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With MMA career ‘near the end,’ Jose Aldo aims to go out on top

Jose Aldo faces Jeremy Stephens in his first non-title bout since 2009.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jose Aldo will have three fights left on his contract with the UFC after Saturday’s featherweight clash with Jeremy Stephens in Calgary, and he doesn’t intend to sign a new deal. That doesn’t mean he’s pursuing free agency, or even a career in boxing, something he has mentioned in the past. After four fights or less, Aldo will hang up his gloves.

The former UFC and WEC featherweight champion, one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, will compete in a non-title bout for the first time since 2009 at UFC on FOX 30, and told Brazilian reporters in an online scrum on Wednesday that his career is coming to an end.

”No, I don’t think so,” Aldo said when asked if he plans on signing a new deal with the UFC after he completes his current contract. “It doesn’t cross my mind to sign a new contract after.”

Speaking openly about retirement is a sensitive topic for athletes, especially in a sport like MMA, so how does that affect Aldo’s motivation going into a dangerous fight with Stephens?

”I think it’s easier because you know it’s coming near the end, so you have to give your all because you don’t want to go out on a loss, you want to go out on top,” Aldo said. “It’s a lot easier seeing the end of the tunnel and working harder because you know it’s coming to the end.

”When you’re starting there’s that euphoria, but I remain the same. I dream of being champion and dream going out as champion. That’s my biggest motivation. … I take much pride in winning, I don’t accept losses, so I’m always going after that. The day I lose this fire, I think it’s time for us to stop.”

The reason why the UFC could consider creating an interim belt for the featherweight division is one of the things that scares the Brazilian veteran. With champion Max Holloway sidelined after showing concussion-like symptoms prior to his planned fight with Brian Ortega, Aldo says brain trauma is one of the reasons why he won’t fight for much longer.

”That’s why I think it’s the right moment to stop,” Aldo said. “The first goal is to recapture the belt and then think about it. Not only me, but every athlete fears that. Health comes first, and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Aldo has dominated the 145-pound division for years before Conor McGregor took his belt in 2015. Asked if he will still feel he has accomplished his mission in the sport even if he’s not successful in his attempt to return to the throne, Aldo had to take a deep breath before answering.

”We’re training each time more because I want to conquer that, but I think that if we don’t get it, I think I do,” Aldo said. “I think I leave a good legacy for new athletes who are coming up. There are new people at featherweight, bantamweight, lightweight, any other weight class that is inspired by the legacy I’m leaving.”

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