Stop me if you have heard this one before: Eddie Alvarez is heavily rumored to be making his UFC debut soon.

Yes, it is happening again, or so the rumor goes. A little over a year removed from the first Alvarez-to-Zuffa debacle, the Bellator lightweight champion is once again flirting with stepping inside the Octagon.

Last year, it was almost a done deal that Alvarez would be moving to the UFC and getting an instant title shot. Bellator had the right to match that contract (whether contracts from the UFC and Bellator can really “match” is another debate altogether). Bellator opted to match the UFC’s offer and entered into a lengthy court battle with Alvarez, who claimed that Bellator’s contact didn’t meet the same terms included in the UFC deal. When all was said and done, though, Alvarez returned to Bellator and received a title shot against Michael Chandler.

Alvarez beat Bellator’s golden boy and won his belt back. After his title win, Alvarez still had one more fight left in his obligation to the company. Bellator booked Alvarez against Chandler once again to complete the pair’s trilogy. The fight was scheduled to headline Bellator’s first pay-per-view back in May, but Alvarez was forced to withdraw with an injury. He was replaced by Will Brooks, who ended up beating Chandler for the interim lightweight championship. The shifting title picture and a change in regimes in Bellator’s front office left Alvarez’s future up in the air.

Nothing is set in stone, but it appears that we now have our answer, and it doesn’t involve another Bellator fight for Alvarez.

It appears that Alvarez has fought his last fight in Bellator and will move to the UFC to be the co-main event of UFC 178, where he is rumored to face Donald Cerrone in a title eliminator. Bellator blocked Alvarez from going to the UFC the first time. The difference this time would be that Bellator is releasing Alvarez, essentially giving him the freedom to move on.

It would certainly be a bold move for new Bellator chief Scott Coker. On one hand, it could go a long way in helping Bellator from a public relations perspective. The first Alvarez debacle was horrible for Bellator in the eyes of the general public and fighters. The promotion blocked a fighter from going where he truly wanted to go. Letting Alvarez go free would show that Bellator’s new regime is very fighter friendly and also won’t be hostile in dealings with the UFC. On the other side of the spectrum, this could be a bad move for Bellator. Not only would letting its champion go instantly hurt the depth and credibility of its deepest and best division, depriving fans of the one fight Bellator fans truly want to see, but it would also be directly helping Bellator’s competition.

All things considered, it wouldn’t be the best move for Bellator.

The fight fan in me would be stoked to see Alvarez test his skills against the likes of Cerrone and others in the UFC, but the move doesn’t make sense for Bellator from a business standpoint. Releasing Alvarez might be a sign of good will from Coker to Alvarez, but it’s extremely hard to believe that such a gesture would envourage Alvarez to return to Bellator in the future or convince any other upcoming free agent that going to Bellator is a smart move. Once Alvarez is gone, he is gone for good. And as far as other big stars coming to Bellator? Well, that just isn’t happening. Bellator came close with Gilbert Melendez earlier this year, but in the end the UFC matched the offer and it was pretty clear that Bellator was used as more of a negotiating ploy than anything else. Sure, Bellator has Quinton “Rampage” Jackson under contract, but that was after the UFC chose not to resign the former champion. Furthermore, letting Alvarez go could lead to Bellator losing one or more of its other big stars in the future.

The aforementioned Will Brooks, now the reigning interim lightweight champion after his victory over Chandler, is a great fighter with a great future, but a rematch between him and Chandler or even a title unification bout with Alvarez simply wouldn’t be bigger than the trilogy fight between Alvarez and Chandler. The first two fights between Alvarez and Chandler were “Fight of the Year” candidates, and even with Chandler’s loss, the rubber match would still be the biggest in Bellator’s history.

Deep down, both men want that fight. They want to settle the score. If they don’t, their careers will feel incomplete. This is why Alvarez’s departure could eventually lead to Chandler moving on from Bellator. Chandler is without a doubt the face of Bellator and is currently in the midst of a long-term deal, but he will eventually get the itch to avenge his loss to Alvarez. No matter how loyal Chandler is to Bellator, his competitive nature could lead him to the UFC to face Alvarez at some point.

Other people say that Alvarez fighting out the last fight on his deal and leaving as the champion would be a bad look. But if he leaves now, he’s still leaving with the belt. Yes, Brooks is the interim champion, but Alvarez’s title doesn’t have that extra word at the front of it. Having Alvarez and Chandler settle the score is the right move to make. It would be a huge money-maker for Bellator, and if Chandler wins, the promotion can really say good riddance to Alvarez without losing a reigning champion. If Alvarez wins, sure he leaves as champion, but the promotion would still have Brooks, who Alvarez never beat, as its true champion.

Alvarez has already been posting pictures of weight-cutting meals on Twitter, and I have a sneaking suspicion that those meals aren’t for a Bellator title defense. In the end, Alvarez’s move to the Octagon would be great for Alvarez and the UFC, but not for Bellator. Combine this with the fact that the one and only Joey Beltran is getting a title shot and we might just end up questioning Scott Coker’s decision-making abilities even more than we questioned Bjorn Rebney.

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.

  • Dickhurtz

    This writer acts like he knows the answers to everything ! Is his name Nostradamus ?? I don’t agree with any of that . I think they should let him go , it will show a lot of class considering how they held him in the 1st place . 2nd , this is a business and I don’t care what Nostradamus says here, in the right circumstances there is not a doubt in my mind that he may find himself back at bellator ,at the end of his career perhaps and that 3rd chandler fight may even happen in the ufc. LET THE MAN GO BELLATOR !!! Enough already .

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