Alvarez Changes Mindset Ahead of UFC 218

Eddie Alvarez had a lot going for him before signing with the UFC in August 2014. He went unbeaten in the 2008 Dream Lightweight Grand Prix before pulling out due to injury, and he was a key fighter for Bellator MMA since its inception. Going 11-1, he ended up winning the Bellator Lightweight Championship twice.

And while Alvarez has seen success in the UFC, winning the UFC Lightweight Championship from Rafael dos Anjos in July 2016, life hasn’t been all a party. In his UFC debut at UFC 178, Alvarez lost via unanimous decision to Donald Cerrone. He scored split decision wins over Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis before winning the UFC lightweight crown, but in his first defense, Alvarez was dominated by Conor McGregor at UFC 205. Alvarez’s bout with Dustin Poirier at UFC 211 back in May went to a controversial No Contest following illegal knees.

Simply put, Alvarez has not had the dominance in UFC that he enjoyed in promotions like Dream and Bellator. And when he talked with SiriusXM and MMA Tonight, Alvarez promised it is time for a change.

“I think when I entered the UFC [I started caring too much]. There was a big thing, could I compete with the best guys in the world? Could I compete with the guys in the UFC? There was that whole stigma that the guys from the smaller promotions couldn’t hang with the best guys in the UFC so I just let my surroundings and the things I was hearing affect the way I was fighting. It made me focus more on winning than on being me. I was so worried about winning and proving people wrong that I could win the UFC world title, [but] when you get focused too much on winning I don’t feel like you’re able to be your total self. I do better when I care less.”

While some may feel Alvarez could be a test for the young Gaethje, some feel it works the other way around as well. Gaethje is 18-0 in his MMA career thus far, with 15 wins by knockout and an approximate three-year run as WSOF Lightweight Champion. Gaethje defeated Michael Johnson via second-round TKO this past July in what some describe as one of the best UFC debuts in the promotion’s history.

Alvarez admitted he sees some of him in Gaethje, but promises victory come this December.

“I respect the guy. He trains hard, he has a good strong mind, and he’s undefeated. . . He reminds me a bit of myself when I first started and I felt like I was unbeatable. I felt [that way] until I met that one guy. A lot of the things that he does and the way he approaches the game is a lot like myself and he’s just waiting in a couple months to meet that guy.”

Alvarez and Gaethje meet at UFC 218, which takes place at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan, on Dec. 2. The main event of the card sees Max Holloway defend the UFC Featherweight Championship against Frankie Edgar.

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