DALLAS — Mixed martial arts fans always will remember Nov. 12, 2016, as one of the most significant nights in the sport’s history, as Conor McGregor headlined the UFC’s inaugural visit to New York’s Madison Square Garden by winning the lightweight belt with a spectacular knockout.
It’s a historic moment Eddie Alvarez wants to forget.
Not only did he lose his belt to McGregor after he was battered around for more than eight minutes, Alvarez also had one of the most disappointing performances of his lengthy career under the biggest spotlight cast upon him.
Alvarez will return to action with a chance to start rebuilding his reputation — and resume — when he fights Dustin Poirier on the preliminary card of UFC 211 on Saturday at American Airlines Center.
The bout headlines the Fox Sports 1 portion of the preliminary card, beginning at 5 p.m. The pay-per-view card, which begins at 7, includes heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic defending his title in a rematch against former champ Junior dos Santos, and top women’s strawweight contender Jessica Andrade challenging Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title.
“Having your worst nightmares kind of come true is truly liberating,” Alvarez said Wednesday. “I can step inside the cage and I don’t know if I could feel any worse than what I felt. So I can just be myself.”
That has been pretty good during a 13-year career that saw Alvarez compete at the highest levels of several fight promotions. He had lost just four times in 32 fights before November and hadn’t been knocked out since 2007.
While the Philadelphia native, 33, admits the loss to McGregor was difficult to deal with, he didn’t spend much time analyzing what went wrong.
“I think I got hit with a punch,” Alvarez said of an early left hand from McGregor that changed the complexion of the fight. “Everybody wants to read more into it, but fighting’s different. You can prepare a million times and know everything about your opponent, but you get hit with a shot and make some bad decisions, it can go away quickly, and that’s what happened. I’m over it. I’ve forgiven myself.”
Poirier, 28, who has won five of his past six fights, has a massive opportunity of his own. He can solidify a spot near the top of the rankings at 155 pounds with a victory.
“He knocked out the champ to win the belt, and he’s just one fight removed from being the world champion,” Poirier said of Alvarez. “My goal is to go in there and dominate him on Saturday. It will show the caliber of fighter I am and that I’m ready to be the world champion.”
That’s not necessarily the driving force for Alvarez anymore. He savored his time with the belt, but for the journey it represented.
He’s ready to resume that journey.
“That last fight was a bitter pill to swallow,” he said. “I was in bad shape, but it’s in the past and I’m over it. There’s nothing I can do about it but bounce back harder and show the resilience that I have.”
NOTE — Henry Cejudo, a 2008 Olympic wrestling gold medalist, pulled out of his UFC 211 bout against Sergio Pettis because of a hand injury. A middleweight bout between Krzysztof Jotko and David Branch will replace the bout on the main card.
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UFC 211 main card
Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The pay per view begins at 7 p.m.
— Stipe Miocic (16-2) vs. Junior dos Santos (18-4), for Miocic’s heavyweight title
— Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0) vs. Jessica Andrade (16-5), for Jedrzejczyk’s women’s strawweight title
— Demian Maia (24-6) vs. Jorge Masvidal (32-11), welterweights
— Frankie Edgar (20-5-1) vs. Yair Rodriguez (11-1), featherweights
— Krzysztof Jotko (19-1) vs. David Branch (20-3), middleweights