Trilogies in combat sports aren't exactly a rarity, but finding the ones that can truly be considered epic, therein lies the challenge. For me, the pinnacle of a great trilogy will always be Gatti/Ward. Those three fights were magical, and nothing in MMA or boxing has topped that on my personal list.
MMA trilogies are quite a bit more rare, as the sport hasn't been around nearly as long as boxing. Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson's trio of fights were great and the upcoming bout between B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar holds some interest, but the fight that I actually yearn to see (yes, I yearn occasionally), is the final chapter of Eddie Alvarez vs Michael Chandler.
That trilogy is something special, and the fact that it happens to be outside the confines of the UFC Octagon just adds to the mystique of it. The first two fights are arguably two of the best fights in the sport's history, and the third can't possibly be anything less than spectacular, if we are to use the first two as the measuring stick for greatness.
Unfortunately, less than a week away from their appointed date of fight destiny, Eddie Alvarez was forced out of the final fight due to a serious head injury suffered during a training incident two weeks ago. Bloody Elbow caught up with Eddie and got the particulars on his injury, thoughts on Chandler, and what his future holds. Here's what he had to say:
Bloody Elbow: You said you sustained a concussion prior to your last fight with Chandler, but you went ahead and fought anyway. What was different about this injury that made you seek more recovery time?
Eddie Alvarez: I took a pretty significant hit and I was feeling pain that I've never really felt before. It was different than anything I've ever encountered in my 11 years of fighting. It was definitely an injury that I couldn't fight with. The risk that I'd be taking was too great for me.
I've been concussed before, but I'd say this time is the worst, because none of the other times ever stopped me from competing. I've never had symptoms that lasted more than a day. This time was different. It still disrupts my training and everyday life. It's not the hardest I've ever been hit, but the aftermath is definitely the worst.
Bloody Elbow: What was the nature of your injury?
Eddie Alvarez: It wasn't a punch. It was during wrestling drills. I shot in on Abel Trujillo, and he turned a little bit so my head slammed into his hip. He actually has a huge bruise on his hip. It was a really hard shot.
Bloody Elbow: After this incident, do you sort of sit back and take stock of your career and give yourself an expiration date, as in ‘I want to be retired by the time I'm 45 years old' or something along those lines?
Eddie Alvarez: Of course I don't want to be doing this when I'm 40 years old and putting my health at risk, but I've got about 7 or 8 years left, and I think they'll be good years I can look forward to. It's going to be more of a "feel" thing. I'll fight until I feel my body and mind don't want to do it anymore. I know one thing, I have a greater appreciation of when I'm healthy and uninjured [laughs].
Bloody Elbow: When exactly were you injured and when did you inform Bellator?
Eddie Alvarez: The injury happened about 2 weeks ago and we first told Bellator right after the first visit with Dr. Maroon in Pittsburgh. We were still hopeful I'd be able to fight, so we called Bellator and told them what was going on, and that I would try to fight as scheduled. This was around the 30th of April.
Tim flew here to Florida-I believe it was this past Sunday-and we told him then that I wasn't going to be able to fight. So yeah, about 2 days ago was when we made it official. We just told him, ‘Look, we're not gonna do it because of continuing problems stemming from the concussion.'
Bloody Elbow: Does it give you some peace of mind in knowing that Spike execs have stated that the future of Bellator is not contingent on the success of this PPV?
Eddie Alvarez: Listen, I feel like shit about all of it. This is not typical, and I don't like to do things like this. If this was my knee or my shoulder, something like that, I'd push through it and fight anyways. I've done it before. Being that it's my head, I needed to prioritize what was important. It just isn't a risk I'm willing to take. I'm glad the future of Bellator is not in jeopardy, but I still feel bad at having to pull out of my fight so late in the game.
Bloody Elbow: Are you guaranteed a PPV fight?
Eddie Alvarez: Yes, yes I am. Mike and I will still be fighting in the future, and it will be on a PPV.
Eddie Alvarez: I think styles make fights and sometimes, even the best guys have a bad night and get losses. I've been there before and so has every champion in the sport. It would probably lose a little bit of its luster, but the match-up would still interest the fans and I wouldn't abandon that third fight.
I don't see him losing to Will Brooks, though. I just don't think he's the guy to do it. I see Mike being able to go out there and win the fight. Will just doesn't have the style to beat him.
Bloody Elbow: You and Michael seem very cordial. What's your relationship like with him after two hard fought battles?
Eddie Alvarez: I have the utmost respect for Mike. It's hard to fight a guy for almost an hour in total and not respect him. He's a great competitor and was a good champion.
Bloody Elbow: When you had your falling out with Bellator, one of the reasons you cited in your desire to leave the organization was to pursue the top tier talent in the UFC because you wanted the challenge and to be able to fight the best guys in the world. Is that still your frame of mind or do you feel that you will end your career with Bellator?
Eddie Alvarez: You know, I have a lot of decisions to make in the next year or so, but right at this moment, I'm not making any plans. I want to be Number 1 in the world, and I'm willing to do whatever I have to do in order to achieve that. My ultimate goal is to be the best lightweight in the world, so whatever steps I have to take to get there, I'll take them. Wherever that Number 1 guy in the world is, whether it be in Bellator or another organization, that's the guy I want to fight.
You can follow Eddie via his Twitter account, @EAlvarezFight