Eddie Alvarez’s highly-anticipated return has ended in controversial circumstances, with the American disqualified for illegal shots on Moldova’s Iuri Lapicus in ONE on TNT.
The former UFC champion had not competed in the Octagon since August 2019, and was penned to make his return for the first fight of Thursday’s main card in Singapore.
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But Alvarez was pinged by the referee in the opening round, the 37-year-old deemed to have attempted illegal punches.
Less than two minutes into the lightweight contest, Alvarez secured a takedown and started unloading on Lapicus while on the ground.
The 25-year-old turned his head to avoid the barrage of punches, but Alvarez continued to target his opponent’s head.
Lapicus fell to the mat clutching the back of his head and the referee paused the action, accusing Alvarez of landing illegal strikes.
Despite the veteran’s protests, the referee raised a red card to signify an immediate disqualification.
It proved an underwhelming start to the card, particularly considering this was the first event from the ONE championship to be broadcast on American television.
An emotional Alvarez explained after the fight: “Iuri was turning his head the other way and the referee warned me, he said to me, ‘Back of the head, Eddie’.
“So you see me take my head and I start shoving his head towards my punch. You’ll see it in the tape. When the ref warns me, I take my own head and I push Iuri’s to the side of the punch that it was coming. On top of that, I felt like as long as I’m hitting the ear at some point that it’s legal.
“The referee’s here, whatever call he makes, that’s the call. I apologise. I hope Iuri is totally fine cause this game is so dangerous. All I care about is that everybody in here sincerely is safe and can go home to their family when they’re done. I’m praying for Iuri right now.”