With all the hype surrounding UFC 200, the return of Brock Lesnar, and the much-anticipated rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz at UFC 202, you might be forgiven for not remembering that the UFC Lightweight title will soon be up for grabs.
The champion, Rafael dos Anjos (25-7), looks to secure his second title defense against the scrappy Eddie Alvarez (27-4), the former Bellator lightweight champion at UFC Fight Night on July the 7th.
Broadcasted exclusively via the UFC’s subscription service Fight Pass, this will be the first time that a title fight is waged via the medium.
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In a recent interview with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, the challenger, Alvarez laid it down easily for all to follow:
"I don’t give a s**t where [this fight takes place], I don’t care if they even got a ref in there. Where this thing is and when it airs and where it airs, that ain’t got nothing to do with me”
The veteran of 13 years, Alvarez is intently focused on bringing home the gold to his native Philadelphia.
"I don’t know if there’s going to be a single person or anything that’s going to be able to get in my way come that date."
Many fans have criticized the UFC for pushing Alvarez into a title fight so soon. Having joined the UFC in late 2014, he dropped a disappointing decision to Donald “The Cowboy” Cerrone.
Since then he’s clinched narrow split decisions against Gilbert Melendez, and former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
Many feel that the number #1 ranked lightweight, Khabib Nurmagomedov is the natural challenger to RDA’s crown. Currently sat on an undefeated record of 23 wins, the Dagestani even holds a victory over the champion from 2014. Still, Alvarez isn’t about to complain.
“It don’t matter what venue it’s on, what channel it’s on, if it’s on at all," Alvarex continued.
"The title fight is happening, and Eddie Alvarez is about to be the next lightweight champion whether you like it or not."
Prior to his run toward UFC gold, Alvarez was considered the best lightweight in the world not signed by the organisation. He held the Bellator strap from 2009 to 2011, and again in 2014.
However, the 32-year old sat on the shelf for a large part of his stint at the promotion. Contract disputes, and a clashing of egos between Alvarez and the Bellator founder and former president, Bjorn Rebney, kept Alvarez out of the spotlight.
Meanwhile, the champion Rafael dos Anjos was quietly stringing together a series of wins, and capturing UFC gold from the then-poster child of the division, Anthony Pettis.
Prior to his loss against Nurmagomedov, dos Anjos was known primarily as a grappler. A high-level black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, RDA took a leaf out of countryman’s Fabricio Werdum’s book, and shored up his stand up skills.
Having developed an incredibly well-rounded skillset, dos Anjos has bested the likes of Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone, and former champions Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis.
So why is the fight being broadcast online only? And where is the hype? At one point, the lightweight belt was one of the mainstay titles for the UFC. Long-time division king, BJ Penn, was a regular PPV headliner.
Perhaps if UFC president Dana White’s original plan of having Conor McGregor and RDA fight for the lightweight belt had come to fruition, the Brazilian champion may be more recognisable now. An injury nixed that idea.
Instead, dos Anjos is resigned to headlining sub-standard shows. Similar to the flyweight king, and arguably the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet, Demetrious “Might Mouse” Johnson, only the die-hard fans seem interested in the lightweight champion.
Hopefully, should he defend his belt against Eddie Alvarez on July 7, RDA may earn the recognition he deserves.