UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo hasn’t fought on his home turf in more than four years. A lot has happened during that time for the fighter that used to train with Nova União buddy Wagnney Fabiano on an empty belly… literally.
Aldo returns to fight at home in Rio de Janeiro for the first time since 2007 on Saturday night when he squares off with Chad Mendes in the main event of UFC 142 Rio: Aldo vs. Mendes.
Following a brief layover in Japan, Aldo emerged in the WEC midway through 2008. From out of nowhere, he ripped through everyone put before him, reeling off six consecutive knockout victories. That includes a second round stoppage of Mike Brown to capture the featherweight strap.
Aldo added two more notches to his WEC belt before Zuffa closed the promotion’s doors, installing the Brazilian as the UFC featherweight champ.
He’s still trying to find that elusive knockout finish in the Octagon, but Aldo has slowed little in earning unanimous decision victories over Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian under the UFC banner.
But now he heads home to Rio to put his belt on the line against Mendes.
The casual fan would say, great, home field advantage, easy W, right?
Though Aldo looks forward to fighting in front of his hometown fans, and wears the pressures gracefully, he realizes there is added pressure, added distraction.
“There’s more attention and it is a great pleasure to defend my title in my home country. It means everything for me to come back fighting in my country as a champion,” Aldo said recently.
“This is where I started, just with dreams and hopes, and now I am back as a champion. It is a great feeling, but I will try to think about it after the fight. I still have to train hard and win this fight.”
As much as it is a pleasure – just ask any fighter – competing at home comes with its own special set of distractions. Yes, you have family and friends for support, but you also have many of the same wanting to pal around or bombard you with ticket requests when you need to be training or recuperating.
Those haven’t been large issues for Aldo fighting in America and Canada the past few years, but we’ll see how he’s handled it come fight time at UFC 142 in Rio.
There’s also the special timing of this event. The UFC’s primary pay-per-view audience is centered in the United States, so they naturally do their best to cater to that audience, starting the pay-per-view in it’s normal 10 p.m. ET timeslot.
As a result, the first bout for UFC 142 Rio on pay-per-view doesn’t begin until a little after one o’clock in the morning Brazilian time. That’ll put Aldo and Mendes’ main event in the Octagon sometime around 3 a.m. locally.
Of course, Mendes is under the some time constraints, and has the added strain of travel added to the mix, but Aldo does his best to minimize the odd hour of the fight.
“You’re always going to be training at around the time that you’re going to be fighting,” said Aldo. “So if you’re fighting around noon or be it midnight or three o’clock in the morning, it really doesn’t make a difference. It all comes down to being well trained and being prepared to step in there on fight night.”
The champ believes he’s put in the work to once again defend his belt, which is a tremendous motivator when, just a few short years ago, he was going to the gym hungry. That doesn’t happen any more, and he doesn’t want it to ever happen again.
Aldo rather enjoys being champion and will do whatever he can to retain that honor.
“I’ve trained very hard for this fight. I never underestimate any fighter and want to remain as champion.”