Longtime UFC target Eddie Alvarez released by Bellator MMA

The UFC initially offered Eddie Alvarez a contract in December 2012 before Alvarez and Bellator got into messy litigation.

Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images

Eddie Alvarez in the UFC is likely to become a real thing very soon. Finally.

Alvarez, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world who has never competed in the Octagon, was granted his release by Bellator MMA on Tuesday, Bellator announced in a release. The news was initially reported by ESPN. Alvarez is now a free agent.

"We sat down with Eddie and his team a few times, and it became pretty clear early on that he just wasn’t interested in fighting for Bellator in the future," new Bellator president Scott Coker said in a statement.

The UFC offered Alvarez, the current Bellator lightweight champion, a contract when his contract was initially up in December 2012. Bellator had a matching clause and the Viacom-owned organization claimed it did match the UFC’s contract. Alvarez ended up suing them, because he and his lawyers didn’t believe the numbers in the Bellator contract added up to the UFC’s offer. Bellator then countersued and, as UFC president Dana White warned at the time, the situation got "ugly."

Alvarez was out of action for more than a year and finally conceded to stay with Bellator. A new contract was drawn up (which was not made public) and Alvarez ended up winning the lightweight title back from the man he lost it to, Michael Chandler, last November in a Fight of the Year candidate bout.

That will be Alvarez’s last time competing for Bellator, at least for now. There was a rumor the UFC could sign him to fight Donald Cerrone at UFC 178, but that fell through. Cerrone will meet Bobby Green in the co-main event of the Sept. 27 card instead.

Alvarez (25-3), though, will likely be signed by the UFC and could debut before the end of the year. The 30-year-old Philadelphia native is an accomplished wrestler and boxer who trains out of the Blackzilians camp in South Florida with the likes of Rashad Evans and Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. Alvarez owns wins over Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Pat Curran and Chandler.

If and when the UFC brings him in, he will likely be throw right into the lightweight title mix.

"Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter in my career," Alvarez said in a statement.