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Bellator releases lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez

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The saga is over between Bellator and Eddie Alvarez, who is now a free agent as of today.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

The wheels are set in motion now for Eddie Alvarez to finally become a UFC fighter. As reported by ESPN's Brett Okamoto, the disgruntled Bellator lightweight champion was granted his unconditional release today, thereby making him a free agent.

"We granted Eddie his unconditional release this morning," Coker told ESPN.com. "Eddie is free to explore the free agent market. We wish him the best in the future."

"After sitting down with him and getting to know him, it was just a very hurtful situation for him," Coker said. "I think the damage was already done. It became clear there was a wall there and it was not directed at me.

After confirmation of his freedom to sign with another organization, Alvarez sent the following statement to ESPN regarding his five-year tenure in Bellator:

"This was a long process but it's a decision that everyone seems happy with," Alvarez said. "I think it's important to say that I am genuinely thankful for the time at Bellator. I know that sounds a little crazy given everything I went through, but I've fought there since 2009 and have been involved in some really amazing fights.

"The staff there always treated me great and I'm going to miss seeing a lot of those familiar faces around for sure. Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter of my career.

A move to the UFC seems almost inevitable for the 30-year-old Alvarez, whose tense and complicated problems with Bellator date back to 2012. When the UFC tried to sign Alvarez, a free agent at the time, but Bellator matched the offer, which Alvarez's legal team argued was not the same. The two parties soon went all the way to court, and Bellator ended up retaining Alvarez. His contract included two fights and then his release, and while he never fulfilled the 2nd fight, he's now officially a free agent.

From a sporting standpoint for Bellator, it looks like this means Will Brooks is now the undisputed champion, having claimed the interim title against Alvarez's biggest rival Michael Chandler earlier this year. For the UFC, it gives them the opportunity to finally snag Alvarez without any potential roadblocks with Bellator.

There will surely be follow-ups and plenty of reaction to this big story, which we'll continue to cover throughout the week here on Bloody Elbow.