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Jose Aldo: Loss to Alexander Volkanovski ‘hurt a lot more’ than Conor McGregor KO

RIO DE JANEIRO — Former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo gives an update on his weight cut for UFC 245, which marks his debut in the bantamweight division against Marlon Moraes on Dec. 14, and explains why this is his “ideal” weight class in MMA.

The Nova Uniao star also discusses his title aspirations, why his loss to Alexander Volkanovski hurt more than his quick knockout defeat to Conor McGregor, why he would rather get a third fight with Max Holloway than a rematch with “The Notorious,” and revealed the new plans for his MMA career, possibly fighting for seven more years.

[Editor's note: Click on CC button in the player for English translations.]

Read the full transcript below.

Aldo, I would like you to talk about the weight class change, going down 10 pounds. How was the diet?

The process is still going on, we’re entering the final stage now. The weight cut is going smooth. I thought it would be more complicated since I never went through a diet before, never did something like this. I usually just cut weight during fight week, but this time I had a diet. Man, as incredible as it sounds, I’m feeling great, fast, stronger, so it’s been fine. I have the support of great professionals by my side so everything will be alright.

You’re fighting a Brazilian now in Marlon, an athlete you’ve known for a long time…

Exactly. We’ve trained together, he trained here in the gym before going to the United States, but everyone defends its own side. He lives in America now, his family is there. It’s a fight between Brazilians, but I don’t see it like that. I have to defend my side, my family, my team and my country.

What have you changed the most in terms of diet now that you’re getting close to the fight?

I’ve been on a diet for two months and we have changed a lot already, but it hasn’t been that different. We’re doing another diet this week, but it’s just fine for me. I’m eating on the right time, eating healthy food only, and that’s keeping me really strong.

Is it going to be harder for you not being able to go to a steak house a week before the fight?

Yeah, I’ve always done that, but this time I can’t. Only if it were a vegan steak house, salads only. I’m eating that a lot now, almost two pounds of salad a day. But I’ll be able to do that the Saturday after the fight.

I believe it’s been eight years since Moraes moved away from Brazil. What do you recall of your training sessions with him in the past?

It’s been a really long time. He’s a kid with good kickboxing. I’ve been following his work closely. He’s very explosive, but I can’t remember specific training sessions with him because it’s been a long time. But I know what he does because I’ve been watching his fights for a while. We already have an idea in mind.

You talked about going down in weight to face Cejudo. What made you change your mind and fight Marlon instead?

It wasn’t a change of mind. If I could, I would obviously want to fight Cejudo, Max Holloway, Khabib, only the champions. Everybody wants to fight the champions. But Cejudo had surgery now and wouldn’t be able to fight. I wanted to fight this year. Marlon asked for a fight and I accepted it.

You’ve mentioned earlier this year that you wanted to fight out your contract to box. What made you change your mind about that?

First of all, I want to fight until I’m 40. I’m 33 now, so I have seven more years ahead of me. I still dream about boxing, and that will happen really soon. Rest assured that it will happen. But I’ll fight for some more time. This is my first fight at bantamweight until I’m champion again.

Do you think about going back to featherweight or challenging McGregor, Khabib…

Neither one of them, I don’t. Khabib is a great athlete and a great champion who deserves to be there, dominant, in the lightweight division. McGregor, I don’t even know if he can still fight. Someone I would really like to fight again is Max Holloway, who beat me twice. I never saw myself losing twice to someone. I dream about fighting him again one day at featherweight.

You’ve always talked about not wanting to fight for much longer and now you’re talking about fighting until you’re 40...

It could be even more (than 40). First of all, I’ve never partied and drank throughout my career, I have a healthy body. What keeps me fighting is that over the years, when I didn’t want to do it anymore, I spoke with ‘Dede’ and he convinced me to do this experience at bantamweight. I had it in my mind that it would be difficult to make weight, to go on a diet, but it was the exact opposite. I’m feeling strong, training super well. I haven’t felt this way even when I was in the WEC. That makes me believe I have a lot more to give, and you can be sure that I will fight for many years.

In the past you’ve said that you wanted to do it like Georges St-Pierre and retire in your prime, and then you talked about three more fights in Brazil and that’s it, and now you’re talking about seven more years. What happened that made you change plans?

Exactly that. ‘Dede’ asked if we would make the bantamweight limit and wondered if I could. All that suffering to make featherweight was still in my head. But we went to a nutritionist, spoke with our doctor, they made this entire preparation and I’m feeling super well. If I’m feeling super well, fast, stronger than ever, there’s no reason to stop now. I want to win the bantamweight title and make more history, and then think what’s next. But I don’t think about that now. My family and ‘Dede’ can answer that question.

How much do you weigh right now?

69kg (152.1lbs) on the dot.

(Aljamain) Sterling complained recently about you and Frankie Edgar moving down in weight and possibly jumping the line for the title. Do you think that a win over Marlon could help you to jump the line and fight Cejudo next?

First of all, I respect everybody. I always stay with my feet on the ground. But that’s a fact. Frankie Edgar and I, and any other former champion, we have a head start. It’s not about cutting the line, it’s our history in the UFC that helps with opening doors in new weight classes.

Fighters often talk about injuries they suffer in training for being heavier, but you’re much lighter now. Are you taking any extra care in the gym to avoid injuries?

I think it’s even better. I was talking to Leo Santos about our training sessions we used to do, when I got tired really fast because I was heavier. I think this is my ideal weight. ‘Dede’ always wanted to me to stay around this weight. It’s hard to hit the bantamweight limit, of course, but I can train hard, the way ‘Dede’ asks me to, and don’t get injured because I’m well prepared and strong.

You talked about the weight cut and how that might affect you. You said you’ve gained more in terms of performance and cardio, but has it affected your chin while sparring?

Nothing. No way. If you hit the chin, it can be the weakest man in the world hitting the strongest, if it lands, he will fall and go to sleep. There’s no other way. But that’s not a thing. If you’re surrounded by good professionals, doing everything by the book, you won’t feel weak. People think you’ll get weak, but no. It’s all about the diet and the preparation, the way you do everything. I’m feeling strong, and I’m absorbing strikes the same way I was before. But I’m way faster now. If I hit anyone in the chin, they all go down.

You’re not the type of fighter to send messages after a fight, but are you convinced that a good win over Marlon puts you in title contention next, or maybe it’s a good idea to say something to Cejudo just to be sure?

I’m thinking about Marlon now, I can’t bite off more than I can chew. First of all, I’ll think about Marlon. We have to remain focused, go there and win, and then we think about Cejudo or whoever.

Many people adapt well to a new weight class, but others don’t. Are you curious to see how it’s going to be with you?

I’m very curious. I’m so much better physically and technically now that I’m anxious to get to fight week already. I want to get to next week to see how my weight cut goes. Everybody says it will be easy because my weight is going down fast. I even had to change my diet because I was down at 67kg (147lbs), training hard, something I had trouble doing a week before the fight at featherweight. I’m training way lighter now. That makes me curious, and convinces me to stay on this new phase. I’m really anxious. I want to see how my final week of the weight cut will be, and the fight. I’m sparring really well, like we always do, pushing all the way to the end and asking for more. I leave the mat and go to the treadmill to run more. It’s crazy. I see myself as a young kid again, but with more experience.

You haven’t fought any Brazilians for 10 years, and then you fought Moicano and now Marlon. Do you think that’s just the new wave of Brazilians coming or the UFC testing new Brazilians and using you as a gatekeeper?

I don’t see me as a gatekeeper. It’s part of the game. Marlon and I want the same thing, which is to become champion. He’s coming off a title fight now and it will be hard for him to fight Cejudo again, if he’s still there. But it could be a door for me because he’s No. 1 in the ranking today. That’s how I see this. I hope that Brazil has new great athletes to fight for belts and become champions in the future and keep MMA strong here.

Marlon’s fighting style is very similar to yours, with a lot of kicks and attacks to the legs. Have you ever fought someone with a style so similar to yours? Do you think it can be more complicated for whatever reason?

I think it can be easier. Staying on the feet is better for me. I feel more comfortable. I’m anxious to fight already and see how it goes because I’m feeling super great.

So we shouldn’t expect you to take him down, right?

I could be fighting the world champion in anything, if you watch my fights in the UFC I don’t take anyone down. It’s MMA and there’s the possibility, of course, but I don’t see any problem keeping the fight on the feet.

We saw a Jose Aldo we weren’t used seeing in that fight against Volkanovski…

That was shit. I’m sorry, that was shit.

Are you hungry to show an exciting Jose Aldo again and try to erase that performance? That was a fight that could have put you close to another title fight.

I’ll even apologize to everyone for that shitty fight I put on. I can’t do that. I prepared to fight, wanted that fight, asked the fans to be there, and then I did nothing. I fought way less than I can do. Losses and wins are part of the game, no problem with that, but I have to give my best in every fight, win or lose. I didn’t do anything there. But this is a new phase for me at bantamweight and I’m excited. I’m feeling super well. That could have been a final moment for me, but it lit a fire again and showed me I’m capable of becoming world champion again.

How do you see Volkanovski vs. Holloway going down?

They both deserve to be at the top today. I think Max has had great performances and is developing a good fighting style. He has a rubber face that absorbs strikes well. Volkanovski has grown a lot, but I see Max Holloway as the favorite. He has the size advantage and a game that I just don’t see how he loses. But if that happens, no problem. It’s their problem. I’m thinking about the 14th, about Marlon.

Six months have passed since that fight with Volkanovski. Why do you think you had such a bad performance against him that night?

I was too dumb. I had knee surgery and everybody told me not to fight but I was dumb to ask for a fight. It’s no one’s fault nor an excuse for the loss. The moment I accept a fight I have to be ready. I thought I could win, I was well-trained, I was in my city, but it was a total mistake not doing everything I trained and ‘Dede’ asked me to do.

Do you regret taking that fight?

I don’t regret anything. You have to be a man in losses and wins. I went there and fought, no matter what happened. He was better and deserved to win, hats off to him. He had a good strategy and won. I can’t cry over spilled milk. We have to move on. We can’t stay in the past thinking what could have been or what could have happened. That loss was good for me because I learned so much from it. I’m going through this new phase now, it changed my mind about not fighting anymore. I was disappointed in the UFC, fighting for no reason, not aiming to become champion again. That helped me, so I’m glad I had that loss because it made me the new athlete I am today.

Do you think that loss, being “dumb,” was more painful than the quick defeat to Conor?

It hurts a lot more, for sure. Conor and I, we fought and he landed a good punch. In Rio, it was about the performance. That’s what bothers me. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t try anything. If you lose but try something, okay. You get sad for the loss, but you tried, you fought. But that one, I’m embarrassed. I can’t watch that fight.

Do you think you would be fighting as a bantamweight now if you hadn’t lost to Volkanovski?

No. Absolutely not. That’s why I say that loss came in a good moment. Sometimes it’s better to take three steps back to move two steps forward. I’ve learned from that. ‘Dede’ came right after that with the idea of fighting at bantamweight, a challenge that lit up the fire to compete more.

Technically speaking, how do you think you have an advantage over Marlon?

Not that it favors me… Every fight I go is always 50-50, and then someone goes up and the other goes down. Each fighter has its own style and will try its best in there. There’s no favorite. We’ll see how things match up as the fight progresses.

Do you think there will be a big difference against Marlon in terms of physique? There is no height difference, but he’s a strong bantamweight. Will that be a problem for you?

No, not at all. It’s hard to see a bantamweight that is stronger than me today. No doubt. There’s none. One can be more adapted to the weight class in terms of cardio, but strength, no way. I feel like a horse in there. If I was strong at featherweight, imagine now at bantamweight. I’m feeling great, strong, and you’ll see it on the 14th.

How do you envision yourself winning? Do you envision a knockout?

First of all, we have to have respect. I leave all the envisioning for you guys, reporters, that like to talk about this. I have to remain serious, go in there, do what I have to do and win.

McGregor just signed to fight Donald Cerrone. What are your thoughts on this fight?

Man, I don’t know. Whoever wins, wins. I don’t see any problem. If [McGregor] fights or not, I couldn’t care less. I care about myself, my team and my family.

Speaking of Cerrone, the UFC almost booked you to fight him in Sao Paulo in the past. How did you go for that, fighting at 155, to dropping to 135? What made you take that route instead of going up?

It’s all ‘Dede.’ The UFC called that time and asked the fight with Cerrone for UFC Sao Paulo, but I think bantamweight would be the ideal for me. I always fought at 60kg (132lbs) in Brazil. I only went to featherweight in the UFC because they had ‘Loro’ (Galvao) there, so I moved up and did well there. But I think this is my ideal weight.

Do you think the bantamweight Aldo will be better than the lightweight Aldo would have been?

No doubt. I would be smaller at 155, the horse wouldn’t be so strong. They are bigger, stronger there. I would feel smaller than them.

You’re focused on Marlon now but we know you’re a competitive guy. Assuming it goes your way at bantamweight and you win the gold, do you think about going back to featherweight to join the champ-champ club?

I don’t know if we’ll manage to get both belts, but we’ll stay focused. Beat Marlon first and become champion next, I’ll be very satisfied with that. We’ll go after new goals after that.

Cejudo posted a picture this week with two belts, asking you to bend the knee. What’s your response to that?

Man, Cejudo is very funny. He posts those things and sends them to me, so all I do is laugh. I think it’s very funny. It’s okay. Media and fans like that. It will happen more more and more.

Does that give you confidence that you’re next for the belt? With all the contenders in the division, he keeps saying your name all the time.

For sure. To be remembered for my history… Not only him but Marlon as well, who asked for this fight. Everybody wants to fight the best. Him saying my name helps me a lot. Let’s beat Marlon and then go to the next step.

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