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Conor McGregor’s coach impressed by Jose Aldo’s late-career resurgence: ‘He’s looking like a champion beater’

For better or worse, Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor will always be inextricably linked because of the rivalry they shared in the early days of McGregor’s UFC career.

Aldo and McGregor lit the featherweight division on fire with their multi-year journey to UFC 194, which saw the two finally collide in one of the most anticipated events in the sport’s history. McGregor memorably won via 13-second knockout and he and Aldo ultimately went their separate ways, however six years later, at the age of 35, Aldo has surprised many in the MMA world with a resurgence at 135 pounds. The Brazilian legend has won three straight bouts following his victory over Rob Font and is creeping close to yet another title shot.

And McGregor’s longtime head coach, SBG Ireland boss John Kavanagh, can’t help but marvel at what his team’s old rival is accomplishing 17 years into his MMA career.

“I’m sure I spoke about it a lot at the time, but going back, I was a massive WEC fan,” Kavanagh said recently on The MMA Hour. “And if you’re a WEC fan, you’re obsessed with Aldo. Just the way he — he was the first one that I really saw, a striking-based MMA guy that just dismantled grapplers. So I was trying to learn a lot from what he did. And even going back further than that, his amazing coach ‘Dede’ [Andre Pederneiras], I watched him back in the Pride days.

“So there was nobody that was a bigger fan of that team and Aldo specifically than me. And in the lead up to that [UFC 194] fight, I had many sleepless nights looking at those leg kicks and his takedown defense and his speed and his technique and his experience. And I somewhat regretted how the fight went, because I would have loved to see the clash of styles and some more exchanges.”

Aldo remains one of the greatest MMA technicians to ever compete, but he experienced some hard times after his loss to McGregor in 2015. At one point, the former UFC featherweight champion fell into a slump that saw him drop five of seven octagon appearances, three of which he lost via brutal knockouts, culminating in a 2020 title loss to current UFC interim bantamweight champion Petr Yan.

Aldo recently admitted to MMA Fighting that he actually considered retiring during that tough stretch of his career, however training with the Brazilian Navy became the spark that helped him rediscover his passion for MMA. Since then, Aldo has reemerged as a dominant force once more, winning three straight bouts over Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz, and Font, and rocketing to the No. 6 spot at 135 pounds on MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.

Of late, Aldo has called for a potential title eliminator bout against former champion T.J. Dillashaw. If he got it and won, he’d likely be the next man up to compete for the UFC belt.

And Kavanagh said that both he and McGregor will be on Team Aldo if that moment comes.

“Look what Aldo’s done,” Kavanagh marveled. “He’s come back completely reinvigorated at 135 and he’s looking world-class. He’s looking like a champion beater. And if he gets that Dillashaw fight, I think we’ll really see just how far he’s come since then.

“I’m sure Conor would love to see it, and certainly I would love to see him have his hand raised and have that belt at 135.”