he has that. He’s a smart guy. He knows what he has to do in order to be prepared for someone like me.”
The undefeated Chandler (8-0 MMA, 5-0 BFC) attempts to wrestle the belt from Alvarez (22-2 MMA, 6-0 BFC) when they meet Saturday at Bellator 58, which takes place at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla..
The main card airs on MTV2 (and in high-definition on EPIX), and preliminary fights stream live on Spike.com.
Chandler is one of the brightest prospects to emerge in Bellator’s lightweight division. He won the promotion’s season-four lightweight tournament with a win over the highly touted Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. A four-time NCAA qualifier at the University of Missouri who trains at Las Vegas’ Xtreme Couture, his skills mirror the champ’s in many ways. Crisp striking skills match an ability to put opponents on the mat.
But for Alvarez, it’s not about what Chandler brings to the table. It’s about a constant fight to outrun his hardscrabble past in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.
“I go back to my old neighborhood,” he said. “It never lets me forget where I came from, what I want to achieve, and where I want to go. When you live like that long enough, it becomes so painful to you that it’s not a want for you to go back there; it’s a need for you to never go back there, and it’s like water.
“To succeed you need water. The success becomes like water. It’s a necessity.”
Alvarez long has been considered one of Bellator’s most prized possessions, and many observers believe he should be fighting on the biggest stage in the UFC. So far, he’s resisted that tug, choosing instead to stick with the fast-developing promotion and beating a series of high-profile fighters both domestically and internationally (his triumphs include Tatsuya Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen, Josh Neer and Roger Huerta). In April, he returned to Bellator after an injury layoff and halted the rise of another young gun, that of featherweight and lightweight tournament champ Pat Curran.
But as Bellator is poised to take a big step up in exposure when it begins airing on Spike TV in 2013, Alvarez is focused on being the best fighter he can.
“What is important is that I continue to grow every day,” he said. “People could come up to me and worship the ground I walk on and I could say, ‘Hey, I’ve done this and I’ve done that.’ But the only thing I’m focused on is what can I do better and what I’m going to do.
“What really is important to me and really means something to me is that I continue to grow every day. Regardless of what people think of me whether it’s great or whether it’s bad or what I’ve done in my past, it really has no effect on how I train or my attitude toward myself. My only concern I have is that I want to get better.”
That kind of grounded thinking has likely contributed to Alvarez’s current win streak, which stretches over seven fights and two years. On Saturday, he’ll try to beat back another guy who’s just as thirsty as he for excellence inside the cage.
But is he as afraid to lose?
“I don’t believe Michael is going to bring anything I haven’t seen before, but you don’t know until you get in there,” Alvarez said. “He’s got a right hand, a left hand, two legs and a head. He’s a human being just like anyone else I’ve fought, so he definitely has the ability to beat me.”
by Steven Marrocco – MMAJUNKIE