The landscapes of the UFC's featherweight and lightweight divisions grow more complex with each passing day.
On Tuesday, frustrated at the confusion raging within his division, reigning UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo broke his silence on a number of topics in a wide-ranging interview with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani. Aldo said that he accepted a title unification bout on Feb. 11 at UFC 208 against interim featherweight champion Max Holloway, but that Holloway turned the fight down due to a lack of time to properly heal from his Dec. 10 victory over Anthony Pettis.
Aldo then said that he expected to fight in early March and that the UFC would likely "soon announce an interim lightweight title fight with me," with the ultimate goal being to set up a rematch against UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. However, Aldo claimed that an undisclosed opponent for that interim title fight had already turned down the UFC's offer "because his father didn't think it was good." Aldo said he was waiting to see who else the UFC would find for him and expressed frustration with his potential opponents continually turning down fights.
Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for those words to reach Holloway. The new interim featherweight champion expressed outrage over Aldo's statements and railed against Aldo's track record of pulling out of fights with injuries.
So Waldo is now saying he always shows up and me and Conor are two faced and Khabib won’t fight him. #nowayjose— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) December 21, 2016
Issue w Waldo is not about turning down fights. its that he doesn’t actually show up #noShowseAldo— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) December 21, 2016
Wherever Waldo is hiding, they must not have internet https://t.co/Fxz39MQdZH— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) December 21, 2016
Holloway's management, SuckerPunch Entertainment, then posted a message on Wednesday morning to Facebook refuting Aldo and showing a photo of Holloway's injury, which is expected to prevent Holloway from training for six weeks.
Similarly, UFC lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov took to social media on Wednesday morning to respond to Aldo. In a lengthy Instagram post, Nurmagomedov seemed to indicate that he was the one who turned down the interim lightweight title fight against Aldo, explaining that, "I do not bully the little."
Nurmagomedov also advised Aldo, "do not fall for the mind games of the UFC."
Aldo says, referring to me, that I refused to fight with him. Tell him that I do not bully the little. I want a real battle, and only Tony can give it to me. At this stage of my career, even if I win Daniel Cormier, fans will say that I have to fight with Tony, and I agree with them. I have spent my career in the UFC asking for the strongest opponents, currently in this division we must decide who is stronger, me or Tony? Without exception, all the fans and experts want to see this fight and I want to give it to them. And you, Aldo, I advise you not to lose the respect of your fans, including me, do not lose your head, do not fall for the mind games of the UFC, and be yourself. ❗ Альдо говорит намекая на меня, что я отказался от боя с ним. Передайте ему, что я маленьких не обижаю. Я хочу реальный бой, и это Тони. На данном этапе моей карьеры если даже я выиграю Даниеля Кормье, фанаты будут говорить, что мне надо подраться с Тони, и я с ними согласен. Я всю свою карьеру в UFC прошу самых сильных соперников, в данный момент в легком весе мне и Тони надо определиться, кто сильнее, я первый номер в рейтинге а Тони второй. Без исключения все фанаты и специалисты хотят этого боя, и я хочу подарить им это. А тебе Альдо я советую не терять уважение от своих фанатов, и в том числе от меня, не теряй голову, не подставляйся под игры UFC, и будь собой. #юфсишныеигрыопятьвтеме @ufc
This is not an altogether unfamiliar position for Nurmagomedov. The undefeated Dagestani contender was effectively used as a pawn by the UFC in the negotiations between McGregor and Eddie Alvarez for UFC 205, with the UFC even presenting Nurmagomedov with two bout agreements that never came to fruition.
Of late, Nurmagomedov has been using social media to attempt to set up a top contenders match-up against Tony Ferguson, though Ferguson on Tuesday explained on Twitter that he would not accept the fight for "peanuts."
MMA Fighting will continue to update this situation as it develops.