The best story regarding Eddie Alvarez’ move back to Philadelphia from sunny Florida would be that the hard-nosed lightweight contender had gotten too civilized in Boca Raton and needed to get his grit back in the City of Brotherly Love.
That wouldn’t be true though. Instead, the 31-year-old’s decision to go back home and work with the Ricardo Almeida Fight Team for his Jan. 17 bout with Anthony Pettis has nothing to do with fighting. It’s much more important than that.
“A lot of people assume that there must have been something wrong when it came to the Blackzilians or something wrong with my training while I was in Florida, and that’s why I moved,” he said. “But the assumption’s wrong. It’s more of a family thing. My kids didn’t want to be there, my wife wasn’t happy there and originally when we went there, it was an agreement between me and my wife that we give it a try, and if it didn’t work out, no matter what, we were doing everything together. I always did my camps at home with my family, and that was the agreement. If we go to Florida, we go together. If we go home, we go together. Florida didn’t work out for all of us, so we made the choice to go back home. I’ve always had a great team here in Philadelphia, and there’s a great team also in Florida, and I consider a lot of the coaches and training partners my brothers.”
If you’ve paid attention to Alvarez over the years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s an old school fighter with old school values. Family comes first, hard work is the most admirable attribute anyone can have, and when it’s time to do your job, you do it. As a fighter, Alvarez brings a style that should come with a black and white filter on the television screen, as he’s a throwback to another era. There is no flash, and that’s why he’s a fan favorite and a fighter’s fighter. And he never lost that, whether in Florida or Philly.
“I didn’t come from a Super Team,” he said of his formative fighting years. “I came from a basement where a couple guys were training together. My original team was the Fight Factory. It was just a group of guys – one wrestler, one boxer, one jiu-jitsu guy – and we all understood that it wasn’t about the facility. It wasn’t about the resources that you could get your hands on. It was about working hard, everybody in the room having a good attitude, and having the mentality to be a champion. A room is only as good as the people that are inside of it. I knew that early in my career that I didn’t need 40 of the best guys in the world in order to become a champion. It’s important to have good teammates, but more importantly, your mindset always needs to be that of a champion, whether it’s in Florida, Philadelphia, Japan or Mexico. No matter where you’re training, you’re the one who has to get in that cage.”
And while the pay is better, the fights are in arenas and viewed by millions on television, Alvarez has remained as hungry as he’s always been. It’s a different hunger though.
“Before, when I first started, it was always ‘I want to make as much money as I can and gain as much notoriety as I can.’ Now, where I’m at in my career, I want to be involved in fights where people don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he said. “Both guys are really evenly matched, both have got a ton of confidence, both guys are champions, and those are the fights I want to be in. I don’t want to be in anything else. I don’t want to build myself or fight a guy who’s ranked 15, 20 or 25. I want to fight the best guys and thank God I have a promotion that’s able to do that for me.”
The Pettis fight fits that bill on so many levels, and while the matchup promises action, it’s also a high stakes battle. For Pettis, it’s his first fight since he lost his 155-pound title to Rafael dos Anjos last March. Alvarez, coming off his first UFC win over Gilbert Melendez, can put himself in the title picture with a win, but to a lot of fans, he’s Pettis’ truth machine, the man who will see if the Milwaukee native is still an elite fighter after the loss of his championship.
“A hundred percent,” Alvarez agrees. “But more importantly, I’m gonna see what I got. Every fight is never a discovery of my opponent. I could care less about his self-discovery or who he wants to become or whether he wants to be a better form of himself. It’s a selfish thing. I want to see what I’m made of. Am I a *****? Can I hang in there with one eye, a broken orbital, a broken nose? Can I hang in there with a broken leg? How much adversity am I able to overcome and still keep fighting? It’s really for myself, and not the other guy. So every time I step in the cage, I find out a little bit more about who I am.”
History has already proven that when faced with the worst case scenario, Alvarez has always risen to the occasion. When confronted with this fact, he laughs.
“You can always get better,” he said. “And at this point in my career, I know I can handle adversity, I know I can deal with the worst of the worst and be in terrible situations and overcome them.”
So what’s next for Eddie Alvarez?
“I don’t want to waste my time. I’m not gonna be here for another 20 years. I want to get my hands on the best guys, ones that can get me up early and send me to bed late, guys that I personally get excited about and I know fans are biting their nails about. I want to feel like I’m alive.”