For several reasons, this is significant news.
The real main event
Mark my words: Even with the gravitational pull of fighters such as Quinton Jackson and Tito Ortiz, Chandler-Alvarez 2 will earn the bulk of media and fan attention. That's a good thing, as it should receive the spotlight, even if their names aren't front and center on the marquee.
"I think the true-blue MMA fans will see this one, even though it's the co-main event, and think it's definitely as interesting if not more than Tito-Rampage," said Chandler, who made sure to pay his respects to the light heavyweight pair.
Chandler-Alvarez 2 provides something for the pay-per-view that Rampage-Ortiz could not: legitimacy. All of a sudden the card elicits a new feeling, one far less frivolous than the fun time implied by Jackson-Ortiz.
This lightweight rematch is, as Chandler described, the best contest Bellator can make right now, in part because it's the most promotable, which if done right looks like a useful combination for selling pay-per-views.
"There's been a lot of tension and drama built up since that [first] fight," said Alvarez's manager, Glenn Robinson. "I think people will tune in to see."
Said Chandler, when asked how to effectively promote a matchup that fans saw for free the first time: "All you got to do is hop on YouTube, type in 'Michael Chandler versus Eddie Alvarez' and you will be entertained for 21 minutes."
In speaking with Alvarez and Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney on Monday, it's clear neither man is happy with the other at the moment. They're glad the litigation is over. They're glad a contract and fight is in place. But they're not on the best of terms with each other.
Alvarez said regardless of how they feel, they'll do business together. Rebney basically said the same thing.
Asked if he was happy that Alvarez, who has been with Bellator since it began in 2009, returned in time to participate in the promotion's first pay-per-view, Rebney was cool in his response.
"I like the fact that Ed Alvarez is a world-class lightweight," Rebney said. "I like the fact that I've been able to make the rematch between Chandler and Alvarez, which was a fight that a lot of MMA fans ask me about and talk about. I like both of those facets a great deal."
One interesting point about the closing of this deal is the involvement of Bellator president Tim Danaher, who's thought of as a level-headed counterweight to Rebney's sometimes manic people skills.
"He's an incredibly talented executive and was able to step in and bring this entire matter, after a very long and involved negotiation, to a conclusion," Rebney said. "He did an amazing job. It was about time. It was about reaching a resolution."
Robinson called Danaher a "really, really great guy." And Alvarez said "we owe it to him for being able to nail this down and put this behind us."
Rebney suggested his feelings about Alvarez (and vice versa) don't matter. Focusing on them takes away from the point of the whole negotiation: getting both fighters into the Bellator cage again.
Free-agency lessons learned
Alvarez's experience as a free agent isn't typical. But it was valuable.
"Everybody wants to know their true value and what they're worth as a fighter," Alvarez said. "It's a rare occasion where you get to go out and do that."
Alvarez said when the UFC offer became public, he learned of five or six fighters who immediately received raises as a result.
"That made me feel regardless of what happened, a little bit of power was put back in the fighters' hands and guys got raises," he said. "We deserve it. We work hard."
Alvarez was willing to go to the UFC, which he called a "great" organization, but based on his history, it's fitting that, for now, the move won't happen.
Since his pro debut, Alvarez has bounced around the globe, landing some of the biggest non-UFC fights he could find in his division. Participating on the first Bellator MMA pay-per-view makes sense considering Alvarez was one of the company's first stars.
Alvarez said the most important lesson was not becoming emotional, which was easier said than done.
"I'm guilty," he said. "I got emotional about it because I was in it."
Did Bellator one-up the UFC?
UFC made a play for Alvarez.
Bellator countered and prevailed.
This is only one example, but it's an important boost for people inside the Viacom-tied promotion. The fact that Zuffa couldn't nab Alvarez means very little for UFC business. Joe Silva is swamped with terrific lightweights, and the Octagon will continue to host important fights at 155 for as long as it wants. But this news marks a rare loss for Zuffa outside the Octagon on the contractual/legal front.
Bellator has shown itself willing and able to make the most out of courtroom maneuvers. Against a litigious behemoth like Zuffa, this is incredibly important when it comes to competitive viability.
As for Rebney: Despite having to back off to nail down the deal with Alvarez, he comes out looking like a guy who can make good things happen.