With UFC title in hand, Eddie Alvarez looking for payday

Eddie Alvarez, left, who knocked out Rafael dos Anjos in July to capture the UFC lightweight championship, eyes the winner of Nate Diaz-Conor McGregor II. Al Powers for ESPN

UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez doesn't know what the promotion has in mind for his first title defense.

But as far as he's concerned, there's no reason to even discuss potential options until Aug. 20 -- when Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz are scheduled to fight at UFC 202.

"It's a wait-and-see type thing right now," Alvarez told ESPN.com. "Let's wait and see what August 20th brings and then let's make a big fight after that."

The UFC recently booked a November clash between highly ranked contenders Rafael dos Anjos and Tony Ferguson. Once that fight was made, many assumed Alvarez (28-4) would draw undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov (23-0), who is ranked right behind him at 155 pounds.

Alvarez (28-4), who knocked out dos Anjos in the first round to claim the 155-pound title last month, isn't making any such assumptions. His sights are set on the winner of the nontitle welterweight fight between McGregor and Diaz.

Alvarez, 32, says he has little interest in Nurmagomedov, who, despite a perfect record, has just one win in the last two years due to injury. That victory came against UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher in April.

"I'm not sure what the promotion's take is, but that's where I stand," Alvarez said. "Those are the guys I want to get my hands on. I've said it from the very beginning: Fighting the best guys in the world doesn't pay as good as the circus. I want to join the circus. I'm trying to get that circus money.

"As far as Nurmagomedov, I just don't get how you become the No. 1 contender without actually fighting guys who are ranked in the top 10. It kind of baffles me. The lightweight division right now is a bunch of guys who fight opponents ranked in the top 30 and never actually take a risk and fight a top-5 guy. I can walk into a restaurant and knock five guys out, become 5-0 real quick. It's about the quality of opponent. You have to beat the right guys to call yourself the No. 1 contender."

Alvarez says he wouldn't be so adamant about a McGregor fight if it weren't for hearing the Irish fighter's name over and over again in recent years. After Alvarez's wins against Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis, he says the name that continued to come up was always McGregor's.

Even after he defeated dos Anjos for the title, Alvarez says he frequently fielded questions about McGregor.

"It'd be nice to stop being asked about it," Alvarez said. "It's a little bit annoying, you know? I don't look at him the same way I look at and respect a Rafael dos Anjos -- or any of the top guys who fight the real fighters.

"Diaz, too, though. I was on the assumption I was cool with Nick and Nate Diaz, but there was a switch flipped when I fought Nate's teammate, Gilbert Melendez, in Mexico last year. I was getting all this mean mugging. I guess he was angry because I was fighting his friend, as if I gave a s--- or really didn't like his friend. I was there for a check.

"I tried to get that through to him but he didn't want to hear it. He was very bitter when I won that fight. It is what it is. I still think those guys are good guys, they just are who they are."

A native of Philadelphia, Alvarez says he hasn't signed a new contract since winning the UFC title, but expects that to happen shortly. While official plans for his first title defense are up in the air, Alvarez says he is optimistic he could fight in his hometown next year.

"We'll do [a contract extension] very soon," Alvarez said. "I'm not sure how it will work with the recent sale of the UFC, but I'll have a talk with my manager and whoever takes care of that stuff.

"I think 2017 is going to be a big year for Philadelphia. I'm looking to grab the UFC and pull them back in the direction of Philadelphia."