Eddie Alvarez isn’t known for leaving things in the hands of judges, which must have made last Friday’s stint in court all the more painful.

In early legal action with Bellator MMA, the former lightweight champ presented his case for an injunction which would have enabled him to fight at an upcoming event in the UFC. However, Alvarez was promptly denied the injunction by federal judge Jose L. Linares, who observed the fighter to be on wobbly legs—a rare sight to see. On the steps outside the courthouse, the 29-year-old Alvarez was overheard talking of hanging up his gloves and going back to pushing barrels at the concrete yard. It’s good work if you can get it.

Levity aside, this is one picture that isn’t getting any prettier. In the prime of his fighting career, Alvarez remains mired in an ongoing tug-of-war between Bellator and the UFC for his services. And on Friday, the plot thickened when former employer Bjorn Rebney reconditioned his matching contract offer to grant Alvarez top billing in a proposed March pay-per-view event. An event that would mark Bellator’s debut in the pay-per-view business. An event that may or may not hold water.

Rebney’s new addition was enough to win an injunction denial, but will it inevitably offset the UFC’s respective pay-per-view offer in court? Obviously Bellator can’t compete with the UFC in terms of ultimate earning potential. But as it stands, the UFC has agreed to give Alvarez a pay-per-view cut only if the total buys for an event bearing his name exceed 200,000. Anything less than that and Alvarez receives only his base salary. On the other hand, if said event was to garner a moderate 300,000 buys, Alvarez would walk out with a cool $100,000, in addition to his base pay.

Even though historical data may suggest a 200,000-plus tally, a judge isn’t likely to factor such a projection into a ruling. The majority perception of a contract item’s value holds little sway as well. It comes down to numeric guarantees. If Bellator were to guarantee Alvarez even a penny for every pay-per-view sold, such could be construed as a more solid income offer than that found in the UFC’s math. In the end, it’s quite likely that Bellator will successfully counter the UFC’s offer in the eyes of the court.

And in fairness, Alvarez could come out ahead with Bellator. There’s nothing to say that the UFC would sell over 200,000 pay-per-views on a card featuring the fighter. But the real question here is whether a Bellator pay-per-view is even a viable option. Could the promotion actually pull it off?

The main thing Bellator has going for it is the rematch factor. I firmly believe that anyone who watched the first fight between Alvarez and Michael Chandler would pay money for another one to five rounds. But a single fight doesn’t make a pay-per-view these days. Bellator would need at least one more major offering (emphasis on major) to make such an endeavor feasible. This would most likely take the form of a superfight between a Bellator standout and a high-profile fighter from outside the promotion. Beyond this, the promotion would want to consider a second title fight, as well as a couple more solid match-ups with well-known fighters. The danger here for Bellator could be in spreading itself too thin. Once the pay-per-view is over—even if the promotion scores big on it—Bellator has to go back to producing quality shows for Spike.

There are other issues as well. Bellator’s image would need some repairing between now and March. A major advertising campaign would need to be launched, and that would be an additional cash drain. Pricing the pay-per-view could also be tricky. Bellator can’t hope to charge $50 a pop on its first outing. In short, the whole idea becomes monumentally challenging.

Would it be one of the greatest rematches in sports history? Likely. Would it be a lucrative undertaking? Doubtful. Is it even possible? Who knows. It certainly feels a bit soon for Bellator to be talking pay-per-view. Yet, if there’s anyone that can market it, it’s Bellator parent company Viacom, which pioneered the pay-per-view industry in the 1980s and has since become the world’s fourth-largest media conglomerate.

Perhaps the question we (and Bellator) should really be asking is whether this whole contract crusade makes sense. Bellator could well win the battle for Alvarez, but at what cost? A disgruntled employee? Alienated fans? Prospects who resist signing due to the matching clause? Rising Bellator talents with fears of promotional bondage?

One thing seems certain: Rebney is not letting go of this single-leg. It could just be something he feels he has to do. Making a stand against Zuffa imperialism. Refusing to assume the role that the fighting world would have him assume. Or maybe the Bellator front man really is shooting for the title. One can never know the mind of a MMA promoter.

Rebney’s gall and aggression can be appreciated, especially with him in the role of the underdog. But it would be easier to be more supportive of him if a fighter’s career wasn’t caught up in the whole mess. And that aside, the downside risk looks awfully imposing for Bellator. Rebney puts on a nice poker face, but what good will it do him if he finds himself staring down the roulette wheel, going for broke? Let’s just say he better know something we don’t.

Across the MMA community, there seems to be a growing call for Bellator to abandon the Alvarez crusade and accept its station as a feeder promotion to the UFC. I won’t go that far. But I will offer Rebney and company a piece of age-old advice, as they hitch their newly-painted wagon to a single star.

Pick your fights wisely.

Photo: Eddie Alvarez (Sherdog)

About The Author

Robby Collins

Robby Collins considers himself a johnny-come-lately to the sport of MMA. He was introduced to it less than three years ago but has since delved into the sport at all levels. As an aspiring fiction writer, Robby adapted his skills to promote his latest passion and landed with The MMA Corner by way of personal initiative and auspicious timing. Robby has dabbled in karate and wrestling, and is currently learning to kickbox.