When Alvarez put pen to paper with ONE, he wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself – specifically, leading the promotion into prominence in North America.
Now, the Philadelphia native is ecstatic for his chance to help showcase ONE under the bright lights of TNT.
“More than anything, I want to show the American audience how strong and powerful ONE Championship can be,” Alvarez says.
“After seeing their shows in Asia and being a part of their shows in Asia, I knew it was just a matter of time before they came here where they explode, and they catch on pretty quickly. I’m glad to be a part of what I think is just the beginning of ONE Championship here in America.
“To me, right now, this fight means everything. You know, it is everything I envisioned.”
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After nearly two decades of experience in mixed martial arts competition around the world, the 37-year-old Alvarez knew ONE Championship was filled with incredible talent.
That feeling has only been reinforced since he entered the Circle. Alvarez dropped his promotional debut against now #3-ranked lightweight contender Timofey Nastyukhin at ONE: A NEW ERA and had to overcome adversity against former divisional king Eduard “Landslide” Folayang before emerging victorious at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES.
With that in mind, “The Underground King” wants American fans to understand that talent knows no borders and hails from everywhere on the globe.
“Some of the best fighters in the world are in the foothills of Dagestan, or in the jungles of Brazil, or right here in America on the NCAA wrestling mat,” he says.
“A lot of fighters and champions who are up-and-coming are virtually unknown, and they just haven’t been seen or marketed yet. So, I’m not surprised by the level of talent at ONE, and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
On 7 April, Alvarez will meet one of those athletes when he stands opposite from Lapicus, a Moldovan-born grappler who’s refined his striking at the famed Team Petrosyan in Italy.
The stoic Lapicus possesses a 100 percent finishing rate and has only been out of the first round once in his 15-bout career. Along the way, he’s displayed knockout power in his hands and a stellar ground game, which means Alvarez will need to utilize his all-around experience in their co-main event.
With that in mind, the multiple-time Mixed Martial Arts World Champion will not take the 25-year-old lightly and plans to bring a high-paced attack from the opening bell.
“Sometimes being inexperienced is a power in itself because you’re not riddled with thought and experiences of the past, so you can compete at a high level without thinking too much. But there’s also a downfall to it,” Alvarez says.
“I’m looking forward to testing that, exploiting his weaknesses, and, at the end of the day, executing at a high level and showing why I’m the best lightweight in this division and why I deserve the World Title. That’s what I do. I eliminate my opponent.”
Indeed, “The Underground King” has already conquered the biggest promotions in the world — except ONE.
He’s aiming to get past Lapicus and earn a date with either ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian “The Warrior” Lee or Nastyukhin after those two fight for the belt in the main event of “ONE on TNT II” on 14 April.
For now, he’s keeping a close eye on the reigning titleholder.
“When I get shots at World Titles, I win them. That’s what I’ve done my whole career. That’s what I get up for. That excites me. It gets me up early and makes me go to bed late. I’ve done it for the past two decades, all over the world,” Alvarez says.
“I think that everyone involved knows that if I fight Christian, I’m going to beat him.
“Maybe it’s better he keeps the belt and fights other opponents other than myself because if I get a shot at the World Title, I’m going to win.”