The Kenzo champ

A Mixed Mar­tial Arts champ is also a Kens­ing­ton nat­ive who learned how to com­pete while grow­ing up in the neigh­bor­hood.

Ed­die Al­varez, a Bel­lat­or Mixed Mar­tial Arts fight­er, took the light­weight cham­pi­on­ship last week and cred­its his Kens­ing­ton up­bring­ing for the win. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / STAR PHOTO

He’s a tough-as-nails, heart-of-gold, 29-year-old pro­fes­sion­al fight­er who was born in Kens­ing­ton and who swears he owes it all to his fam­ily and the City of Broth­erly Love.

North­east Philly res­id­ent Ed­die Al­varez, a Bel­lat­or Mixed Mar­tial Arts fight­er, just won his most re­cent match­up against Mi­chael Chand­ler on Sat­urday, Nov. 6, via split de­cision to cap­ture the light­weight cham­pi­on­ship in a close fight that some have called the best in pro­fes­sion­al MMA his­tory.

“I’ve been in some fights with some pretty tough guys, but this was by far the worst ad­versity I’ve dealt with,” Al­varez said.

To any­one who watched the fight on Sat­urday night, it was clear that both fight­ers took a beat­ing. Chand­ler had de­feated Al­varez in 2011 for the light­weight world title, and Al­varez called the fight a “test of heart wills,” adding that he “was for­tu­nate enough to get a crack at him again.”

Al­varez got his start as a fight­er on the streets of Kens­ing­ton as a kid.

“I just re­mem­ber be­ing young and where most kids are play­ing hockey and stick­ball, I had a pair of box­ing gloves,” Al­varez said. “The only times that we would call a timeout is when a car would come down the street. I re­mem­ber like it was yes­ter­day fight­ing and slap-box­ing on the courts at Scan­lon Play­ground.”

His moth­er and fath­er were of Ir­ish and Pu­erto Ric­an des­cent, re­spect­ively. As Al­varez put it, “Two of the biggest fight­in’ races there are.”

He said grow­ing up in Kens­ing­ton made be­ing tough a “ne­ces­sity,” but that it wasn’t un­til join­ing the North­east Cath­ol­ic wrest­ling team that he got the bug for com­pet­i­tion.

After gradu­at­ing high school, Al­varez worked as a con­crete ma­son, but he de­cided to give fight­ing a shot. After eight months of train­ing, he took his first pro fight and won by knock­out.

Al­varez landed a spon­sor­ship from Bel­lat­or, one of the largest MMA pro­mo­tions, which took him around the world to places like Ja­pan, Rus­sia and Costa Rica to pur­sue his goal of be­com­ing the top light­weight fight­er. 

In the mean­time, he mar­ried his wife, Jam­ie, who lived in Brides­burg, and the couple had three boys: Ed­die, 8; An­thony, 5; and Alastor, 3.

The fam­ily moved to Mor­rell Park after Al­varez re­ceived his first sign­ing bo­nus from Bel­lat­or, and he said his neigh­bors have been his strongest sup­port­ers, next to his wife, of course.

“She’s al­ways front and cen­ter and she’s al­ways the loudest voice around,” Al­varez said, adding that Jam­ie missed only two of his fights, both of which be­cause she was preg­nant.

His re­la­tion­ship with Bel­lat­or re­cently has been what Al­varez de­scribes as “ugly,” and Sat­urday’s match was widely re­garded as a make-it-or-break-it mo­ment for both Al­varez and the pro­mo­tion com­pany’s repu­ta­tion. 

“It was im­port­ant for me to let them know how much of a value I am to the com­pany and to gain some small lever­age back,” Al­varez said. “Get­ting this win and be­com­ing the cham­pi­on, it puts the power back in our hands to make some de­cisions.”

The win, however, means that he will con­tin­ue to train and pre­pare for his next fight. There are ru­mors of a planned rub­ber match between Al­varez and Chand­ler, but the spe­cif­ics re­main to be seen.

While Al­varez and his fam­ily cur­rently spend most of their time in Flor­ida, where the champ does much of his train­ing, Al­varez said that he will nev­er sell his house in Phil­adelphia.

“I’m there just for one goal and to train and be­come No. 1 in the world,” Al­varez said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever sell my house. These are the people I love, and this is my home.”  ••

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