On October 13, Eddie Alvarez has the opportunity to add another belt to his collection when he faces Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev in the final of the ONE Championship Lightweight Grand Prix.
In the lead-up to his bout the ONE: Century show in Tokyo, Japan, Alvarez spoke with Ariel Helwani about his upcoming title bout and overcoming adversity.
Alvarez last competed at ONE: Dawn of Heroes on August 2, where he submitted the promotion’s former champion Eduard Folayang via rear-naked choke in the first round.
The win erased any lingering doubts since his nightmare debut earlier in the year; however, it was no easy task.
The 35-year-old was dropped early in the fight due to a leg kick. Sensing Alvarez was hurt, Folayang followed him to the mat in an attempt to secure the finish. But Alvarez did what he does best – he adapted and found a way to win.
“Thank god, he tried to finish me on top. If he were to back out and told the ref to stand me up, I don’t know how great that would’ve went for me. So thank god he got excited and tried to finish because it allowed me to get him close, to pull that sweep, and get on top.”
It was later revealed that Alvarez entered the bout with an injured ankle. Alvarez explained to Helwani how he picked up the injury, why it never recovered in time for the bout, and also how it hindered his attempt to make weight.
“Yeah so ten days before the fight – two days before I was about to leave for the Philippines – I messed my ankle up pretty bad [during] grappling practice, and it got a little iffy. We were considering just calling up and saying ‘I don’t know if we can do this.’ So I kept a wrestling shoe on and kept my foot taped all the way up until the fight.”
“Until the fight happened back in the locker room, it was the first time I had actually moved around with a barefoot and got to feel exactly how it’s gonna feel [during the] fight. It was all a little sketchy but we were too close to the fight, too close to pull out so we kept a strong belief in ourselves that we’ll figure it out when we get in there. And man, we did.”
Becoming a three-promotion champion
In the final of the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix, Alvarez will face Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev in the final, better known as “Dagi,” who boasts a professional record of 8-1. His sole loss came via disqualification; he is yet to be beaten by another man.
The final of the tournament is scheduled for October 13 and will feature on ONE’s biggest card to date.
“[He is a] dangerous, incredible opponent,” said Alvarez. “We have a lot [of similar] training partners and I believe just like Zabit he came from a boarding school that teaches fighting from a young age.”
“He has a style that Zabit and a lot of the other guys do – they have [solid standup], strong grappling backgrounds, so he’s a very dangerous opponent. You don’t even get to see much tape on him because he ends a lot of fights in the first round.”
“The Underground King” even admitted that he is afraid heading into the October 13 bout, something that you rarely hear exit the words of professional fighters.
Despite this, he feels as if he does best when full of emotion – look no further than his knockout win over Justin Gaethje.
“I’ve done my best against opponents who are dangerous like this, where I genuinely feel afraid a little bit. I do really well like that because when my backs against the wall and I feel a little bit afraid, something kicks in and I compete at a level that I don’t even know I’m capable of. So I’m looking forward to feeling that fear, feeling those emotions and going out and fighting.”