Last December, in the main event of 194, Jose Aldo’s six-year reign as WEC and UFC featherweight champion came crashing to a halt as he was punched out by Conor McGregor in just 13 seconds. In a blink, the Brazilian powerhouse had lost his title and come up short in one of the most highly-publicized grudge matches in MMA history. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t especially pleased with the way things turned out.
Under normal circumstance, though, his dominant run as featherweight king probably would have earned him an immediate rematch with McGregor—the same treatment given to Anderson Silva after his first loss to Chris Weidman. If not, Aldo would probably be fighting for the title again after just one win. Yet the circumstances of McGregor’s incredible UFC career have never been normal, and so, instead of defending his title against Aldo or another featherweight contender as precedent would suggest, the outspoken Irishman immediately set his sights on glory in heavier divisions.
Initially, the plan was for McGregor to to challenge Rafael Dos Anjos for the UFC lightweight crown. When Dos Anjos pulled out of this planned bout on just 11 days’ notice, however, McGregor would end up taking on Nate Diaz in a non-title welterweight bout—and we all know how that one went. Despite a strong opening stanza, the Irish superstar would eventually experience his first loss in years, finding himself tied up in a Diaz rear-naked in round two.
There’s little question as to whether or not Aldo enjoyed watching his rival lose to Diaz. The Brazilian took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the loss almost immediately after it happened. As it turns out, however, McGregor’s loss to Diaz would be the worst possible outcome for Aldo.
Had McGregor won, he might well have returned to featherweight to defend his belt, allowing the division to keep moving under an active champion. Instead, McGregor has been absolutely hell-bent on avenging his loss to Diaz, which has left a long list of contenders at featherweight mired in the mud while their champion fights two weight classes above them. And now that McGregor and Diaz are scheduled to rematch at UFC 202 this July, it’s starting to look possible that McGregor never returns to his former featherweight home.
To combat the contendership traffic jam caused by McGregor’s absence, the UFC has paired Aldo with former lightweight champion and long-time featherweight contender Frankie Edgar. The two will compete for the interim featherweight crown in one of the three title fights that highlight this Saturday’s stacked UFC 200 card.
At a glance, this bout looks like the perfect opportunity for Aldo to distance himself from his loss to McGregor. He has the opportunity to knock off one of the featherweight division’s very best fighters, and regain a shiny bit of gold in the process. Apparently, however, Aldo’s focus remains very much on avenging his loss to McGregor—just as McGregor was so relentless in his pursuit of a rematch with Diaz.
In a UFC 200 media day interview Aldo assured that a rematch with McGregor is still very much at the forefront of his mind.
"No matter how, we will fight. Fuck it,” Aldo said of his hunger for a do-over with McGregor. "We catch him in the street.”
Evidently unsure that McGregor will ever return to featherweight, Aldo also assured that he is willing to follow his old foe up into heavier weight classes if need be.
"We’ll move up,” he said. “The UFC will do this fight. It doesn’t matter at which weight. I don’t care.”
In fact, the only circumstances in which Aldo would be willing to give up on a rematch with McGregor would be if the Irishman retires.
"Only if he stops fighting. As long as he’s in the UFC, this fight will happen. That’s a fact.”
Yes, though Aldo recently suggested that he’d “buried” his loss to McGregor in the past, he clearly remains very dedicated to fighting the Irishman again. So much so that one has to wonder if he might be overlooking Edgar. If he is, he could be in for a disappointing night at UFC 200. Sure, he’s defeated Edgar in the past, but Edgar has been improving with every fight and appears very focused on leaving Las Vegas with the interim featherweight title wrapped soundly around his waist.
At the end of the day, then, there appears to be two possible outcomes for Aldo at UFC 200, and both depend greatly on how his appetite for a McGregor rematch is effecting him mentally. In the first of these outcomes, his desire for a McGregor rematch provides him with the extra fire required to defeat Edgar—something that dangerous fighters like Charles Oliveira, Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes have all recently failed to do. In the second of these outcomes however, Aldo’s desire for a rematch with McGregor only serves as a distraction, and he comes up short to Edgar, losing any hope for a rematch with McGregor in the process.
Given that Aldo is one of the greatest fighters of the modern era, however, we have no reason to believe he’ll be anything short of spectacular when the cage door closes this Saturday. If this proves to be the case, he might just become a UFC champion again, and push himself one crucial step closer to the rematch he so desperately desires.
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