One of the greatest fighters to ever compete in mixed martial arts has apparently hit his boiling point with regards to his treatment from the UFC. Longtime Featherweight champion and current interim 145-pound titleholder Jose Aldo has had enough, and claims he's ready to walk away from the sport for good.
Aldo (25-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC), who went more than 10 years without a loss and defended his UFC belt seven consecutive times before finally dropping it to Conor McGregor by 13-second knockout at UFC 194 last December, has long been regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. The Brazilian is a buzz saw inside the Octagon. His masterful striking technique dazzles opponents and his nearly impenetrable defensive grappling game allows him to keep fights where he wants them.
There's no denying his sensational skillset, but in the era of McGregor, it's not all about what an athlete can do inside a competitive setting. It's about which fighters can generate mass fan interest and sell the biggest fights to maximize revenue.
Aldo's first encounter with McGregor was a huge deal with roughly 1.2 million pay-per-view buys. He thought capturing the interim Featherweight belt at UFC 200 in July would leave to a rematch, because that's how it usually works. However, instead of getting his long-desired shot at revenge, McGregor was booked for a lightweight title bout opposite Eddie Alvarez in the headliner of November's UFC 205 mega-event in New York City.
Aldo has been chasing a rematch with McGregor since he lost to him 10 months ago, but the closest he's come was when the UFC offered him the matchup on less than two weeks' notice at UFC 196. He wasn't prepared, though, and Nate Diaz got the slot. But with McGregor now booked for a third consecutive fight outside the division where he holds the title, and no guarantee he will ever return to defend his belt, Aldo said he's sick and tired of having his career dependent on the decisions of another man. And for that reason he wants to be let go from the company to pursue other ventures.
"After all of this, I see I can't trust a single word from president Dana White and that the person in charge of the event now is Conor McGregor," Aldo told Brazilian news outlet Combate. "Since I'm not here to be McGregor's employee, I ask for my contract with the UFC to be terminated," he said.
"When they suggested the fight against Frankie Edgar (at UFC 200), Dana said the winner of this fight would either be McGregor's challenger or have the linear belt, because if he didn't return to the Featherweight division after the Nate Diaz rematch he'd lose the belt."
Clearly McGregor didn't lose the belt. At UFC 205 he will fight Alvarez for Lightweight gold and attempt to become the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history. UFC President White stated "The Notorious" would have to drop one title if victorious at UFC 205, but that's hardly written in stone and McGregor has said it would "take an army" to force either title off his shoulder.
That leaves Aldo in a particularly harsh position. And sadly, it's not one he's entirely unfamiliar with. "Scarface" has had a rocky relationship with the UFC from the jump, and he's made it quite clear he's fed up with being put in a position where the shape of his career is at the mercy of McGregor and UFC decision makers.
"After so many times being lied to, I don’t feel motivated to fight in the UFC anymore," Aldo said. “I understand (McGregor) is a big draw, but there's a limit in which this is no longer a sport and it’s a circus. I don't want any type of fight with the UFC. The only thing I want is to move on with my life and that they move on with theirs.
"I think the UFC never gave me anything, or WEC. Everything I earned. Everything was thanks to my efforts, my family's, my team's, 'Dede,' they helped me get there. In no moment did they give me anything. I earned it with my own merit, and I gave them a lot more than they gave me. So I just want them to release me from my contract."
Although Aldo doesn't have any pleasant feelings toward the UFC at the moment, it hasn't always been that way. After dominating the Featherweight class under the now-defunct WEC banner, which was a sister company to the UFC, Aldo was brought in and declared the inaugural UFC champion for his division in early 2011. He didn't have to fight for the gold, but rather was assigned the undisputed kingpin of his weight class due to his work in WEC.
But then it became more difficult for Aldo to prove his dominance. A solid portion of his 1,848-day title reign was spent inactive. He was twice sidelined for more than a year without defending his belt and was forced to pull out of scheduled title defenses on five separate occasions, be it from injury or other circumstances, the most notable of which was at UFC 189 in July 2015 when he was first meant to fight McGregor.
There was a lengthy promotional build leading up to UFC 189, with the UFC spending millions of dollars on marketing materials for the event. A rib injury suffered in training required Aldo to withdraw from the fight on less than two weeks notice, though, which while not uncommon, sparked the ire of the UFC.
An infrequent fight schedule paired with Aldo's inability to speak fluent English, which makes it difficult to communicate with the UFC's primary audience, made him one of the UFC's least promotable champions. All the talent is there, as was seen in his epic 15-fight UFC/WEC winning streak prior to the McGregor fight, but as a property to be sold on pay-per-view, Aldo is the antithesis of what McGregor brings to the table. As time wore on, it seemed the UFC became more and more privy to that fact and were happy to have him replaced by McGregor.
For example, Aldo had essentially cleaned out his weight class before McGregor came out of nowhere and rose to prominence. He wanted to do what McGregor is doing now by moving up in weight to add a second UFC title to his collection. However, that was a non-option for the company, and he was told he would have to give up his title if he wanted to move to another weight class.
What's more, Aldo hasn't been financially compensated the way he could or arguably should have been. Despite his lengthy title reign, McGregor, the challenger at the time, earned a more substantial disclosed salary for their UFC 194 contest ($500,000 to $400,000). McGregor has gone on to even bigger paydays, which is unsurprising given his marketability, but the brash Irishman is bankings money Aldo couldn't have fathomed during his time on top.
Aldo's frustration is not about money, though, he claims. It's about basic human decency. He doesn't want his career to be used as a tool for leverage or carry around what's really no more than a placeholder championship belt. He expected White and the UFC to follow through and strip McGregor of his title and promote him to undisputed champion if he wasn't willing to do the rematch, but in reality no one other than Aldo has suffered consequences.
"We were expecting it to happen: Either I'd have my rematch to unify the Featherweight belt or I'd get my belt back fighting (Max) Holloway or (Anthony) Pettis, considering that, according to what Dana himself had been saying all along, Conor couldn’t keep both belts," Aldo said. "But, to my surprise, I found out last night about the fight between McGregor and Eddie Alvarez, who'd also been denied by Dana himself last week and, to make matters worse, he'd keep the Featherweight belt, being able to get two belts simultaneously."
It's not business, it's personal.
"It’s not about money for me," he continued. "I can't take it anymore. I've reached my limit. It's not about the circus or anything (White) might do. I don't know, for me, if he likes me – like he's said he likes me and my family – I just ask that he lets me go normally. I don't want to fight. I want to walk out the same way I walked in."
Aldo just turned 30 this month. That's still relatively young in the fight world, but he's already been a professional for more than 12 years, spending more than half that time contracted to either the UFC or WEC. It was easier to ignore the frustrating aspects of his situation when he was on a massive winning streak and viewed as an untouchable champion. Things are different now, though, and Aldo is no longer willing to roll with the punches considering his accomplishments and the amount of service he's put forth.
Aldo has always been vocal in the past about his place in the sport, be it positive or negative. The way he's been used in recent months is a step too far though, he feels, and the situation has relegated what was once a blazing fire of competitive passion into a dull flame in need of serious kindling. Whether the UFC is willing to put forth the effort to resolve the situation remains to be seen, but Aldo doesn't appear eager for a fix, which, if true, would mark a sad ending to a historic and Hall of Fame-worthy career.
"I don't want to fight anymore," Aldo said. "What if they offer me millions? They can keep them, I don't want it. Pardon the expression, but I'm not a whore, to sell myself. I'm a man. My dad made me this way. So that’s all I want.
"I just want (White) to let me go so I can go on with my life," he continued. "And what I want to do next? I don't even want to fight MMA anymore. I want to get a career in another sport, which has always been a dream. That's what I want."