Tonight Eddie Alvarez has an opportunity to avenge a loss coming more than three years ago when he faces Shinya Aoki in the main event at Bellator 66. Making the rematch somewhat unique, Aoki isn’t signed to Bellator and rarely makes the trek to America to fight, preferring to instead compete in his home nation of Japan.

Given the circumstances, Alvarez is extremely appreciative of Aoki’s willingness to give him a chance and expressed as such in a recent interview with HDNet’s Inside MMA.

“Shinya Aoki didn’t have to take this. He could’ve beaten me and ran, you know? And said, ‘I’ve already beat him, he’s a name, and I’m not gonna take a risk.’ I appreciate him to my hometown and giving me that opportunity…giving me the opportunity to get that back, get this loss off my record, and go against a guy who is ranked,” explained Alvarez, referring to his 2008 stumble against Aoki.

The 27-year old Alvarez is confident he will avoid the mistakes he made in their previous bout where he was submitted in 92 seconds based on his ongoing evolution as a Mixed Martial Artist and heart.

“I feel like in the past three years I’ve grown more than he has, I feel like I took more risks than he has as a fighter, and I feel like I deserve it more than he does,” said Alvarez. “This has never been a sprint for me, it’s always been a marathon.”

To assist in his development Alvarez recently enlisted the help of the increasingly-popular Blackzilian group in South Florida where he worked alongside a number of UFC/Strikeforce stars. The move marked the first time Alvarez did a significant portion of his camp away from his regular home in Philadelphia/New Jersey, providing benefits beyond simply the high-level of training he received.

“I’ve been fighting 9-10 years now and I feel like after the (Michael) Chandler fight I had a bit of a stalemate. I needed to do something to reawaken myself, get myself excited again, and be around some guys who fight full time every day,” revealed Alvarez. “And that’s hard to get on the East Coast…but I think it was more for me about reawakening myself, getting excited again. Maybe getting them jitters, getting a little bit of fear in me.”

From the sound of it, Aoki should be the one feeling a tinge of fright come showtime. Catch their bout on MTV2 when the broadcast starts up at 8:00 PM EST.

Check out the full interview below where Alvarez also addresses his contractual status: