Will Eddie Alvarez fight in the UFC, and will he walk into the Octagon for the first time at UFC 159? The answers to those questions are tied up in a legal battle between Alvarez and his former employer, Bellator MMA. Today, in a New Jersey courtroom, Alvarez and the MMA world came one step closer to knowing where the lightweight star and former Bellator champion will ply his trade.

Alvarez and Bellator went before Federal judge Jose L. Linares for a hearing on a proposed injunction filed by Alvarez’s counsel seeking to allow the fighter to sign with the UFC and compete as early as the UFC 159 event, set to take place in April in New Jersey. After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge returned following a recess with a ruling on the injunction. Alvarez’s request for an injunction was denied.

Alvarez made his final appearance for Bellator at the promotion’s Oct. 12, 2012, event, where he scored a first-round knockout of Patricky Freire. The fight was the final one of Alvarez’s Bellator contract, making him a free agent. However, under the terms of Alvarez’s Bellator contract, the tournament-based promotion had the right to match any offer from a rival organization. The UFC made Alvarez an offer, and Bellator now claims to have matched it. Alvarez, citing differences in the potential earnings opportunities afforded to him through UFC’s pay-per-view business model and the promotion’s home on Fox (versus Bellator’s home on Spike TV), does not agree.

In today’s hearing, which took place within shouting distance of UFC 159’s venue of the Prudential Center in Newark, the two sides offered arguments regarding Bellator’s ability to match the UFC’s offer. Alvarez’s side argued, among other things, that Bellator could not match details of the contract related to pay-per-view percentages that Alvarez would earn for his UFC appearances. Meanwhile, according to a report from MMA Fighting columnist Mike Chiappetta, Bellator claimed to have a pay-per-view fight lined up for Alvarez against lightweight champion Michael Chandler.

With the ruling, Alvarez will not be able to sign with the UFC and compete at the UFC 159 show. Further litigation is expected between the two sides.

Photo: Eddie Alvarez (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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