The UFC has signed Philadelphia native Eddie Alvarez to a contract, the mixed martial arts promotion announced on Tuesday.
Alvarez, 30, was born in Kensington and went to Northeast Catholic High School.
"It's no secret Kensington is a fighting town, it's actually where Rocky was filmed," Alvarez says proudly. "Growing up, there were boxing gyms on every corner. Where in normal neighborhoods, they would play stick ball and hockey and baseball, we used to slap box and bring boxing gloves down the street and box each other. It was just a fighting town."
Sadly, where Alvarez grew up has been affected by the drug trade, and he hopes that his bright future in UFC is able to provide them means to make a change in his old neighborhood.
"It's not what it used to be," he reflects. "It looks like a third world country now. It'd be cool to become successful, go back, and start something where kids can get off the streets."
Known as "The Silent Assassin,"Alvarez was widely regarded as the top-ranked lightweight outside the UFC. His most notable victories occurred as he toured Japan starting in 2006 and got a crash course in the differences between American and Japanese crowds.
"The fans, man, the fans have a little different way of thinking," he laughs. "They really applaud the spirit of fighters, and that put a huge influence on the type of energy I fought with, rather than if I won or lost. America's a real win-or-lose culture, where with the Japanese, fighting with spirit is enough. The consequence of fighting spirit usually means a win."
Alvarez was able to develop that mentality to his advantage, which was key as he adapted from the culture shock of fighting abroad. "Not being in my comfort zone, going to someone else's home and fighting them I think is a very important experience to have as a young fighter. I was fortunate enough to have that early in my career."
Heading into the UFC with a professional record of 25-3, Alvarez made his debut on December 14, 2003 with a knockout win over Anthony Ladonna at Ring of Combat 5.
Alvarez's fights rarely go the distance as 15 ended via knockout/techinical knockout and nine ended via submission. He has a fairly simple philosophy when it comes to a bout: Hit hard, and hit immediately.
"I like to keep a high pace, violent fight," Alvarez agreed. "I don't like to waste time, and I don't like to go to the judges. I feel like I've fought long enough where I can adapt to just about any situation."
Alarez brings his frenzied style to MMA's brightest spotlight, after long being considered the best lightweight fighter outside of UFC.
"I think I'm joining at the perfect time," he says. Alvarez feels as though the time it's taken to receive his invitation has allowed him to hone skills he might not have had as a younger rookie. "I feel like the last 10-11 years, I've just been sharpening and fine-tuning, experiencing a lot of different things, and now it's just a natural progression to do it in front of millions of people and fight the most dangerous guys in the world."
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone, currently the fourth-ranked lightweight in the UFC, is slated to be Alvarez's first test in the co-main event at UFC 178 in Las Vegas on September 27. He will be prepared.
"I've experienced success, I've experienced failure, I've been a world champion, I've fought all over the world; I think I've experienced enough that I won't get in front of a million people and get gunshy. They're gonna see the best of me, and I'm gonna be able to give them that."