A North Philly wild card rides the Mixed Martial Arts wave.
“I mean, when you’re looking for someone you can promote, I hearken back to the early days when I was with De La Hoya,” says Rebney, who represented the famed boxer from 1993 to 1997.
The problem for Alvarez is that the UFC is notorious for offering fighters one-sided contracts.
“The UFC wants a lot of things for a little bit of money,” he says. He likens the division more to the NFL without a players union, a league minimum or any kind of arbitration than to a traditional fight promotion. This is part of the new fight game as well.
For the meantime, Alvarez is happy with his partnership with the ESPN Bellator promotion. It’s a busy schedule: three fight cards in 12 weeks. According to bellator.com, to win the Bellator Championship, a fighter must win all three fights, each one comprised of three five-minute rounds. At the end of a three-month season, Bellator will have crowned four champions and will have awarded each $175,000.
For all of its newfound glamour, Mixed Martial Arts is still a violent and precarious endeavor, one where you don’t get health insurance although injuries are a certainty, and you don’t get a pension though careers are short.
There are only so many lucrative paydays out there, and you’re guaranteed to get the hell beat out of you chasing them. When you do catch one, even the biggest MMA payouts are meager in comparison to those of boxing. Boxer Manny Pacquiao made $15 to $30 million in pay-per-view shares plus an additional guaranteed amount for his fight with Oscar De La Hoya. If you are a marquee lightweight in MMA, the take-home is closer to $170,000.
Still, that’s a lot of money for a neighborhood guy like Alvarez who sees the money as a way to get his family away from the tough neighborhood that he grew up in. After his loss in January, Alvarez moved his wife and children to a new house in Morrell Park.
And with Alvarez’s Hispanic following, he may be able to bring the fame and fortune of the UFC to the rest of the MMA scene.
“Mixed Martial Arts is becoming increasingly popular among Hispanics and we are thrilled to work with Bellator Fighting Championships to showcase these world-class athletes on a national platform,” said Lino Garcia, general manager of ESPN Deportes in an Aftermarket News story. “The structure of this championship will give fans a unique opportunity to follow their athletes as the tournament progresses.”
If Bellator does well, Alvarez’s fight will be televised in the English- language market as well as pay-per-view events.
Back at the Fight Factory, Haigh teases Alvarez that because of his recklessness he’ll soon have to retire his signature victory back flip off the ring in favor of being rolled out in a wheelchair.
When that happens, Alvarez says, he’ll being doing wheelies all the way.
The body odor permeating the confined South Philly arena runs about as deep as the 700 people packed inside. The floor is sticky. Many in the crowd are drunk. On this July evening, they’ve come from near and far with a common goal: to witness someone “get knocked the fuck out,” as one fan puts it, during a night of mixed-martial-arts cage fighting.
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