Recently there were reports that Eddie Alvarez was likely headed to ONE Championship, and now the Asian based promotion has confirmed the signing. Could the deal signal a new era in MMA?
Alvarez exited the UFC this past July, following a stoppage loss to Dustin Poirier. Although the lightweight star never outright said he wasn’t interested in returning to the organization, at the time, the consensus was Alvarez would likely return to Bellator. After all, Alvarez, is also a former champ with the promotion, and a third bout with Michael Chandler seemed like an obvious go-to for the Viacom owned company.
“The moment of truth has arrived,” said Alvarez. “I know you’ve heard the rumors. They’re true. We got our contract from [ONE Championship] and we’re all signed up…This couldn’t have went any smoother. It didn’t take too long, everyone is happy and I’m super excited. The Underground King is coming to ONE.”
And in the official announcement regarding the deal, Chatri Sityodtong, Chairman and CEO of ONE Championship, was quoted saying:
“I am thrilled to announce that multiple-time world champion Eddie Alvarez will be joining ONE Championship on a multiple-bout contract. Eddie is one of the world’s best martial artists in the world, and is no doubt a tremendous addition to the ONE roster. The ONE Championship roster is incredibly deep with talents such as Shinya Aoki, Eduard Folayang, and Amir Khan, among others. I am excited to have Eddie in that mix and to see some amazing matchups and performances. This is no doubt one of the biggest athlete signings in the history of ONE Championship.”
Hard to argue with that. But, why could this move possibly signal a new era in the sport? After all, in recent years we’ve seen many accomplished fighters leave the UFC? Case in point, the world’s biggest MMA promotion didn’t retain the likes of Ryan Bader, Gegard Mousasi, Rory MacDonald, and Lyoto Machida, among many others.
While all that’s true, those fighters signed with Bellator, not ONE Championship. Further, due to the fact Alvarez is a former champ with both Bellator and the UFC, there’s no question he is one of the biggest names to hit the free agent market in recent years. So, the fact he’s opted for ONE Championship, a company that operates in Asia, is likely causing a bit of a stir in the MMA industry.
ONE has certainly signed big name, former champs in the past. For example, Andrei Arlovski fought Tim Sylvia under the promotion’s banner in 2012, and Ben Askren eventually signed with the promotion too (although, Bellator had opted to not resign the undefeated wrestler). But, none of those fighters had the pull that Alvarez still does, and all of those signings took place a while back.
So, if this deal signals that ONE intends to be a player in pursuing, future, all-star free agents as well, then this could indeed usher in a new era for fighters and the sport. A landscape where more MMA fans here in North America and Europe, start paying additional, well deserved attention to ONE.