Thiago Alves on facing teammates: It’s a brotherhood but it’s business
In 2009 at UFC 100, Thiago Alves was one of the most feared welterweights in the promotion, mixing together a high level Muay Thai striking attack with heavy hands that he used to amass a seven-fight win streak en route to a title fight against former champion Georges St-Pierre.
The fight didn’t go Alves’ way, however, with St-Pierre employing a superior wrestling attack to put the Brazilian on his back numerous times during their five round title bout.
In the four-plus years since that moment, Alves’ career has been a mix of ups and downs, disappointments and a huge list of injuries. He went 2-3 in his five fights after taking on St-Pierre and then sat out for two full years dealing with several injuries including a severely torn pectoral muscle.
Alves finally returned to action last April where he picked up a win and a ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus against Seth Baczynski before another injury robbed him of at least a second bout in 2014.
Now as he steps back into the Octagon at UFC 183 against Jordan Mein, Alves is ready for a fresh start and a new lease on his mixed martial arts career.
We’re professionals. It’s a brotherhood, but we all understand the business. If it comes down to fighting each other, it’s only for the belt and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to do our best
— Thiago Alves
"I’m even more excited. I’m able to get in during the first month and start the year right and I’m training very, very well. I’m very excited to put on a show and make a statement that Pitbull is back," Alves told FOX Sports.
When looking at Alves’ extensive career stretching back to 2001 or even his UFC career, which started a decade ago it’s even harder to believe when he reveals he’s still only 31-years old.
While fighting and training have taken its toll on the veteran fighter, Alves knows he’s just now hitting his physical prime and if he can stay healthy, there’s still plenty of time left for another run at the gold.
"I’ve been through a lot and I’ve made a few mistakes and I’ve learned from it," Alves said. "My determination paid off. I’m in a great place. I’m the underdog again and I have a lot to prove. I can’t wait to get out there and put everything together."
The first step in his journey is a matchup at UFC 183 against Mein, who despite being Alves’ junior by six years, actually has nine more fights in his career.
Mein is best known as a striker, which delights Alves because if there’s one thing he’s rarely faced during his 10 years with the UFC, it’s somebody willing to stand and trade with him. Many have claimed they were up to the challenge, but it didn’t take long for them to start diving for legs and looking for takedowns.
"It’s my bread and butter. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life," Alves said about striking. "I like to put everybody to the test and see how good of a striker they are. Not just that, how complete of a MMA athlete they have became. I’m ready to show that I’m back and I’m only getting started."
When Alves was last listed among the top 10 welterweights in the sport, St-Pierre was still champion and names like Carlos Condit, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch decorated the division’s best. Alves now returns to a much different welterweight division, but one that excites him and plays into his style of fighting.
The other glaring issue that can’t be ignored when looking at the best fighters at 170-pounds are the amount of competitors training out of the American Top Team camp in Coconut Creek, Florida. Alves has been a mainstay of the team since he moved to the United States from Brazil, but now the UFC welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler, works there as well as Hector Lombard and Tyron Woodley, who are both ranked in the top five fighters in the world.
For the first time since joining the UFC, Alves is faced with a serious prospect that to reach the top of the welterweight division, he might have to go through a friend or teammate to get there. Luckily, Alves and his teammates have already handled the problem and now it’s just a matter of winning fights.
"We’re professionals. It’s a brotherhood, but we all understand the business," Alves said. "If it comes down to fighting each other, it’s only for the belt and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to do our best.
"We’re already pretty much fighting each other everyday in the gym, so why not get paid for it? Put on a show for everybody."