Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
BURBANK, Calif. -- Jose Aldo Jr. is excited for his UFC 156 main event against Frankie Edgar for the same reasons fans look forward to the bout: The fight between the current UFC featherweight champion and former lightweight champ promises fireworks.
"It's a fight between two very explosive guys," Aldo said through an interpreter on Tuesday. "Anything can go."
But there's another reason why Aldo is eager for the pseudo-superfight on Feb. 2 in Las Vegas. As Aldo explained to Los Angeles-area reporters at a media luncheon, a fight against the man who reigned over the lightweight division for two years is a good gauge as to whether the longtime featherweight champ is ready for a jump up to 155 pounds.
"I've considered going to lightweight," said Aldo. "As soon as my trainer decides that I can go up, then I will. This fight with Edgar will be a turning point. If I can win [against] him well, then I can prove that I can go [to lightweight].
"He has a very strong reputation thanks to destroying several opponents," Aldo continued. "That's the motivation for me to face him and that will be probably my last biggest challenge [at featherweight]."
Aldo's road to a match with Edgar was filled with twists and turns. The featherweight champion was originally slated to face Eric Koch at the ill-fated UFC 149 in Calgary, but Aldo had to pull out of the fight due to an injury. Then the bout was rescheduled to UFC 153 in Brazil in October. But Koch suffered an injury and was replaced by Edgar, who was scheduled to make his featherweight debut after losing his lightweight title rematch to Ben Henderson at UFC 150 in a controversial decision.
Then Aldo suffered injuries in a hometown motorcycle accident which postponed the bout.
"It was a Saturday afternoon," Aldo recalled. "I was leaving the beach. I was on the left-hand side and a lady was driving in the right-hand side, I made a right turn to exit and she didn't see me and we ended up crashing. ... I was wearing a helmet, [but] my knee and my foot was hurt and I couldn't walk already. I got scared I could have broken a leg or something, so I already started to jump to see if I could."
After Aldo realized he walked away from the wreck with what seemed to be nothing more than bruises [although later X-rays showed a broken bone in his foot], not wanting to miss a main event in front of his Brazilian fans, he attempted to continue with his fight training.
"When I realized I didn't break any bones, I was still convinced I would be able to fight, and since there was only bruises in my right leg, I thought that in a few weeks I was going to be able to fight," he said. "And I kept training regardless, to the point that the pain was so strong that I couldn't touch the ground with my foot."
After about a month, Aldo resumed training, then got the green light to fight Edgar. While Aldo is disappointed on one level not to be fighting Edgar in Brazil, he's also appreciative to be headlining what is traditionally one of the marquee events on the UFC calendar, the Super Bowl weekend event in Las Vegas.
"It would have been a great fight in Brazil since Edgar is very popular in Brazil," Aldo said. "Edgar is popular in Brazil because he has a lot of stamina, he never gives up, and he has a very good heart. But it's a very special week with the Super Bowl and I'm really happy for that."
Although he's just 26, the Nova Uniao standout has already left his imprint on the sport's history. He's won 14 consecutive fights, including all 11 under the Zuffa banner. He holds the WEC record with eight consecutive victories within the company, and transitioned from the WEC title into the UFC's inaugural 145-pound champion.
Aldo understands what it means to have a former WEC fighter join those ranks. He's among those who consider the WEC grads currently competing in the UFC as a sort of fraternity.
"Not just me but everybody in the WEC was dreaming of fighting in the UFC and become a champ," said Aldo. "Thank god I went there and became a champion. I root for the WEC guys. I do. We came from WEC and we always said that we would dominate. Ben Henderson, Carlos Condit is a great fighter who just lost to Georges [St-Pierre], he was a champion, Brian Stann, all of them always have my support."
Aldo, whose last fight was his spectacular running-knee knockout victory over Chad Mendes at UFC 142 in Rio, has thrived in large part because he's been able to take pressure-packed situations and make them his own. For proof, consider his WEC win over Urijah Faber in Faber's hometown of Sacramento, or his UFC 129 win over Ontario's Mark Hominick in front of 55,000 Canadian fans.
Fighting Edgar in the U.S. will be, if not exactly enemy territory, at least another of the sort of challenges the featherweight champ enjoys.
"There will always be pressure, either for me or Edgar," Aldo said. "But we're both on such a high level that we disregard pressure. We just do our jobs and everything will be fine."
"I see as a challenge. Frank already proved that he is a trooper, he will go to fight all five rounds, and he doesn't give up. This is the fight I wanted."
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