EDDIE ALVAREZ still cringes when he thinks about that ride home from New York after his loss to Conor McGregor in November.
It was his Super Bowl, his NBA Finals, his shot at taking down most popular figure in the Ultimate Fighting Championship series, and he was knocked out in the second round.
"I cried almost the whole way home," he said. "It was weird. I was angry. I was disappointed. I had a lot of feelings inside."
Alvarez, a lightweight who grew up G and Westmoreland, is the first Philadelphian ever to hold a UFC championship belt. He had a very vivid description of his bout with McGregor.
"You know that nightmare where you wake up in a classroom naked?" he said. "Well, I woke up in a classroom naked. It happened to me. My biggest fear as a fighter is to be knocked out in front of millions of people. But after it actually happened, there's this calmness about you that says everything is OK. That's what I learned. If your worst fear can come true and everything can still be OK, then there's really not much to fear at all."
Which brings us to Saturday, when Alvarez (28-5) will face Dustin Poirier (21-5) in an undercard bout of lightweight contenders on Saturday in Dallas (8 p.m., FX).
"Maybe I'll wear an Eagles jersey," he said, laughing.
Alvarez is a North Catholic alum and an introspective sort. Hearing him talk about life since the McGregor bout was like listening to a 16-year-old trying to recover after getting dumped by his first love.
"When you make yourself vulnerable and something bad happens (like a loss), it's hard to make yourself vulnerable again," he said. "I think just being able to do this again (training), and being OK with it, that's what I'm happiest about."
Saturday's main event is heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic against Junior dos Santos when the card moves to pay-per-view (9 p.m., $49.99). Alvarez is picking Miocic.
It was just seven months ago when Alvarez was the headliner. He was the toast of his sport and of his hometown. He was introduced at Sixers games and threw out the first pitch before a Phillies game.
Getting over McGregor "took longer than I wanted it to."
"Typically, I would say that I'm not defined by one loss and I'm not defined by one win," he said. "But I'd be lying if I told you I didn't harp on the loss at Madison Square Garden. But (now) I'm at peace with myself."
Since his win over Alvarez, there has been a ton of speculation that McGregor's next fight would be in a boxing ring against 40-year-old Floyd Mayweather.
The interest level - and the potential money - would be astronomical, even though, as Alvarez said, it would be like asking a basketball player to play hockey. And McGregor would be the basketball player. since there's no way Mayweather would ever agree to fight under MMA rules, where basically anything goes.
"I would love, love, love to watch Conor McGregor fight Floyd Mayweather," Alvarez said. "I would be ecstatic to see (McGregor) win," even if it would be highly unlikely.
At 33, Alvarez is the oldest of the major contenders in the lightweight class. Poirier, 28, sees Alvarez as his next step toward a shot at McGregor.
Forget that trip home from New York, would another loss result in Alvarez riding off into the sunset? Doesn't sound like it.
"I still enjoy it every day, especially when I get deep into (training for a bout) and feel myself grow. There's no other feeling in the world like it," he said. "I actually get scared to retire, because I'm not sure if anything is ever going to feel this good."