Scott Coker: Bellator ‘would love to talk’ to Eddie Alvarez if able

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

One of Bellator’s first champions and biggest original names could soon be available. And that promotion would certainly consider bringing him back.

Bellator president Scott Coker told Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he would be interested in chatting with Alvarez when he’s able to engage in dialogue legally. Most UFC contracts have a window after they expire giving the UFC exclusive rights to negotiate.

“I don’t think we’ve talked to Eddie, but listen, if he wants to reach out and have a conversation and he’s truly a free agent and we’re not interfering in anybody’s contract, we would love to talk to him,” Coker said. “I think the guy has done a lot of good work in building his brand here in the U.S.

“Obviously, he’s had some great fights with Michael Chandler here in the past. We want to talk to every free agent out there that’s a big star, and I think Eddie is still a big star.”

Alvarez was the first Bellator lightweight champion in 2009 and held that title until losing it to Michael Chandler two years later in one of the best fights in MMA history. Alvarez regained the Bellator belt from Chandler in 2013 — another classic fight — and vacated it when he signed with the UFC.

The Philadelphia native’s relationship with brass at Bellator was poor — they were involved in a messy lawsuit over his contract status — but that was the previous regime headed by Bjorn Rebney.

Alvarez, 34, won the UFC lightweight title in his fourth fight with the organization and has beaten the likes of Gilbert MelendezAnthony PettisRafael dos Anjos and Justin Gaethje there. Over the last five years, Alvarez (29-6, 1 NC) has cemented himself as one of the best lightweight fighters of all time. He’s won titles in Reality Fighting, Bodog Fight, Dream, Bellator and the UFC.

In addition, Alvarez fought in the UFC’s first-ever main event in New York City, at Madison Square Garden, losing to Conor McGregor. Alvarez fell to Dustin Poirier by second-round TKO at UFC on FOX 30 in the final fight on his UFC deal.

Coker said the free-agent market is not especially hot right now, but Bellator is keeping its eyes open. The promotion has lured Gegard MousasiRory MacDonald and Lyoto Machida away from the UFC in the last two years.

“There’s somebody here, there’s somebody there,” Coker said. “It’s not like there’s hundreds or even 10s and 20s of athletes. It’s more of, there’s a big star here or a big star here or a medium star there. But they’re out there and we’ve been plucking them away one by one. And we’re gonna keep shopping and we’re gonna keep growing this roster.”

Coker said he’s happy with how Bellator has put together the roster, getting free agents at the top of the card and building up prospects like Aaron Pico, AJ McKee, Ed RuthJames Gallagher and more.

“This roster looks nothing like it did four years ago,” Coker said. “It’s a much different fight roster than we had. It’s something we’re proud of and it’s not easy to do. But I think we’ve got a good handle on it.”

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