There were several names bandied about when Frankie Edgar had to pull out of his UFC 218 headlining challenge of featherweight champion Max Holloway.
Speculation focused on Cub Swanson and Jose Aldo at featherweight, but lightweight superfights with Donald Cerrone and Tony Ferguson were also bandied about. In the end, Aldo got the call, and for him, there was no decision to be made.
Aldo had been the UFC featherweight champion when he and Holloway first met at UFC 212 in June. So an opportunity to win the belt back – the belt that he had been the sole owner of for years – was an opportunity that he could not decline. Besides that fact, Aldo had already been training to fight Ricardo Lamas two weeks later, so the short notice for the fight wasn’t all that short.
“It wasn’t really a matter of accepting this fight. I had already been training for another fight,” Aldo said during a recent UFC 218 media call. “I have to thank Max for accepting it, but it really wasn’t a matter of me accepting it, I was ready to go.”
The real question is, what will be different this time around?
When Aldo first lost the featherweight belt, Conor McGregor knocked him out in 13 seconds flat. It’s tough to call that a lucky punch, but the fight was over quickly enough that there wasn’t really a skill versus skill comparison. McGregor had the early opening, took it, and won.
When Aldo and Holloway fought the first time, it was much different. They fought deep into the third round. Holloway weathered some early attacks, but used his boxing to drop Aldo midway through the round. He kept Aldo on the canvas for much of the remainder of the round, unleashing until the referee had no choice but to halt the fight.
Though he was on the losing end of it, Aldo appreciated the classic battle that he and Holloway engaged in.
“I think that the first fight was great and I think that we gave our all, we both came out as champions. And it’s a sport, you can’t predict what’s going to happen. You can’t count on exactly what’s going to happen,” he admitted.
“I don’t see necessarily any mistakes. I think that I had my chances in the fight and Max had his chances and was able to finish the fight, so there’s really not much to be said. I think it was a great fight and I think that the fans are the ones who won.”
Aldo would certainly like to put forth another fan-pleasing effort on Saturday at UFC 218 in Detroit, but he also wants to achieve that rarest of feats, recapturing the title that he lost.
When he moved from the WEC to the UFC, Aldo was immediately instated as the promotion’s first featherweight champion. He defended the belt seven consecutive times before losing it. He lost the belt to McGregor, but went on to defeat Edgar to become the interim featherweight champion.
Aldo was then reinstated as the full champion when McGregor was stripped of the belt after the Irishman won the UFC lightweight championship.
Aldo then lost to Holloway. And now, here we are, with the Brazilian afforded the opportunity to regain the crown for the division that he once lorded over. It would be a tremendous achievement; one that’s not lost on the former champion.
“I think this is a new chapter in my story. I think that there’s a lot that can be said and I want to win this title and I want to finish my fights off in the UFC. I want to finish those off as a champion, so I want to honor that contract, but this is a new stage in my career.”