Eddie Alvarez’s bid for preliminary injunctive relief was denied on Friday in U.S. District Court, and he will sit out a UFC bout offered to him for April 27, as he and Bellator MMA continue to hash out a contract dispute.
The 29-year-old Alvarez, had sought an injunction against his prior promoter, Bellator MMA, so he could accept a main-card bout at UFC 159 on April 27 in Newark, N.J. Alvarez was also seeking the court’s judgment that his obligations with Bellator had been completed, thus allowing him to accept a long-term deal with UFC promoter Zuffa LLC.
The Viacom-owned Bellator, which filed a complaint against its former lightweight champion for breach of contract on Dec. 31, claims it matched the UFC offer, obligating Alvarez to re-sign with the southern California-based promotion per the terms of his original contract. The April 27 bout was part of an eight-fight contract offer with the rival organization that would have paid the fighter a maximum of $1,400,000 in show and win purses, plus a $250,000 signing bonus ($165,000 minus applicable fees, paid over three bouts). These are numbers Bellator said it has matched in its own offer to Alvarez.
At the heart of the dispute is the promotion and fighter’s contrasting interpretations of specific language in Alvarez’s original Bellator contract, which gave the promotion “the right to match the terms of any agreement offered.”
Specifically, Alvarez’s attorneys contend that Bellator could not substitute the UFC’s guarantee to air one of the fighter’s bouts on Fox network television with a bout Bellator would air on Spike TV, a cable network with less viewership reach, and have it still be considered a match. In retort, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told SI.com that he’d already secured a guarantee from broadcast partner Spike to re-air Alvarez’s bouts on multiple occasions in primetime, if necessary, to match Fox viewership.
In his initial ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge Jose Linares wrote that he recognized differences between Fox and Spike TV, though he said Alvarez had not shown reasonable probability at this time that he could successfully argue this point of his counterclaim should the case go to trial. Alvarez has fought for Bellator nine times over 42 months.
The fighter’s representatives also contended that the Viacom-owned Bellator wouldn’t be able to match the UFC’s offer to pay Alvarez additional escalating pay-per-view revenue for participating events that reached over 200,000 buys, as Bellator hadn’t promoted a pay-per-view to date, and didn’t have the market muscle or supporting star power to produce equivalent buy success. This potential revenue, which Alvarez would only be entitled to in his first UFC bout and subsequent championship bouts, could total into the high six-figures per bout, depending on the pay-per-view’s buy rates.
Bellator has stated that it is ready to promote its first pay-per-view event with Alvarez in a lightweight championship rematch against champion Michael Chandler, and would have the vast resources of parent company, Viacom, a world-leading media conglomerate with million-plus-sold boxing pay-per-views under its belt, at its disposal to help promote and execute it.
On this pivotal matter, Judges Linares wrote that he could not rule either way, as “the Court is in no position to find that Bellator will, at some future date, breach its contractual duty to provide Alvarez with a fight broadcast on Pay-Per- View.”
Litigation between Alvarez and Bellator will continue, though the two parties can convene at any time to reach an amicable settlement.