If it’s true that you’re only as good as your last fight, logic suggests the pressure is on Eddie Alvarez to be superior this week.
The former Bellator lightweight champion will be a free agent following his bout Friday against Patricky Freire in the Bellator 76 main event in Windsor, Ontario.
Alvarez (23-3) is considered one of the top prospects in the sport outside of the UFC, but in the oft-fickle world of mixed martial arts, a loss in the final fight of a contract conceivably could cost Alvarez thousands of dollars in negotiations.
The 28-year-old admits he thought the pressure was going to be overwhelming for this fight, but he hasn't felt it yet. Having left his home and family the past month to train with the Blackzilians camp in South Florida, Alvarez says his dedication has been such that a different feeling has surfaced leading up to the fight.
“I thought the pressure would be a lot greater than what it is, to be honest,” Alvarez told ESPN.com. “I’ve had zero distractions. The only thing I have to do all day is train and that creates a very dangerous person.
“I have nothing but complete confidence. [The contract situation] doesn’t make me fearful, it doesn’t make me nervous. The training I’ve done in the past month kind of, you know, gives me a secret smile. I’m not worrying about this or that, I’m thinking, ‘Wait until you guys see what’s about to happen on Friday.’”
For the record, Alvarez hasn’t ruled out re-signing with Bellator, the promotion he’s competed for since 2009 and whose inaugural 155-pound belt he wore for two years.
Speculation has all but ruled out Alvarez landing anywhere but the Octagon. UFC president Dana White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta have expressed interest in signing Alvarez, and recent comments by Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney suggest he is bracing for life without him.
Certainly, the fan expectation will be for Alvarez, the No. 10-ranked lightweight in the world by ESPN.com, to test himself in the deep waters of the UFC, but Alvarez says there will be more to it than that.
The 28-year-old went through serious financial hardships a year ago thanks to inactivity and spreading himself too thin on long-term financial investments.
He would welcome the opportunity to fight the top names in his weight class, but his belief that he’s the best lightweight in the world already allows him to pursue the best financial offer and not necessarily the promotion that will affect his rank.
“Popularity has nothing to do with talent or skill,” Alvarez said. “Regardless of where I go -- if I’m fighting in some obscure country where no one sees me -- my skill will always follow me. Just for me to know that I can beat any lightweight in the world is good enough.
“For me, it’s about going and fighting where I can make the best living that I can for me and my family. Wherever that is, that’s where I’ll go.”
Before that decision takes place, Alvarez will take one final opportunity to market himself as a free agent against Freire -- an opponent he believes is tailor-made to bring out the best in him.
“I’ve always done my best against guys who have this sort of one-shot knockout power,” Alvarez said. “They keep me on my toes. They keep me sharp and alert. That little bit of fear keeps me moving real fast in the ring.”