More Than Gold At Stake In Bellator 106 Main Event

By Raphael Garcia

There may not be a lot of respect associated with being considered the “best outside of the UFC,” 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, fight fans will see two such individuals, 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, this fight is of astronomical importance to both fighters.

Yes, this fight is for the Bellator lightweight championship. But forget the tournament format — this bout was made because it was not only the best fight that the division had to offer, but the best fight that the promotion could put together as well.

On one side you have the current champion in Michael Chandler. 27 years old and 12-0, Chandler is the premier face of Bellator MMA. His being featured in commercials and appearances on red carpets cement that fact. To go along with his growing exposure, he is performing well in the cage. He’s looked like a juggernaut since winning the title, stopping three opponents in near-effortless fashion. Chandler hasn’t looked to be in trouble for one moment since fighting Alvarez on that November night almost exactly two years ago.

On the other side you have Alvarez. The 29 year old was a for a long time recognized as one of the top lightweights who was not fighting under the Zuffa umbrella. Fans and experts alike clamored for him to get his opportunity in the UFC, and that almost came last year. However, an ugly legal battle with Bellator forced him to the sidelines for more than 12 months. But before that happened, Alvarez was the first face of the brand new Bellator promotion. He won his first seven fights en route to capturing and defending the lightweight championship, including victories over current featherweight champion Pat Curran and UFC imports Josh Neer and Roger Huerta. It was quite a shock when he lost to Chandler in their first matchup, which makes the rematch that much more enticing. Throw in the backstory of Alvarez’s discontent with the way Bellator treated him as he tried to move on with his career, and there’s a narrative that can’t be ignored leading up to 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 Alvarez still remains the more established name. If Chandler were to drop the belt, he would be granted an immediate rematch, but at that point, Alvarez’s renegotiated contract would come into focus. The two-fight deal that Alvarez signed when he settled his dispute with Bellator contains a very interesting clause: If Alvarez loses to Chandler on Saturday night, he is immediately released from his obligations to the promotion, but if he wins, then there is a rubber match, and no matter what the outcome is, he will be immediately released from his Bellator obligations.

However, if Alvarez were to lose this upcoming bout and be free to be courted by the UFC once again, the contract offer that he would likely receive would be vastly different from the lucrative deal he was expected to obtain in 2012. That makes this Saturday’s fight incredibly important for the Philadelphia native, as the largest series of paydays in his career hang in the balance, because the UFC doesn’t have to show interest in him at all if he is released from the promotion without the title, particularly if he leaves Bellator 0-2 to the current champion. Thus, Alvarez is taking a serious gamble on his career, especially when you factor in that he hasn’t fought for more than 12 months.

The fact that the original Bellator 106 main event of Tito Ortiz vs. Rampage Jackson was scratched from this weekend’s card has allowed the spotlight to shine on the most important fight of the night: Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler. This bout will have lasting affects on not only their respective legacies, but the future of the promotion that employs them both.

Bellator 106

Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez (LW Championship)

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Bellator 106: Chandler vs. Alvarez II will take place on November 2, 2013 at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California.

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