Eddie Alvarez: “I need to go in there and show my value.”

Former Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez is in a precarious position at the moment. Poised to test free agency for the first time in years, the 27-year old is coming off a loss to Michael Chandler and facing a man in his next outing who finished him in about 90 seconds the first time they met, Shinya Aoki.

As much as Alvarez is looking forward to avenging the loss, he’d originally hoped he would receive an immediate rematch with Chandler based on how close their November meeting was. Chandler submitted Alvarez a little over halfway through the fourth frame of their title-bout despite appearing to be on fumes based on an all-out war in the previous rounds.

“Before I even left the ring that night I went to Bjorn (Rebney) and I said, ‘I know this isn’t your protocol or what you do, but I would like a rematch. I think I earned it and I think the fans would enjoy it. Let’s try to do that,’” said Alvarez last week while calling in to the MMA Hour.

However, Alvarez understands the same tournament structure giving Chandler a shot at his belt or even earning him one during the organization’s inaugural season is one Bellator isn’t interested in messing with. And, as much as he’d like a shot at winning his belt back, Alvarez is fine with CEO Rebney’s firm stance on the matter.

“The way it’s ran, it keeps the integrity of the sport. It is a sport where a guy who works hard, who is basically an unknown can come out and be a champion. It is that. I think that a lot of promoters and promotions and even boxing does a good job in disguising that, making the champion look like someone who is immortal, someone who can’t be beaten. Bellator, more than anyone, keeps the integrity of the sport by facing guys who are unknown and could be very dangerous,” explained Alvarez. “In normal circumstances, some promotions may keep their champion away from a guy like that. Bellator doesn’t do that. That’s what makes it honest and true and keeps the integrity of MMA.”

Without a title-shot on the horizon Alvarez’s focus is instead on Aoki who he’ll see at Bellator 66 on April 20. If he stumbles again as he did to the Japanese submission specialist in 2008 any thoughts of another title-run or salacious salary will quickly float out of the cage door.

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“I need to go in there and I need to perform the way I usually do, then we can talk about other things. Because, right now, I can go in there and if something doesn’t go my way that night, I don’t have much to stand on. I need to go in there and show my value.”

Alvarez is 22-3 in his career and had won seven straight prior to the Chandler loss. Nineteen of his victories have involved some form of stoppage.