The UFC's decision to strip Conor McGregor and award Jose Aldo the promotion's featherweight title ahead of UFC 206 was a polarizing one, alternately drawing scorn and celebration from fight fans on both sides of the aisle. But the move also put the featherweight division in an unquestionably awkward spot, as it is now reigned over by a champion who memorably got knocked out in 13 seconds just 11 months ago, and has since threatened to retire from the sport entirely.
But regardless of the public lashing Aldo has taken from certain sects of the mixed martial arts world, he remains one of the greatest and most decorated figures in featherweight history. And for UFC 206 headliner Anthony Pettis, who meets Max Holloway on Dec. 10 with an interim 145-pound strap on the line, "Scarface" is still a tremendous consolation prize to be able to add to one's legacy.
"For me, Jose Aldo is still Jose Aldo, man," Pettis said Tuesday on a UFC 206 conference call. "Everybody loses. Even the greatest lose sometimes. Even after 13 seconds, what he did with Conor McGregor, he still has the history that had. He's a dominant champ for a long time. It's not like all of a sudden he sucks because he got knocked out by Conor McGregor."
Yet while Pettis was complimentary of the now two-time UFC featherweight champion, that same sentiment was not shared by Holloway. The 24-year-old Hawaiian has been on somewhat of a crusade against Aldo for several months, stemming from Aldo's refusal to defend his previously held interim title while Holloway compiled a division-best nine-fight win streak over the likes of Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, and Jeremy Stephens.
Now that Aldo is the champion once more, he has already indicated that he is open to defending his featherweight title sometime in early 2017 against the winner of Holloway-Pettis. However, Holloway isn't willing to buy into those words until he sees Aldo actually sign his name on the dotted line.
"That motherf*cker, he got diagnosed with that f*cking p*ssy-itis that he's been f*cking having lately. And whenever he wants the vaccine, he can come and get it. So we'll see what happens," Holloway said.
"I ain't friends with the guy. I don't follow him on social media or whatever. I don't talk to him, I don't retweet stuff he posts or have conversations with the guy. So who knows what's going through his mind? Only his coaches and only himself. But we'll see what happens. We'll see what happens after Dec. 10 and we'll find out. We're going to go out there, you guys are going to get a great fight, and after Dec. 10, we'll see what's up with that guy's mind."
If nothing else, the specter of McGregor certainly seems to be looming large over UFC 206 due to the UFC's decision-making. And while Holloway and Pettis both agree that it would be pointless to look past each other and speculate about McGregor's potential return to the division, they also are willing to leave the hand-wringing over Aldo's legacy and the legitimacy of the new featherweight belt up to those who ply their trades outside of an eight-sided cage.
"[Aldo] had a great career before Conor McGregor," Pettis said. "There's a reason why Conor let this happen. If Conor really wanted to fight at 145 pounds again, he would've done it and defended his title. So it's not up to Jose Aldo, it's not up to Conor McGregor, it's not up to me or Max who's the undisputed champ. We're just doing our job. We're going out there and fighting these fights and trying to prove that we're the best in the world. And if that guy (Aldo) is there and the opportunity is there, eventually all of us will take it."