It’s been some time since we caught up with Kensington native Eddie Alvarez, the former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion, who is now plying his trade with Asian promotion ONE Championship.
Eddie came down to South Philly in December of 2019 as the 76ers’ guest bell ringer, and spent some time with a couple of reporters during the game, explaining that he was dealing with an ankle issue which was keeping him out of action for the time being. A few months prior, he defeated former champion Eduard Folayang in a crazy comeback win, surviving a nasty leg kick and ground strikes to slap on a rear-naked choke and claim a first-round victory.
After a year off due to COVID-19, Alvarez is healthy again and set to compete in April, fighting on the first ONE card to be televised in the United States. His bout against Iuri Lapicus will air on TNT as the co-main event in a card headlined by former UFC Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. The April 7th fights will take place in Singapore but air on primetime TV here in the states.
We spoke with Eddie on the phone this week –
Crossing Broad: This time last year, you had the ankle injury, and you had to pull out of the Lightweight Grand Prix. Then COVID hit about about three months later. I’m curious what the last year has been like for you.
Eddie Alvarez: Pulling out of the Grand Prix was unfortunate. I went into the Eduard Folayang fight already injured, and I knew I was pushing it going into that fight, especially considering the amount of leg kicks that he throws. I got really close to that fight, I was a week out, and I was in that mode where I wasn’t going to let anything defeat me, so I did the fight, I got in a bad situation early, almost regretting that I took the fight, and what I didn’t want to do was do that again in the finals. I was definitely compromised and wasn’t able to give my best, and although the fans want to see me compete, there’s a certain expectation and I wasn’t able to give them that. So I had to forfeit (the Grand Prix) and move on to a better day. That started a long layoff with COVID, my injury, so it was just unfortunate but that’s how things went.
CB: So what have you been doing during this time? Have you been at home training? Spending time with the wife and kids? How did you spend this COVID year?
Alvarez: I had to adjust because I knew nothing was really coming. I knew I had to stay sharp throughout and couldn’t fall completely off, so it was just about making sure that I had a good training schedule to stay sharp. Instead of doing two and three-a-days like I would in a normal training camp, I just held myself accountable to making sure I had one practice a day, and then maybe two days a week I would train twice a day. That was just to keep my timing, keep sharp, keep in shape and stay fit. It was about keeping a schedule and to keep growing as a martial artist. Other than that, planning some cool trips. Whenever the airports were allowing it, when me and my wife could head to Disney or head to Florida or just enjoy our family (we did that). Fighting gets in the way of a lot of stuff. It kind of takes first place over everything. When it’s not around it’s a breath of fresh air. You can really enjoy life and enjoy your family without the fear of promoter calling you and asking you to fight this next guy or this next opponent. It’s a life of anxiety and when it goes away it’s a little bit of a relief, I’m not gonna lie.
Photo Credit: ONE Championship
CB: It’s funny, and I know you’ve got four kids, and a lot of people during COVID were like ‘oh my God I’m stuck in the house with my family and I can’t get away,’ but it seemed for a lot of fighters like it was great personal time that they normally wouldn’t have otherwise.
Alvarez: Oh my God, my kids love when I’m not fighting (laughs). They think it’s the greatest thing. We get to do a bunch of stuff together, and I don’t like to sit still. We’re pretty much on the go, me and my wife. If we have some time where there’s no school, and there’s no fight schedule, we’re trying to schedule something cool. Going to some island or going to South Florida, we’re always doing stuff. We made lemonade out of these lemons. COVID certainly wasn’t the worst thing for us.
CB: You’ve got a fight coming up with Iuri Lapicus. That’s April 7th on TNT. How big is it to be on television again in the United States?
Alvarez: For me it’s our homecoming in the States. It’s everything I envisioned when I joined ONE Championship. The goal was, one, yes I’d love to go to Asia and give a gift to my Asian fans again, especially in Tokyo, where I fought a lot back in the day, in 2006, and grew a large fan base (Eddie previously fought in Japan with the Dream promotion). I wanted to go back and give them some fights and see them again, but I’ve always envisioned bringing ONE Championship to the United States. Their show is incredible. The athletes are incredible. I just think everything they have to offer, American fans would jump at. They’d be all about it. This is the first step, on primetime television on TNT, and showing the American fans, at least visually, what it’s all about. From there, possibly physically coming over and having a show here.
CB: I know you said last year that Chatri (Sityadtong, ONE Championship CEO) was interested in doing a show in the U.S. What do you think would have to happen for that to take place? I guess if you won the lightweight title or Demetrious Johnson won the Flyweight title, you could do a title defense over here. Do you think that’s what the step would have to be?
Alvarez: Yeah, it would have to be me and Demetrious on the card, right? And then maybe another large name, like a Vitor Belfort. The three of us could hold a pretty good card here in the United States. If history was on the line, if I beat Lapicus and fight for the title against Christian Lee or a rematch with Timofey Nastyukhin for the world title, I think everybody would tune in. I think a live show would sell out, especially if you had it in Philadelphia. There are a lot of possibilities.
Photo Credit – 76ers
CB: Yeah, and I remember you said you were disappointed that UFC held a Fight Night in Philadelphia, I think it was actually on the same day you fought in Japan. And there weren’t any Philly-area fighters on the main card. Not Paul Felder, not Katlyn Chookagian. If ONE came over here to do something in Philly do you think the Wells Fargo Center or maybe Liacouras Center would be doable?
Alvarez: I would just do a personal poll of all my fans and say ‘where do you want it?’ Do you want it at the Wells Fargo Center? Liacouras Center? I think it’s gonna be up to the live audience, where they’re most comfortable. And then keeping boots on the ground, knowing where the largest and biggest Philadelphia names are at. So it’s not just me on the card, but Philadelphia’s best athletes.
CB: Yeah, you know Philly has a rich boxing history. And a combat sports history. And sometimes that gets lost in the Philadelphia Eagles and Carson Wentz and “four major teams” thing, but my take is that if you did a ONE event here or UFC event where you had Philadelphia fighters on the card, that it would do pretty well.
Alvarez: I know it would. I would actually make it my personal obligation to make sure it does well. From a marketing standpoint and just from giving my fans what they want and making sure the right guys are on the card. And ONE, the cool thing is that they’re not just mixed martial arts. When you go to a ONE event you can see a boxing match, a Muay Thai match, and an MMA match back-to-back-to-back on the same card. They definitely keep you on the edge of your seat and cater to the whole crowd of mixed martial arts, not just one art. You come to Philadelphia and I wouldn’t be surprised if they put a big boxing match between MMA matches.
🎬 FIGHT PLAYBACK 🎬
Miesha Tate and Eddie Alvarez break down his monumental victory over Eduard Folayang! @MieshaTate @EAlvarezfight #ONEAtHome #StayHome #WeAreONE #ONEChampionship
Full video 👉https://t.co/5e3a7VZ4vk pic.twitter.com/Pb3I5RvZDx
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) April 19, 2020