“The Underground King” has competed for several promotions over the course of his career; including Ring Of Combat, BodogFight, ShoXC, DREAM, Bellator, and the UFC. Now, at 35-years-old, Alvarez comes off a first-round TKO loss to Timofey Nastyukhin in his ONE debut this past March.
That bout was also part of the ONE lightweight (170 pounds) Grand Prix Tournament. However, due to an injury suffered by Nastyukhin, Alvarez is back in the tournament and will face ex-ONE lightweight champ Eduard Folayang in the semifinals. The action all goes down at ONE Championship: Dawn Of Heroes on August 2.
Should Alvarez go on to win the tournament, many would likely consider there to be an asterisk by his name given he lost his original quarterfinals matchup to Nastyukhin. Speaking to LowKickMMA, Alvarez finds the situation reminiscent to that of one he found himself in back in 2006 during his time with DREAM.
“Yeah, it’s ironic because back in 2006 I was undefeated through the whole tournament, the DREAM tournament,” Alvarez said. “I was disqualified, and the guy that I beat came back and won the whole tournament. So it’s almost like things have come full circle. The fight Gods are in my favor this time, and it’s time for me to win the tournament.”
In regards to his promotional debut loss to Nastyukhin, Alvarez things could go differently a second time around. Their initial meeting was Alvarez’s first with the new promotion, and there’s a learning curve with traveling, making weight, and getting comfortable with a new home like ONE.
The former UFC lightweight champion feels he’s finally comfortable enough to give his best performance inside the cage.
“I think it’s more about just getting comfortable with the situation, getting my feet wet in ONE,” Alvarez said. “There’s a learning curve of traveling, making the weight, getting comfortable in a promotion. I think I’ll have that after the fight, where, I do it every once in awhile, now I’m comfortable. I can be my true self and fight my best fight.”
One refreshing aspect for Alvarez about fighting for the Singapore-based promotion is the fans. Alvarez feels fans of the Asian culture are more knowledgeable about fighting in general, and he finds it stimulating to fight in front of a crowd who truly understands what’s going on.
“I like travel first of all,” Alvarez said. “Seeing new cultures, meeting new fans. I’ve always enjoyed fighting in Tokyo. I’ve always enjoyed the fans there. I just think the Asian culture is more knowledgeable about the fighting – MMA, mixed martial arts, kickboxing – in general. So it feels good to fight in front of a crowd who understands what’s going on.”
One major difference between the UFC and ONE is the style of promotion put on by the two MMA promotional juggernauts. While the UFC roster focuses a bit more on hyping up fights with trash-talking and animosity between opponents, the culture at ONE is a lot more respectful.
For Alvarez, he enjoys not having to act out of character in order to obtain opportunities such as a title shot or to push more ticket sales.
“I think – I don’t – the fact that I fight at ONE Championship, I don’t have to do a lot of extra things that are disingenuous, that aren’t of my nature,” Alvarez said. “I can be my honest, true self. And that’s good enough for my boss, that’s good enough for the fans. It’s tough, you know, that you sometimes have to act out of character in order to get title shots, in order to get things you aspire to have. It’s a breath of fresh air for sure.”
Alvarez has fought all over the world against some of the best fighters the sport has ever seen. Today, the argument can be made that the best 155-pounder out there is UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. “The Eagle” has been nothing short of dominant throughout his career, and it’s hard to pick anyone who could match him head-to-head.
When asked about Khabib, Alvarez picked one man out of the bunch who he believes can give the Russian a run for his money – that man being ex-interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson.
“I would say the guy with the best chance has got to be Tony Ferguson,” Alvarez said. “I think stylistically he doesn’t mind being on the ground and grappling, where Khabib is dominant and strong.
“And I think Tony has this mystique about him where, inside his head he just has this no quit, willingness attitude – the old school wrestling attitude that allows him to almost go in there with that intangible that’s a really really powerful one.”
What are you expecting to see from Alvarez in his second bout under the ONE banner?