When highly-valued free agent Eddie Alvarez signed with ONE Championship in October, he had a singular goal in mind before the ink even dried on his contract.
He wanted to claim the ONE Lightweight World Championship, and become the first man in history to hold belts from the world’s three top promotions.
“I’m a competitive person. I always have been. I’ve conquered every promotion I ever went to. I beat the best guys in those promotions, and became the champion of every promotion,” says “The Underground King.”
“ONE [Championship] happens to be a promotion that I think is going to be a major, major player in the coming years, and they have a World Title that I don’t have.”
Alvarez’s mission to conquer the ONE lightweight division starts at ONE: A NEW ERA on 31 March 2019. He takes on Timofey Nastyukhin as part of the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix alongside the best martial artists in his weight class.
Before he makes his highly-anticipated debut, Alvarez got his first taste of ONE Championship when he traveled to Singapore for a front row seat to watch ONE: HEART OF THE LION, and he was more than impressed by what he witnessed.
“It was great,” Alvarez says about the experience.
“I’d imagine it’s like being in the NFL. The bosses, the way they treat the athletes, the time that’s put into it, the care that’s put into each athlete and how you’re treated – I’d imagine it’s a lot like that.
“It’s a step up from being with most of the American promotions.”
While preparing to embark on his ONE Championship journey, the 34-year old Philadelphia native has also started to educate himself on the competition he will be facing in the years to come.
Alvarez already has experience against a former ONE Lightweight World Champion, having split a pair of bouts with submission specialist Shinya Aoki in 2008 and 2012, but he’s also been impressed by reigning titleholder Eduard Folayang.
Folayang defends his belt in a main event rematch against Aoki on the same night as Alvarez’s debut in Tokyo.
“I think it’s highly skilled,” Alvarez says about the ONE lightweight division.
“I think where the guys are strong, they’re very strong. So where you see high-level striking, it’s world-class striking. When you see high-level grappling, it’s world-class grappling.
“I don’t consider myself high level at one particular art. I just think I can put it together well, and I know how to deal with an immense amount of failure and adversity – more than anyone I’ll ever fight.”
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Alvarez admits that he is expecting nothing but tough competition from a shark tank of contenders, who are all looking to get a marquee win against a name like his.
What’s more, he admits there are strikers capable of knocking him out, and grapplers with the ability to submit him.
Still, Alvarez says that when he puts his entire game together, he brings a level of skill and ferocity that is going to be hard for anybody in the division to handle.
“As far as putting the game together – the takedowns, the punches, the kicks, and being a world-class athlete and doing it with speed, power and tenacity – that’s where I’ll thrive,” Alvarez explains.
“I think there are guys in the division who are much better than me at jiu-jitsu or much better than me at striking, but where I’ll win is the idea of putting it all together, and being a total martial artist.”
For all of the things that excite him about his new home in ONE Championship, Alvarez says the upcoming Grand Prix tournament might be at the top of his list.
Throughout his storied career, Alvarez has taken part in several high-profile tournaments, and built an impressive resume around them.
He hopes to do the same when the ONE lightweight Grand Prix kicks off in March 2019.
After all, Alvarez has won every tournament bout in his mixed martial arts career. He has also claimed championships in all but one of them, though it was only because he was unable to compete in the DREAM Lighweight Grand Prix Finals due to injury.
“I thrive off tournaments. I do well in them, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Alvarez.