This ruling does not mean that Alvarez is necessarily on his way back to Bellator. As we covered earlier, today's hearing was simply to deal with the injunction Alvarez sought in order to allow him to compete at UFC 159 while the issue of his contract was being dealt with in court. By denying that injunction, the judge is essentially stating that Alvarez will not be irreparably harmed by missing out on the UFC 159 fight. Instead, he will have to wait until his lawsuit with Bellator is settled to determine where he will fight next.
MMA Fighting's Mike Chiappetta has been covering the case from the courtroom all day, and his report is very interesting. Among the highlights is this exchange between Judge Linares and the Bellator legal team over the issue of PPV appearances:
"Are you representing to the court that you have a fight lined up for him, vs. [Michael] Chandler, on a pay-per-view?" Judge Linares asked him.
"I am representing to the court, yes," he said. "Subject to all the things that can happen. Injury, etc. But yes, I am representing that."
But all that is down the line. For now, all we know is that Eddie Alvarez will not fight at UFC 159, and the legal battle will continue.
UPDATE: The Fight Lawyer has a copy of the official ruling up, which you can view here. From that ruling:
[T]he Court is not satisfied that Alvarez has demonstrated a reasonable probability of success on the merits by virtue of Bellator's purported failure to match Zuffa's offer. The crux of Alvarez's argument is that Bellator's failure to provide an identically matching contract amounts to a failure to match. This argument, however, is untenable.
Obviously, in any contract that Bellator would match, it would have to change certain words. For example, it would have to substitute its name for that of Zuffa. If, as Alvarez claims, Bellator's substituting its name for that of Zuffa amounts to a failure to match, Bellator would never be able to match the terms of any contract, and thus its right of first refusal would amount to no right at all... This Court must apply a common-sense interpretation to the word "match."
The Court recognizes that the differences between Fox Network Television and Spike TV may be such that the Court (or a jury) would ultimately find that Alvarez should prevail on his counterclaim because of Bellator's failure to match Zuffa's contract. At this juncture, however, the Court cannot make such a finding based on the record before it. Accordingly, the Court must conclude that Alvarez has not shown a reasonable probability of success on the merits even though it is not foreclosing the possibility that he may ultimately prevail on the merits of his counterclaim.
It is speculative to suggest, as Alvarez does, that an inability to compete in the April 27 event will result in irreparable harm in the form of a lost opportunity to obtain notoriety, endorsements, and a wider exposure to viewers. Alvarez's argument requires this Court to make speculative assumptions about what might or might not happen as a result of his participation in the April 27 event. Based on the record before it, the Court cannot make such assumptions.
As a fan, perhaps the most interesting part in this is a footnote in the ruling, which makes it clear that if Alvarez ultimately does end up back in Bellator, then Bellator will have a "contractual duty to provide Alvarez with a fight broadcast on Pay-Per-View" and that failure to do so would indeed be a breach of contract. Very interesting indeed.