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The proud Philadelphian visits New York in November and will stand shoulder to shoulder with UFC’s biggest star – and he’s not in a hurry to relinquish his belt

On 27 September 2014, Eddie Alvarez stumbled after stepping into the Octagon.
It took only one loss in the UFC, a unanimous decision setback against Donald Cerrone at 155lbs, for plenty of people to dismiss Alvarez’s ability and determination.Having spent 11 years scoring wins against the best opponents he could fight in two weight divisions, the night of Alvarez’s unsuccessful debut with the organization raised doubts about the his ability to compete at the highest level of mixed martial arts.Perhaps only Alvarez and his supporters would have envisioned the circumstances of his career changing so dramatically in the next 24 months.Alvarez went from a fighter poised to disappoint to one who made the most of the opportunity to scale the top of the food chain. Though it might seem so, this wasn’t so much a drastic turn of events – Alvarez had been on track for year – as it was a bump, a glitch, nothing more.Two years to the day that Alvarez fell short against Cerrone, the proud 32-year-old Philadelphian visited New York City at the zenith of his career standing shoulder to shoulder with the star of UFC stars, Conor McGregor, signed to headline a historic night of fights on 12 November at Madison Square Garden.

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An assortment of mixed martial arts’ best competitors joined Alvarez and McGregor Tuesday evening at the theater inside MSG to help promote the first card UFC in New York since a statewide ban on the sport was lifted during the first half of 2016.Three title fights. A card littered with must-see bouts. Long-suffering New York MMA fans should show up to six hours before the headliner for fear of missing something great.Fair or not, even on a card with the depth of talent like UFC 205 has McGregor will corral the bulk of the press attention and fan chatter leading up a monumental night in history of the UFC.McGregor also appeared at UFC 176 in Las Vegas. He dropped Dustin Poirier in the opening round of their 145lb fight immediately before Alvarez’s disappointing debut. While Alvarez was forced to regroup after that night, McGregor’s victory served as a springboard. He marched to the UFC featherweight belt in just over a year, and became the biggest selling pay-per-view draw in the company’s history along the way.This is the new state of things in the UFC, and any time an opponent stands opposite McGregor – the unabashed king of MMA – they know a barrage of words and fists will confront them. Some fighters, the jealous ones McGregor calls them, seem annoyed by the 28-year-old Irishman, who claims he’ll earn $40m this year.Alvarez, the reigning UFC lightweight champion since July, took it all in as McGregor berated him.“You’re blessed that I chose you,” McGregor yelled at Alvarez. “You’re blessed.”

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Alvarez actually has something McGregor wants, so it’s not as if this choice came out of nowhere. With the UFC lightweight title the 28-year-old Irishman can stamp himself the only concurrent two division champion in UFC history. It’s a unique accomplishment, for sure. Others have fought for a chance to pull off the feat and fallen short. McGregor’s aim from the start of his UFC career was to make this dream a reality, and this is why Alvarez needed to be the next fight.Alvarez doesn’t care what McGregor desires or what makes for a living. He stated that clearly at MSG when McGregor attempted to chide Alvarez for failing to renegotiate money terms for this fight. The obligatory money-weight contest.It was an egregious move by McGregor’s standards. Like, hey, guy, look what I’m doing for you – and you’re not even doing it right.“I was OK with the money,” Alvarez responded. “I wasn’t going to negotiate the money. This guy is easy money.“Come November 12, you’ll see. There is no Santa Claus. He don’t exist.”If Alvarez’s young boys were listening, he may have some explaining to do. A reputed family man who married his high school sweetheart, Alvarez wouldn’t seem susceptible to being overwhelmed by the McGregor crunch. His roots are strong and his mission has been the same since the beginning, before amassing a 28-4 record that includes wins over some of the sport’s best fighters.Numerous competitors have dismissed McGregor’s fighting prowess prior to stepping in the cage with him, only to be exposed. This time it’s Alvarez, “The Underground King,” who seems to be taking the opportunity to speak dimly of McGregor’s odds.

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“You’ll be beltless,” Alvarez said. “You’ll have to give up the little-boy belt and you’re not getting the big-boy belt.”During their fiery press conference on Tuesday, Alvarez showed minimal respect for “Mystic Mac,” who drops to 155lbs for the first time in the UFC after taking his last two bouts against Nate Diaz at 170lbs. McGregor (17-3) has yet to defend the 145lb title he won from Jose Aldo late last year.Alvarez certainly isn’t flashy in the way he talks or operates, nothing like the mainstream King Conor. He’s blue-collar, always coming forward, always finding a way to move past trouble. Alvarez says McGregor isn’t much of a fighter at all. The analysis comes after McGregor drowned in his first fight with Nate Diaz, a defeat McGregor avenged just five weeks ago.“When I mention a fighter, you guys are thinking technique,” Alvarez said. “I’m not. When I’m talking a fighter I’m talking about how you deal with adversity. He deals terribly with being in bad situations and not coming back.”If, as McGregor said, Alvarez is a weathered, stocky grappler who can’t do much but throw a punch then he should make good on his prediction of a round-one KO.Alvarez promised to mix it up with McGregor instead of try to wrestle him to the canvas.“He gets cracked,” McGregor noted, “he gets dropped.”The lightweight champion has fairly earned a reputation for taking a shot and surviving. It’s been a hallmark of his career.