By Raphael Garcia
If you were a professional athlete in the prime of your career would you select legacy over money? Legitimacy over finances? The ability to pay your bills over the ability to say that you fought against the best? These are all vital questions when combat sports athletes plot out their respective career paths. Should they look to be named among the greatest of all time, or take the road that will lead to more prosperous times when they hang up the gloves? Lightweight stalwart Eddie Alvarez is at the very point in his career where he has to choose, and it will be an interesting ride once he selects that road.
Eddie Alvarez walked out of the Bellator cage on October 12th at a very high point in his career. In his last contracted fight with Bellator Fighting Championships he dispatched Patricky Freire with a first round head kick. Alvarez, who has been consistently ranked among the top ten lightweights in the sport for the last few years, can now sit at home and relax while his management team prepares to field offers from various organizations around the world. Of course, Bellator holds the exclusive right to negotiate with their former champion for a period of time before talks are open to any other organization, including the UFC. Immediately after his fight, UFC President Dana White tweeted to the former champion that he would love the opportunity to speak with him, which set the MMA media world ablaze.
Alvarez now finds himself in a position to cash in no matter what organization picks him up. The UFC is still the largest fight promotion in the world. However, with Viacom's backing, Bellator may be able to throw more money at the Philadelphia native. And don’t forget about the newly-established World Series of Fighting, which may be inclined to throw money at big name fighters. However, if Alvarez wants to be considered among the best that has ever competed, he would likely have to forego the higher paydays that come within other organizations and sign with the UFC. Only there would he get to face lightweights such as Gray Maynard, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Benson Henderson, and others. And the opportunity to face and defeat them surely has to pique his interest. Yet Alvarez has made it plain and clear that he is looking towards going to the highest bidder, the organization prepared to make him a wealthy athlete for an extended period of time.
“I’m going to the highest bidder,” Alvarez stated during a recent radio interview with Sherdog Radio. “If anybody judges me or tells me I’m wrong because of that, I’m sorry. I have a different situation than maybe whoever’s judging me, but my services are going 100 percent to the highest bidder.”
In a time where mixed martial artists are beginning to act more as professional athletes, this is a strong statement for Alvarez to make. And if he does ultimately choose an organization other than the UFC, you can expect the critics to come out and bash his decision, claiming that he will hurt his legacy or that he is ducking the tougher competition in order to remain a highly-paid athlete. But in reality, none of the individuals making said statements has to worry about providing for Alvarez' family. We see it in other sports all the time: athletes take big money contracts with weaker teams in an attempt to make as much money as possible. Instead of going to the organizations which offer the best opportunities to win championships and cement their respective legacies, they instead chase the dollars, just as common employees do every day at work.
We cannot fault Alvarez for the position that he has taken in this phase of his career. Wherever he ends up, he will continue to give fans the exciting fights he has always provided within the cage or ring. And who knows? Perhaps his stance will begin to influence others, as they look to grab bigger slices of the financial pie, and provide for their respective families.
October 23, 2012
By Raphael Garcia