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Thiago Alves 'a little excited' to explore free agency for first time, following UFC DC

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WASHINGTON – Thiago Alves has been a member of the UFC roster for 14 years.

When he steps into the cage Saturday at UFC on ESPN 7 against Tim Means (28-11-1 MMA, 10-8 UFC), Brazilian welterweight Alves (23-14 MMA, 15-11 UFC) will partake in his his 26th UFC fight.

The appearance will mark the most of any fighter in the history of the promotion’s 170-pound division. But to Alves, the milestone doesn’t make the fight feel any different.

“I look at it like I’ve got to win,” Alves told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “I’ve got to win like any other fight. It doesn’t really change anything. Then after this fight, we’ll see what we’re going to do next.”

Indifferent when it comes to breaking records, Alves said Saturday’s fight does feel different – for another reason. The American Top Team product is fighting the last fight on his current contract. He has yet to renew his deal and plans on exploring free agency for the first time in nearly a decade-and-a-half.

“I want to see what the free market says,” Alves said. “I want to see what the UFC offers me. I want to see what other organizations offer me and then see what’s the best option.”

While being without a deal might scare some, Alves insists the prospect of becoming a free agent actually excites him. He said he looks forward to putting his feelers out and seeing what he’s worth in the eyes of other promotions.

“I’ve always just re-signed with the UFC,” Alves said. “I’ve been with the company for over 14 years. This has been home forever. Let’s see how it goes after this.

“I’m actually a little excited to see what’s out there. It’s new to me. Anything new at this point in my career and my life is very exciting.”

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Despite having lost three out of his four most recent fights, Alves, 36, isn’t considering retirement quite yet. However, he is keeping his all options on the table and planning for the future.

“I’m leaving it open,” Alves said. “I think it’s important for an athlete to know you can’t do this forever. You’ve got to start planning ahead – I think a year or two years before you see the end of the road – so you don’t finish and don’t know what to do.

“It’s silly to think that you’re going to be able to do this forever. But I’m still here. I’m still focused on Tim Means on Saturday night. But the plan is, I’m one of the coaches at American Top Team. I’m opening my gym in a few months in 2020. And definitely (I’ll pursue) law enforcement. That excites me.”

UFC on ESPN 7 takes place Saturday at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The main card airs on ESPN following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.

Gallery

Thiago Alves def. Max Griffin at UFC on ESPN+ 2: Best photos

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