The multi-time World Champion sustained a serious eye injury in the opening round of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix in March, but he only blames himself the way he was finished inside the first round by Russian knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin.
Now as he prepares for his return against Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in Manila, Philippines on Friday, 2 August, Alvarez knows what he needs to do to turn his fortunes around.
“In my bout with Timofey, I don’t know if maybe I needed to warm up more in the locker room, but I was a little more hesitant than what I wanted to be,” Alvarez explains.
“Timofey looked like a much larger fighter. I looked like I was out of my weight class that night, to be honest, and I just couldn’t get past my own hesitancy. When you’re that hesitant in a fight like that, you know it isn’t long before you get caught.
“I’m not happy with my performance, but I could understand why I lost. I know that I’m a lot better of a fighter than what I showed that night.”
As tough as it was to suffer that defeat in his first appearance, Alvarez says that it has not made him rethink his ultimate goal in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“The Underground King” still expects to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion, and he is more motivated to take a step toward the gold by facing a man who has had two reigns with the belt.
“If anything, the loss put a fire in my belly,” Alvarez says.
“I have not veered – not one single bit. My goals are still the same. I never defined myself off a loss or a win. I’ll be the ONE Lightweight World Champion, and it won’t be long. I won’t lose again.
“I’ll beat Eduard, they’ll give me another tough competitor, and I’ll beat them, and I’ll be fighting for the ONE Championship World Title very soon.”
Sure enough, now that the match is part of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix following an injury to Nastyukhin, a win will put Alvarez into the final against Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev at ONE: CENTURY in October.
Another win in Tokyo, Japan will make him the top contender for a shot at his division’s World Title at the beginning of next year.
The match-up between Alvarez and Folayang is also significant as it will see all-time mixed martial arts greats from the East and West come together – something that fans may not have believed would be possible before the American joined The Home Of Martial Arts last year.
Like his rival, “Landslide” has been a World Champion multiple times over, and Alvarez respects him a lot for that.
However, he also believes he still has the edge over the Team Lakay star when it comes to experience at the highest level in mixed martial arts, and he will have his hand raised on 2 August.
“I think Eduard is a really good, well-rounded fighter – good wrestling, good kicks, a lot of good spinning stuff from the wushu [background]. He’s a World Champion, so he’s one of the best athletes in ONE Championship,” Alvarez says.
“I don’t think Eduard has the experience that I have in mixed martial arts. I think there’s still a lot of mistakes that he makes in the sport that habitually he’s carried over from wushu, and we’re looking to exploit and then make him pay for all his mistakes.”
Throughout his career, Alvarez has taken part in many classic matches, and he expects to give fans another in this showdown with Folayang.
Whether the bout lasts one minute or goes all three rounds, the 35-year old promises fireworks from start to finish, and the fact that it is in his opponent’s homeland at the Mall Of Asia Arena will only add to the occasion.
“I think this has potential to be the fight of the year,” Alvarez says.
“I’m going into the fight with a chip on my shoulder. I don’t like the way my debut went. I don’t like that I have to go to a guy’s home [country] and fight him there. I feel like my back is against the wall, and I’m going to relish that role. I’m going to silence the crowd.”
More than anything, Alvarez cannot wait to just get back to doing what he does best.
He is desperate to feel like himself again, and that will bring out his best as he attempts to take out one of the most skilled athletes in the history of Asian mixed martial arts.
“I’m looking forward to that feeling – that fear setting in, that anxiety, that anxiousness, all of that – and then coming out and performing in a way that I don’t even know I’m capable of,” he adds.
“I think I just have the ability to mix it up – I can go anywhere in a martial arts fight.
“I can go to the ground, I can wrestle, I can do jiu-jitsu, I can do it all. When I fight smart, and I’m a cerebral fighter, I can beat anybody in the world.”