Bellator MMA President Scott Coker confirmed with media today that the promotion has released their lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez.

The release, described as “unconditional,” was finalized early this morning.

“Eddie is free to explore the free agent market,” Coker told today. “We wish him the best in the future.”

Alvarez has been one of Bellator’s brightest stars — often listed among the best in the world at lightweight. But his relationship with the promotion been a tumultuous one. As contract negotiations broke down in 2012, Alvarez fielded a multi-fight offer from the UFC, beginning a two-year legal battle to vacate Bellator.

“This was a long process but it’s a decision that everyone seems happy with,” Alvarez said in a statement sent via text message. “I think it’s important to say that I am genuinely thankful for the time at Bellator. I know that sounds a little crazy given everything I went through, but I’ve fought there since 2009 and have been involved in some really amazing fights.”

“The staff there always treated me great,” Alvarez noted of Bellator MMA. “I’m going to miss seeing a lot of those familiar faces around for sure. Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter of my career.”

Alvarez last fought in Bellator 106, defeating Michael Chandler by split decision.