There may not be a lot of respect attributed with being considered the “best outside the Octagon” but there are a lot of mixed martial artists who have the talent to be stars no matter where they compete. This weekend at Bellator 106 the fight community will see just that when Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler square off for the second time. A rematch of their 2011 fight, which could have won Fight of the Year, the importance of this fight is astronomical for both fighters.
Yes, this fight is for the Bellator lightweight championship. Forget the tournament format; this bout was made simply because it is not only the best fight that the division had to offer – but it is the best fight that the promotion could put together as well.
One one side you have the current champion in Michael Chandler. 27 years old and 12-0, Chandler is the premiere face of Bellator MMA. He's being featured in commercials and appearing on red carpets to cement that fact. To go along with his growing stardom, he is performing well in the cage. He's looked like a juggernaut since winning the title; stopping three men in near effortless fashion. Chandler hasn't looked to be in trouble for one moment since fight Alvarez during that November night almost exactly two years ago.
On the other side you have Alvarez. The 29 year old was a longtime standout as one of the top lightweights who was not fighting under Zuffa employment. Fans and experts alike clamored for him to get his opportunity in the UFC and that almost came last year. Until an ugly legal battle with Bellator MMA forced him to the sidelines for more than 12 months. Eddie was the first star that Bellator tried to build up. During his run he would defeat seven individuals for the promotion including current featherweight champion Pat Curran and UFC imports Josh Neer and Roger Huerta. It was quite a shock when he lost to Chandler during their first matchup which made the rematch that much more enticing. Throw in the back story that Alvarez absolutely feels disrespected with how Bellator treated him as he tried to move on with his career and there's a narrative that can't be ignored within this championship bout.
Saying that both of these fighters have a lot to lose would be a journalistic understatement. Yes, Chandler is the champion but his stock in this fight isn't as much as the champion. If Chandler was to drop the belt, he's been promised an immediate rematch; which was included in Eddie's renegotiated contract. The two fight deal that Eddie has signed contains a very interesting clause: If Eddie loses to Michael he is immediately released from his obligations to the promotion. If he wins, then there is a rubber match in which he wins again, he's immediately released from his obligations. If they split the next two contests he is again allowed to leave the promotion without any strings attached.
However, if Eddie was to lose this bout and then be courted by the UFC once again, it is speculated that his contract offer would be vastly different than the lucrative deal he was expected to obtain in 2012. That makes this Saturday's fight ten times more important for the Philadelphia native because he can be out of the largest series of paydays in his career. In fact, the UFC doesn't have to show interest in him at all if he was removed from the promotion without the title. Eddie is taking a serious gamble on his career; especially when it is factored in that he hasn't fought for more than 12 months.
The fact that Tito Ortiz versus Rampage Jackson was scratched from this weekend's card allows the light to shine on the most important fight of the evening. Eddie Alvarez and Tito Ortiz are meeting up in a fight that will have lasting affects on not only their legacy, but the promotion that employs them both.