Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis and the catchweight problem

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At UFC 169, the second pound-for-pound fighter and reigning featherweight champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Jose Aldo Jr. (24-1) got the judges approval in a dominating performance against the up-and-coming challenger, Ricardo Lamas (13-3). Following the unanimous decision, UFC President Dana White revealed that Aldo was interested in fighting the ever exciting lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis (17-2). During the post-fight press conference Aldo essentially agreed to vacating his title in order to challenge Pettis at 155. White later proclaimed that Aldo could challenge for the lightweight title, vacate the featherweight title, and if Aldo lost against Pettis he could return to 145 to challenge for the featherweight strap once again. All parties initially appeared to have reached an understanding and the battle was considered underway, until today.

Earlier today, Jose Aldo’s head coach, Andre Pederneiras threw a wrench into the machine by stating the following:

"(A catchweight) would be interesting for both, they would keep the belts and do the fight everybody wants to see. Nobody wants to take the other’s title, we want to see the fight and do a great show for everybody. Aldo would move up a little, Pettis cuts a little, and it’s good for everybody… I always say that the next fight is always the toughest. It’s going to be just like another fight. I think that Aldo has all the weapons to beat Pettis. I don’t see many advantages for Pettis in this match-up."

Pederneiras’ statements didn’t go unanswered, as Pettis’ manager, Mike Roberts responded:

"The way we understand it is that Aldo doesn’t want give up his featherweight title, so fighting Pettis is not an option at this point.

"We’re interested in Anthony defending his belt against the top guys at 155," Roberts said. "If Aldo doesn’t want to fight for the belt, we’ll fight someone else."

Pederneiras’ suggestion would be somewhat considerable if Aldo (and even Pettis) weren’t such inactive champions. Aldo barely gets by two fights a year and to a similar extent the same can be said about the lightweight king. Keeping two belts simultaneously would hold up potential contenders from fighting during their peak or momentum. Take into account that after Benson Henderson defeated Josh Thompson in a highly controversial decision, the lightweight division was essentially put on hold as Henderson (the second best lightweight in the UFC) has lost twice to Pettis. Another aspect to consider is that Aldo doesn’t necessarily have a good reason to stay at featherweight. Many fans feel (and rightly so) that Aldo always belonged at 155 (since he walks in at fight night, usually at 160 lbs.), but despite that thought, I think what really matters is that Aldo has dominated the featherweight division, not only in the non-existent WEC but the UFC as well.

Aldo has defeated the top five featherweights in the UFC. Aldo kneed Chad Mendes into oblivion (#1), he put on a clinic against Frankie Edgar (#2), recently leg kicked the heck out of Ricardo Lamas (#3), badly hurt Cub Swanson (#4) in the WEC via knees and TKO’ed the Korean Zombie (#5).

Add to the fact that Aldo has historically had problems cutting down to 145. Cutting down to 155 would be extensively easier for the Brazilian kicker and get him bigger fights.

Despite the recent debacle, I really think that the fight will eventually happen at 155. Dana White has pushed for it, Pettis has pushed for it and Aldo has expressed his desire to have that match-up. With Henderson unlikely to face Pettis for a while and holding up the lightweight line, the only fight that makes sense for Pettis at this point is Jose Aldo and vice-versa at 155.

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