COMMENTARY | October 12, 2012 was the date Eddie Alvarez last competed in a mixed martial arts bout. Alvarez defeated Patricky Freire in the first round by K.O. at Bellator 76. That fight was supposed to be his final bout with Bellator.
With Alvarez free of his obligations to Bellator the top 10 ranked lightweight was finally going to make the move to the premier MMA promotion in the world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. However, the lines quickly became blurred as Bellator blocked Alvarez from signing with the UFC due to a 'right to match' clause in his contract which would let Bellator match any offer from another promotion that Alvarez intended to join.
According to Bellator, they allegedly countered the offer made by the UFC with an agreement that matched the UFC's offer dollar for dollar. Alvarez and his management did not agree that the contract was comparable due to the potential pay per view revenue as well as the increased sponsor potential that would come along with fighting in the UFC. After preliminary talks between the two failed to reach a compromise, Alvarez chose to take it to the courts.
This is an absolute nightmare for both Bellator and Eddie Alvarez.
Regardless of who is right or who is wrong the fact remains that Alvarez is stuck in contract limbo until a resolution is reached and all potential Bellator competitors have to be taking notes about the way this process is going. If a guy makes a name for himself in Bellator and chooses to leave the company, will that fighter also be forced to walk the road Alvarez is walking?
It is obvious that Bellator believes that Alvarez is a big part of the company's future. Given their recent partnership with Spike TV's parent company Viacom, losing the company's biggest star could not come at a worse time.
At the end of the day, Eddie Alvarez is a very talented fighter, but is Bellator going to hurt without Alvarez? Perhaps in the short term. Bellator is a fight promotion and it is their job to promote fights and fighters. While Alvarez is a draw and events which he has appeared on have shown increased viewership, the best thing for Bellator to do is move on to the next one.
Even if the courts were to side with Bellator and Alvarez did return, how much would an unhappy Alvarez help? I understand Bellator gave Alvarez a platform to help build his name in the world of MMA and that Bellator invested marketing and other resources to make Alvarez the centerpiece of the promotion. The reality is that Bellator remains the default number two MMA promotion in the U.S. and fighters will continue to look at Bellator as a stepping stone to the UFC until that changes.
The long term affects of Alvarez leaving are minimal at best. Pay per view is not Bellator's game and despite what Bjorn Rebney would tell you, putting an Alvarez and Michael Chandler rematch on pay per view would not yield the results they suspect no matter how entertaining the fight may be. Plus, with Bellator's upcoming reality show on Spike TV, the promotion should be ready to develop new stars through the potential exposure of that show.
The bottom line is that the best thing for Alvarez is that he move on to the UFC and the best thing for Bellator while it may not seem like it in the short term is to let him go. Alvarez is by far not a dime-a-dozen fighter, but long term given the roster of Bellator he is not a game changer either. Just let him go.
Eddie Alvarez in the UFC is what most fans would want to see, but who cares what fans want anyway?
Greg Garcia has been covering MMA since 2009 on various sites and has covered live events in Texas held by the UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator. Read more from Greg here.
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