One year after essentially losing a legal battle to leave Bellator MMA after his contract expired, Eddie Alvarez (pictured) has finally escaped the clutches of the Viacom-owned company.
“We’ve granted Eddie his unconditional release,” Bellator president Scott Coker expressed in Tuesday’s official statement. “Eddie is free to explore the free agent market, we hold no matching rights, and we wish him the best in the future.”
It is believed Alvarez, who is currently Bellator’s lightweight champion (Will Brooks is their interim 155-pound champ, but will likely be promoted to outright champ), will be taking his talents to the UFC shortly.
After knocking out Patricky Freire at Bellator 76, Alvarez became a restricted free agent. He was allowed to field offers, but Bellator had the right to match and retain his services as long as the offers were the same – term for term.
Alvarez accepted the UFC’s deal, which Bellator promptly “matched.”
After sifting through a ton of fine print in the courtroom, which lasted roughly eight months, Alvarez knew he was fighting a losing battle and begrudgingly rejoined Bellator.
His first fight back was a rematch with then-lightweight champ Michael Chandler. Alvarez took a split decision victory to reclaim the throne. A rubber match was then arranged to headline Bellator’s first pay-per-view broadcast, but Alvarez was forced to withdraw at the 11th hour after suffering a concussion while training.
Even though Coker was now running the show at Bellator instead of former CEO Bjorn Rebney, the bridge had already been burned and Coker believed there was no turning back.
“We sat down with Eddie and his team a few times, and it became pretty clear early on that he just wasn’t interested in fighting for Bellator in the future,” Coker added. “We want guys in this organization that want to be here, and after the history Eddie and the former regime had here at Bellator, we decided to move on.
“We wish Eddie the absolute best of luck with whatever is next for him. It’s a new chapter for everyone involved.”
Alvarez owns an impressive 25-3 professional record. The 30-year-old is perfect through his past three fights.
“This was a long process but it’s a decision that everyone seems happy with,” Alvarez stated. “I think it’s important to say that I am genuinely thankful for the time at Bellator. I know that sounds a little crazy given everything I went through, but I’ve fought there since 2009 and have been involved in some really amazing fights.
“The staff there always treated me great and I’m going to miss seeing a lot of those familiar faces around for sure. Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter of my career.”
It looks like the UFC’s talent-rich lightweight division will soon get a lot deeper.