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Jose Aldo considered retirement during losing skid before training with Brazilian Navy: ‘Those kids lit a fire inside me’

Jose Aldo
Jose Aldo wants to earn a shot at the UFC bantamweight belt in 2022.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jose Aldo is closing in on another shot at the UFC bantamweight title after back-to-back wins over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz, but not long ago the former 145-pound champion considered retiring from the sport.

When Aldo found himself on a three-fight losing skid against Alexander Volkanovski, Marlon Moraes, and Petr Yan — two of which came in championship contests in different weight classes — he thought his run in MMA was coming to an end. But speaking on a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Aldo revealed that everything changed once he started training boxing with the Brazilian Navy in Rio de Janeiro.

“I was already thinking about retiring really, I had that in mind,” Aldo said. “But after the Petr [Yan] fight, the pandemic and et cetera … those [Brazilian Navy] kids lit a fire inside me, brother. I have so much will to fight these days. I’ve been with the Navy for almost two years now, since the [start of the COVID-19] pandemic. Man, I’m feeling like a boy again, learning every day, changing my fighting style. That renewed me to fight again, lit the fire I needed.”

Aldo is scheduled to headline UFC Vegas 44 on Saturday against Rob Font, who’s won his past four bouts over names such as Cody Garbrandt and Moraes.

The 35-year-old Aldo will be on his longest winning streak (three) since 2014 if victorious, but he’s still putting a timeline on his final chapter. Long before age 40, Aldo plans to be done.

“For the love of God, no,” Aldo laughed about competing into his senior athletic years. “We think about winning the bantamweight [belt]. After that, I’ll sit down with ‘Dede’ [Pederneiras] and see what we can do with my career.”

Aldo is so focused on doing things the right way that he didn’t consider raising his hand and offering to replace injured Aljamain Sterling against Petr Yan on short notice recently at UFC 267. Cory Sandhagen ended up getting the shot and lost via decision.

Instead, Aldo wants to earn his second crack at bantamweight gold and have a proper training camp.

“Everybody considered that when Sterling pulled out,” Aldo said. “I told ‘Dede’ right away that I didn’t see ourselves making that move at that time. It was on short notice, I wanted to go step-by-step.

“Rob is one more step, and defeating him on Dec. 4, we’ll be a bit closer to the belt. I don’t know how it’s going to be given Sterling’s injury, that could be a problem. I believe he’ll fight Petr, I don’t know if [T.J.] Dillashaw will wait that long, so maybe a fight between Dillashaw and I could [determine] the next contender.”

Aldo has mentioned his desire to face former UFC titleholder T.J. Dillashaw in the past, and believes the stars could align in 2022.

“It might happen,” he said. “The fact Sterling is injured and we don’t know when he’s coming back, that [Dillashaw fight] could indeed happen in the future. Dillashaw and I, I don’t know if right now or in the near future, we want this fight. It’s a great fight for both of us, the UFC and the fans, so we’d all agree. I don’t know if it could be on the same card [of Sterling-Yan]. If it is, I’ll be ready. My history is rich, so is his, and we need to make this fight.”

The Nova Uniao talent must get past Font first, though, and he’s not underestimating the man that has gone 3-3 against Brazilians inside the octagon, finishing Moraes, Thomas Almeida and Douglas Silva de Andrade.

“We both fight forward, he also has an aggressive style and is on a roll just like me,” Aldo said. “I’ll always respect every athlete no matter who they are, if it’s a striker or a wrestler or a grappler. It doesn’t matter, I’ll always respect them and study them the best way possible. Their best attacks, their worst attacks, and come up with a strategy based on that.

“He has his qualities, we have to respect him, but, of course, I’ll study him and impose my game and rhythm when the time comes, so that way we’ll be closer to the victory.”

In the end, it’s all about getting his hands on more UFC gold.

“I’ve always chased legacy,” he said. “I’ve never thought too much about the financial side [of MMA]. I always wanted to leave a huge legacy and make history in the UFC. It doesn’t cross my head to, even when I end my career tomorrow… I want to be under contract with the UFC because I don’t want to fight anywhere else but the UFC. My legacy will be exquisite, that’s what I want, and that’s what I’m coming for. I’m ambitious. I want to fight for this belt and win it. My history will be even richer with that.”