It appears things might get worse before they get better in the ongoing contract negotiation between Bellator Fighting Championships and former titleholder Eddie Alvarez.
Alvarez finished out the final fight on his Bellator contract in October, but while he was able to negotiate with other promotions, Bellator still had the option to match terms and try to re-sign him.
The Philadelphia based fighter did indeed receive a contract offer from the UFC not long ago, and days later Bellator opted to match it.
“I've got wild respect for Ed. In our contract with Ed, exactly like the UFC has in their contracts, we have the right to match. Ed went out and got an offer from the UFC, and we took a look at that offer, reviewed it for about eight days, and decided to match it dollar for dollar, deal point for deal point, term for term,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told MMAWeekly Radio on Monday.
“We matched every single element of it, word for word.”
Rebney went on to explain how the matching rights work, something they had the option with not long ago when former middleweight champion Hector Lombard finished out his contract with the promotion and ultimately signed with the UFC.
“The way that the matching rights work under our agreement, and the UFC agreements work, the good way to look at it is looking at the Ed situation and the Hector situation. In Hector's situation, just like Ed's, he had an ability to go out and get an offer from the UFC. When that offer comes back, we have to make a decision – we can either match it dollar for dollar, deal point for deal point, offer for offer, term for term, or we cannot,” Rebney explained.
“If we say we match that means everything Ed or Hector were guaranteed in the UFC deal, they have to be provided in the Bellator deal. So if it's guaranteed in their deal, it has to be guaranteed in our deal. In the Hector deal, we took a look at it and made a business decision and said we don't think we can monetize that situation; we don't think it's the best move for the company. In the Ed situation, we looked at it in a different way.”
Alvarez has been with Bellator for almost four years and fought a total of nine times over his tenure with the promotion. He was also their first ever lightweight champion and held the title until November 2011 when he was defeated by current titleholder Michael Chandler.
As Bellator moves to Spike TV this year, Rebney hoped to have Alvarez as a cornerstone with their organization, and even hinted at the possibility of doing a rematch with Michael Chandler at some point in the future if they came to terms on a contract.
According to Rebney, for now, the ball is in Alvarez's court on signing the deal he says they matched dollar for dollar and guarantee for guarantee with the UFC's offer.
“At this point, it's been matched. We've submitted the matched contract, which is what we're required to do under our agreement with Ed, to Ed, and we'll see what happens from here. My hope against hope is that it is an amicable situation that works well and Ed ends up back in our cage in short order, and there's some incredible fights out there for him,” said Rebney.
“It literally just comes down to you look at the contract and you say ‘yes, I will give you every single thing that is guaranteed in that contract you got for the UFC.' That's what we've done.”
Rebney says he's not sure how long this situation could draw out. Alvarez disputed Bellator's matching terms during an interview on Monday, and later said via Twitter that he believes the matching rights are for one year. He did comment further answering that he would be willing to fight for Bellator again saying, “I'm okay with that, just want things to be fair.”
“We matched the deal, and literally just signed it and sent it to him. Because that's what our contract requires us to do, we matched it and sent it to him signed. So if he were to send it back signed, we'd be off and running and we could start looking at scheduling; we could start figuring out what's next immediately,” said Rebney.
“If he chooses not to sign it, it depends on where it goes from there. There's a lot of different paths that can be followed from that point forward. My hope is I've had a great relationship with Ed for four years, he's going to make a lot of money with Bellator coming up, and we'll see where this goes from here.”