A retired former UFC lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov downplayed Aldo’s recent success as a bantamweight while taking a shot at his longtime rival Conor McGregor. When asked about Aldo’s latest wins over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz, Numagomedov told reporters at a press conference in Russia that, “A guy wins one fight and everyone starts talking. ... Let him fight Petr [Yan] the same way, then we can say he’s peaking again. You saw what he did [against Yan], he closed up and waited for the ref to stop the fight.”
“That shows that you’re not at your peak,” Numagomedov continued. “If you’re getting hit and you’re conscious and you’re not defending yourself, I call those fighters businessmen. They come out to make money.”
Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Aldo responded to Nurmagomedov’s criticism and openly wondered whether the Russian has “too much time” in his hands now that he’s retired from MMA, so he chooses to spend most of that time talking. Aldo stated that he and his own team knows best where he stands in his legendary career, and that he’s showing it by winning inside the octagon.
“He’s saying you can’t peak again, but we just saw an example with Glover [Teixeira], who got there, lost, and got there again at age 42 and won [the UFC title], completely dominated the champion, took him down and submitted him,” Aldo said. “[Israel] Adesanya himself fought [Jan Blachowicz] for five rounds, a pretty boring fight, two high-level athletes, and Glover, who’s older than me [won]. Sometimes Khabib talks too much. He’s not doing much these days, he’s retired, so he’s looking for [attention] that way.”
There is history between the two future Hall of Fame fighters.
Back in 2016, after Aldo regained his UFC featherweight title, he told MMA Fighting that he had been offered an interim lightweight title fight against “a guy we never thought would turn it down,” who then “turned it down, because his father didn’t think it was good.”
Aldo declined to reveal who that opponent was at the time, but now stated that it was indeed Nurmagomedov.
“I was traveling when [my coach] ‘Dede’ [Pederneiras] called me,” Aldo said. “The [UFC] had offered me this fight and we took it. I said, ‘What? I want that, I’m in.’ I respect everybody, but that opportunity … I was the featherweight champion, and [Nurmagomedov] didn’t think it was a good [idea]. I don’t know if he was expecting to fight somebody else, I don’t know what he was thinking at the time. I think it could have been a great fight.
“I wanted to test myself. Everybody always asks me. … It’s funny, everybody thinks I train wrestling a lot. No, man, I usually do the same training with my team, so, to me, it would have been a really tough test. I’ve always fought against American wrestling and it was hard to take me down, so it would be a tough test against him, if he would be able to impose his takedown game against me knowing that I have pretty good takedown defense as well.”
Nurmagomedov was coming off a win over Michael Johnson at the time and was eventually paired against Tony Ferguson at UFC 209, however the fight fell through after Nurmagomedov was hospitalized due to weight cut complications. At the time, Aldo had beaten Frankie Edgar just a few months prior at UFC 200 to capture the interim UFC featherweight title. He was ultimately promoted to undisputed champion later that year.
Following Nurmagomedov’s recent comments, McGregor actually came to Aldo’s defense, showing the two former champions have a better relationship today compared to their heated rivalry in the past.
When asked about that UFC 200 win over Edgar, Aldo revealed that McGregor sent him a gift to his Las Vegas hotel after watching the bout cageside.
“When I fought Frankie Edgar and won the title again, [McGregor and I] were staying at the same hotel, side by side,” Aldo said. “He saw me, and even sent a gift congratulating me for the belt I had just won.”
Aldo refused to reveal what the gift was, though.
“That was intimate, brother,” he said with a laugh. “He knows that, he sent it to my room. I see no problem with that. It was a way of trying to show love for me and my family. It was really intimate.
“It was nice, it was nice. I don’t know what his intentions were, right? ... But it was nice.”
Check out the latest episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca.