Jose Aldo is 25-1 in his career. He won the WEC featherweight championship in 2009 and has been the only one to hold that belt since he and it transitioned to the UFC in 2011. Between the WEC and UFC, Aldo has defended the belt nine times. He hasn’t lost a fight in nearly a decade.
So why, when a rib injury forced his withdrawal from the UFC 189 main event opposite Conor McGregor, did the UFC decide to designate McGregor vs. Aldo’s replacement, Chad Mendes, an interim featherweight championship fight?
After all, the prognosis was that if he could tolerate the pain, Aldo could have remained in the fight. So, with proper rehabilitation, the champ shouldn’t have to be sidelined for long.
For UFC president Dana White, who announced the change on ESPN on Tuesday, it boiled down to this wasn’t the first time.
“Jose Aldo has pulled out of five title fights. Conor is ready to go. The No. 1 guy in the world, Chad Mendes, is ready to go,” said White. “So it makes sense. They’ll fight for the interim title, and when Jose Aldo is ready, that fight can happen and they’ll unify (the belts).”
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The UFC had put a tremendous amount of promotion behind the Aldo vs. McGregor showdown. They produced one of the most elaborate advertisements that they have ever done. They paid for high-dollar promotional time during the NBA Finals. They even took Aldo and McGregor on a worldwide tour that had it’s own behind-the-scenes web series.
All indications were that this was shaping up to be the biggest match-up of the year for the UFC. One that would put the featherweight division over with the casual fan; something that hadn’t happened prior to McGregor’s arrival.
That McGregor is such a polarizing figure and has rocketed to superstardom in the Octagon, of course, has to be considered a factor in why the UFC was quick to designate the fight with Mendes an interim title bout.
If McGregor wins and holds a belt, it probably makes the eventual showdown with Aldo bigger than their fight at UFC 189 would have been. And if Mendes wins the interim title, it makes another rematch with Aldo much more palatable after having already lost the champ twice.
With all of the build-up surrounding the original fight, it’s no surprise that White was less than enthusiast about Aldo pulling out of the fight.
“It’s his decision. I don’t feel great about it. We’ve spent a lot of money promoting this fight, lots of people are excited about the fight; so it’s definitely disappointing,” said White.
Still, the UFC president believes that, although it isn’t the match-up everyone was anticipating, Mendes vs. McGregor will deliver an exciting fight.
“I think it’s gonna be a great fight,” White said. “If anybody doesn’t know, Chad Mendes just fought Jose Aldo in a five-round war, one of the best fights I’ve ever seen; so it should be fun.”