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Jose Aldo calls for ‘big fight’ with Dominick Cruz, defends ‘legitimate champion’ Aljamain Sterling in DQ controversy

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Jose Aldo (pictured) wants to face fellow WEC star Dominick Cruz next in the UFC
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jose Aldo is going after big fights in the UFC.

Back to the winning column after almost two years with a victory over Marlon Vera this past December, Aldo told MMA Fighting he wants to stare across the octagon at Dominick Cruz next sometime in 2021.

Both legends are former WEC champions, Aldo and Cruz were the inaugural titleholders in the UFC featherweight and bantamweight divisions, respectively, and now they compete at 135 pounds.

“It’s a big fight to make, Dominick and me, because of our importance [in the sport],” Aldo said. “We were both WEC champions and then came to the UFC as champions, so it’s a big fight to make.”

Aldo called out T.J. Dillashaw moments after his decision victory over Vera this past December, and then flirted with the idea of battling Cody Garbrandt, but neither came to fruition.

Dillashaw is currently booked versus Cory Sandhagen on May 8, while Garbrandt battles Rob Font on May 22. Sean O’Malley could also be a name of interest for Aldo, the Brazilian star said, but doesn’t expect the UFC to pair them up right now.

“[Garbrandt] asked for the fight and I agreed right away, but the UFC shot it down,” said Aldo, who was “surprised” by the decision. “[Garbrandt] and I had already agreed, it was all set, and the UFC didn’t think it was a great fight, they wanted him to fight Rob Font.

“We ended the [Vera] fight last year and asked for Dillashaw and Garbrandt and now I have none. I’m on the dance floor without a dancing partner [laughs]. But we’ve been asking for Dominick Cruz for a while now and that’s a fight everybody asks for. We’re expecting to fight him. But I don’t know if it will happen, right?”

Much like Aldo, Cruz recently snapped a losing skid in the octagon, defeating Casey Kenney via split decision in March. Throughout his legendary MMA career, “The Dominator” has defeated the likes of Dillashaw, Urijah Faber (twice), Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez (twice).

“He’s a great fighter, has always had great performances,” Aldo said. “If it wasn’t for his injuries he would still be competing for titles at the top. Injuries have been an issue for him, he hasn’t been in the UFC what we were used to seeing from Dominick Cruz.”

“I’ll always see myself as a title contender, there’s no escape,” he continued. “Becoming the champion is all I think since the moment I moved down to this division. I’m ranked No. 5 now and I want to fight more often. You can be sure that sooner or later we’ll grab that belt.”

The 135-pound gold recently changed hands in controversial fashion. Petr Yan, the defending champion, was ahead in two of the three scorecards going into the fourth round against challenger Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 before landing an illegal knee. Sterling couldn’t continue, and Yan was disqualified.

Aldo agrees with dissenting judge Ron McCarthy that Sterling was winning the bout up until that point, “but I think Petr Yan was going to come back and the fight wouldn’t go the distance, and he would knock [Sterling] out.”

Aldo understands that Yan threw the knee because he thought Sterling wasn’t grounded at that moment, but defends the new champion from criticism.

“I do consider him the champion,” Aldo said. “It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t throw the illegal strike or anything like that. Petr made a mistake and paid for his mistake. It’s more than fair, you can’t say [Sterling] is not the champion. It doesn’t matter if it’s by disqualification or not, rules are there to be followed. I do see him as the champion. If he felt [the knee] or not, only he can say, but I do see him as the legitimate champion.”