Legacy of Jose Aldo Will Be Damaged by Decision to Leave UFC

Ty O'Keefe / November 7, 2016 - 2:38pm

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Before Jose Aldo suffered a 13-second knockout loss to current UFC featherweight king Conor McGregor that ended his longtime reign over the division at last December’s UFC 194, it was clear the Brazilian’s newest nemesis possessed the power to agitate and annoy Aldo beyond belief.

Beginning with the joint promotional tour ahead of their initially scheduled–and eventually postponed, showdown at UFC 189 in the spring of 2015, McGregor made it his business to bother the Brazilian with a variety of tactics including a now-infamous belt-snatching incident and an eight-city trash-talking tour for the ages.

Although Aldo’s hatred of McGregor has never been anything but obvious, many of us didn’t know just how much his ongoing beef with the Irishman had affected him until he announced his desire to leave the UFC just one day after last month’s announcement of the upcoming lightweight title fight between McGregor and reigning champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.

While speaking to Brazilian-based Combate, Aldo made it abundantly clear that he no longer wants to fight for the UFC, and the former champion didn’t even sound interested in a future that includes professional MMA.

”If [UFC president Dana White] likes me and my family as he said, I only ask him to free me normally,” said Aldo. ”I don’t want to fight with nobody. I want to leave the same way I entered. UFC never gave me anything, neither WEC, neither nobody. It was all my merit.”

”I just want them to release me from my contract,” continued Aldo. ”If they offer me millions, they can have it. I don’t want it. Sorry for the expression, but I’m not a whore to sell myself. I’m a man.”

Immediately following Aldo’s career-altering loss, a rematch with McGregor wasn’t expected anytime soon because the outcome of their first meeting was so decisive and the UFC had more lucrative opportunities lined up for the Irishman. But for some reason, Aldo and his camp have always believed that they deserved a rematch because the fight didn’t last long enough to accurately identify the better fighter.

Usually, a defeated champion who’s successfully defended his or her title more than once or twice has a good chance to be blessed with an immediate rematch as long as the first fight wasn’t too lopsided, and a former champion of Aldo’s calibre definitely deserves the privilege more than most. Unfortunately, the promotion’s plans for McGregor, the brevity of their first encounter, and a long line of qualified contenders have combined to push Aldo out of the picture.

At July’s UFC 200, Aldo won the fight that should’ve finally guaranteed him his rematch by defeating Frankie Edgar to become the division’s interim champion. But McGregor has ventured into lightweight waters in each of his last two fights, and it looks like the actions of the UFC and its irrepressible champion has unintentionally ended one of the greatest careers in MMA history.

Considering all the adversity that Aldo faced during his rise from abject poverty to multi-millionaire and champion, you’d think that nobody could influence his future in the way that McGregor has. After all, this is a fighter who has continuously proven himself on every level and a champion who’s defeated some of the most dangerous fighters on the planet. And it’s not like he’s new to the often unfair business of the fight game.

Financially, an Aldo-McGregor rematch doesn’t make sense for the UFC. Along with Aldo’s history of withdrawing from fights, causing the UFC to lose millions in marketing, White and company aren’t about to spend any more resources on promoting the rematch of such a decisive first meeting with so many more appealing options on the table.

But while Aldo, who still has a total of six fights remaining on his current UFC contract, recently met with the UFC to “open the lines of communication,” anyone hoping that the Brazilian will change his mind should refer to the comments he made during an interview with MMAFighting.com in late September.

“After all this, I see I can’t trust any word from president Dana White,” said Aldo. “And who’s in charge of the promotion now is Conor McGregor. Since I’m not here to be an employee of McGregor, today I ask to cancel my contract with the UFC.”

Throughout his career, Aldo has developed a reputation as a professional who almost always leaves emotions out of the equation, which is why his decision to leave the UFC even if he’s given his rematch should be taken so seriously. But if Aldo does walk away, the new generation of Octagon addicts won’t remember him as one of the sport’s greatest champions, they’ll remember him as the man who caved to McGregor.