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‘Coach’ Alvarez proud of his Philly roots

The Kensington native has trained a team of eight fighters for The Ultimate Fighter as Coach Alvarez, but in Philly, he’s just Eddie.

Eddie Alvarez, a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter,” was happy to show one of his fighters around the city he grew up in. TIMES FILE PHOTO

If you’ve only watched him in the cage, you probably know only one side of Eddie Alvarez.

When he’s locked in the Octagon with an opponent, the North Catholic High School grad will punch, kick, knee or choke out his foe to win. It’s what made him one of the most successful fighters in the game, and it’s what led him to the lightweight championship last year.

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But there’s another side to Alvarez.

There’s a soft side to him that many have never seen. At least until now.

Alvarez is a coach on The Ultimate Fighter, and he’s doing his best to teach his team of women what they need to become the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first-ever flyweight champion.

It’s Alvarez’s team against a team led by Justin Gaethje. The season will culminate with a fight between the coaches on a show that will also crown the women’s flyweight champion.

“When I’m back in Philly, I’m Eddie, but when we’re in Las Vegas training, I’m Coach Alvarez,” he said with a laugh. “It’s fun for a little bit to be on the other side of the ball. I got to share some of my knowledge and some of my journey with the girls I’m coaching.”

The show, which airs Wednesday nights on Fox Sports 1, pits eight members of Team Alvarez against eight girls on Team Gaethje.

Alvarez is used to being the grunt who is taking orders from his coaches as he prepares for high-profile fights, but on the show, he’s the exact opposite.

He wasn’t training girl fighters, he was training fighters, but the father of four definitely had to tap into his parenting skills to train the female fighters.

“I just had a daughter, so I have three boys, it would be easy for me to still be a man’s man,” Alvarez said. “My daughter showed me how females act and how much different they are than men. Not only do I have a daughter, now I’m coaching women fighters. I’m being tested by the Lord above.

“My wife is smiling ear to ear, saying, ‘You’re going to learn.’ But for me, I wasn’t looking at them as women, I was looking at them as fighters and possible champions. I didn’t let the fact that they are women change my approach. Because they’re fighters, I wanted to gain their trust, and once that was there, I had to let them know their feelings don’t mean anything. Action matters, not thoughts and feelings.”

That might not be a good motto to have when you’re teaching someone ballet, but this ain’t ballet.

Alvarez is doing his best to get his fighters in position to bring home a championship, and when you’re in a cage against the best fighters in the world, the only feeling you can have is the will to win.

“I appreciated Eddie because he treated us like fighters,” said fighter Sijara Eubanks. “As a female fighter, personally, whenever a guy comes in and says, ‘OK, you’re a girl, we’ll square around the edges,’ I’ll say, ‘Screw this guy.’ Eddie laid it down, ‘This is how the practice is going to go,’ and I appreciate that he did that.

“He was real straight forward. One of my favorites lines was, ‘Your feelings don’t count here.’ A few of the others might have been hurt by it but I loved that.”

“My wife, that’s her least favorite line!” Alvarez quipped.

Alvarez is passionate about many things in life.

His top priority is his family. After that, it’s his quest for success in the fighting world.

But he’s a Philly guy, who was born and raised in Kensington and still represents the city every chance he gets.

Last week, he brought Eubanks around the city to promote The Ultimate Fighter, but as he walked the city in a Sixers jersey, he was beaming with pride.

Not only was he introducing one of his charges to the area, but he was showing his fighter the place he loves.

“We are bringing her around, we took her to the Rocky statue and we took her to a few places,” Alvarez said. “We didn’t get to Kensington yet, so we’ll have to take her for a ride. I’m proud of Philly, I love it here.

“I’ve always been (proud of my roots). I was born and raised in the armpit of Philadelphia. When you look at it, it might not be the most perfect spot, but the heart of it is real, the guts of it are real, and that’s the most important part. People are real. You’re going to get genuine people.”

Eubanks learned all about Alvarez’s love for the city. She also learned a great deal about fighting from the former UFC champ, who is clawing his way to another opportunity for gold.

“You look at Eddie’s career, he just went out and grinded and grinded and grinded,” Eubanks said. “He’s been very successful for a long time. He is still grinding to this day. He wants that belt back. It’s fun to watch.”

Just as he’s left a mark on his fighters, the fighters left a mark on him.

As they prepare for their expedition of gold, Alvarez is in their corner, hoping for the best.

“We’ve had a number of girls on the show, but we took a special liking to certain girls on the team,” Alvarez said. “I said in the beginning, you’ll get what you give. If you’re not getting what you want, give more. The sport is reciprocal. You’ll get back everything you put in.”

Alvarez still has a lot of fights in front of him, but this tenure as a coach has given him a glimpse of what might lie ahead.

He’s received coaching from his boss, Mark Henry, and Alvarez is always quick to point out how much impact the skipper has had on his career. But during the show, he made sure it was his team.

“I needed to let Mark know this is Team Alvarez, not Team Henry,” Alvarez said. “As long as we’re in Vegas, it’s Team Alvarez. Mark is very much like me, we’re both boneheads. When we’re at home, he tells me what to do.”

Still, when you’re learning from Alvarez, in many ways you’re learning from Henry.

“He’s helped me, he’s incredible,” Alvarez said of his coach. “I’m lucky to have him because as much as he’s coached me, I’ve used a lot of what he does to help the girls and coach them.”

Alvarez is always willing to help anyone who wants to learn, and this new venture will pay off in the future. That’s true even if he never coaches in UFC again.

“I’ll always be a coach. I’m a father of four,” he said. “In essence, a coach needs to be a father. Everyone is an individual and motivated in different ways. It’s a lot like being a parent, man, you have to teach them and watch them grow.” ••

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