Alvarez keen on growing career, paychecks

Eddie Alvarez has one eye on bigger paydays, and the other on building his brand. www.sherdog.com

This is a great time to be former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.

In his most recent fight, on Oct. 12 at Bellator 76, Alvarez knocked out Patricky Freire in the first round with a picture-perfect head-kick.

It was the latest in a long line of exciting fights put forth by Alvarez. Delivering exciting fights has become an Alvarez trademark. But the timing of the Freire knockout makes that performance extra special. Alvarez left the cage that evening a free man -- contractually, at least. The 28-year-old Philadelphia native is now a free agent. And for the next several months, Alvarez will be negotiating with several promotions in an attempt to secure the most lucrative deal of his mixed martial arts career.

“The idea of free agency is good if you can leave your contract with a win,” Alvarez told ESPN.com. “But if you can leave your contract with an exciting head-kick knockout, then it’s even better.

“So I’m enjoying myself and enjoying my family. I feel that I did my job; I put forth the sacrifices that I needed to put forth and the performance; now it’s up to my management and up to the promoters to do their jobs.

“It’s out of my hands; I clocked out on [Oct. 12].”

This is a great time to be Alvarez. He is in his fighting prime and is highly sought after. It feels good to be wanted, but Alvarez refuses to get emotionally lost in all the love that is being showered upon him.

For Alvarez, this free-agency process comes down to securing his family’s financial future. And if that means staying in Bellator or competing in UFC, so be it -- in the end, Alvarez intends to be comfortable.

But if Alvarez, who is ranked ninth among lightweights by ESPN.com, picks Bellator over UFC, he can expect to be accused of ducking stiffer competition.

Alvarez, who isn’t close to deciding which promotion he will fight in next, knows some will question his heart if UFC isn’t in his future. That type of criticism doesn’t concern Alvarez one bit.

Still, he took the time to set the record straight.

“Fans have a misconception that if you’re not fighting in UFC, then you’re afraid of the UFC or afraid of the guys in UFC,” Alvarez said. “But if you know who I am and you know MMA, then you have to know that I will fight anyone on any given night.

“I’m not that fighter who picks and chooses and goes here and goes there and says ‘no’ to this guy and ‘yes’ to that guy. I’ve never ever been like that, from the beginning of my career I’ve never been like that. And I never will.”

For the next three months or so, Bellator has the legal right to negotiate exclusively with Alvarez. He already has had conversations with that promotion’s top representatives and expects talks to continue.

When Bellator’s exclusivity period concludes, Alvarez and his reps will begin having discussions with other promotions, including UFC. That’s when things should get interesting for the man with a 24-3 professional record.

The more zeroes a promotion is willing to put on paper will go a long way in getting Alvarez to give it the thumbs-up. But a paycheck alone won’t seal the deal.

Alvarez is seeking more than an immediate paycheck; he has long-term goals as well.

“There are two factors involved: financial and growth,” Alvarez said. “The money has to be correct, and I have to have the ability to grow. I have to have the ability to grow my career.

“By growth I mean the company I’m with, will I be able to grow my name, my brand? I want to be able to expand, I want to be able to reach millions of people and I want people to be able to see my fights.

“Bellator is going to be able to have that ability in 2013. Everyone knows UFC has the ability to do that, but Bellator is up and coming, and they are able to do that now.

“It’s important for me to grow, fight some of the best guys on the planet and also to get paid well.”