Check Out an Interview with Aldo's Sparring Partner Jonas Bilharinho

Fightland Blog

By Fightland Staff

Photo by Raphael Marinho/Combate

If McGregor can deliver the kind of performance he’s delivered versus all of his Ultimate Fighting Championship opponents—from Marcus Brimage to Dennis Siver—versus the promotion’s featherweight champion since 2010, José Aldo, he’ll stand in a league of his own. Aldo, the current pound-for-pound champ in the UFC, has met the toughest opponents to date. His last five challengers were Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar, Chang Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas and Chad Mendes again—a fearsome platoon to say the least. Aldo’s never had anything to prove, yet the arrival of Conor McGregor, brimming with confidence fueled by a seemingly impossible-to-beat disposition, has made people wonder, “what if McGregor does beat Aldo?”

Current middleweight champ Chris Weidman knows it’ll be the end of the world if Aldo loses. Again, however, Aldo is Aldo and his camp is no short supply of support personnel. To take things up another notch, Aldo’s squad hired Jonas Bilharinho to spar with Aldo ahead of the fight, as the Jungle Fight star’s style is the closest thing to McGregor’s. Brazilian portal Combate.com interviewed the man, and we’ve translated some of it for you to get a glimpse into Aldo’s camp, how Bilharinho is helping and what he thinks McGregor will bring on July 11th.

On McGregor’s biggest threats to Aldo

McGregor has a lot of power in his striking. His isolated strikes are really good. He puts a lot of energy into each of his strikes and has a very strong mental game.

On simulating McGregor’s style, including working the same “mental game”

I talk a lot during sparring, and there’s some people who aren’t hip to what I’m doing and think I’m just clowning, cursing at their champion but I’m not having any of it. If we’re going to mimic, we mimic everything. I curse at him in English even. If he understands or not is no problem.

On Aldo’s reaction to some of that kind of “play”

There was a funny situation with Aldo. He kicked my inner thigh and he got me good. It’s very likely that McGregor will dismiss Aldo’s good hits to break him mentally, which I don’t think will work, but we have to simulate it here as close to the real battle as possible. So he struck me good, and I said, “You got nothing, Aldo” He turned around and said, “Oh, my bad, did I get you in the nuts?” Then I got serious, kept looking at him, he shook his head and remembered what was happening. After the session we laughed a lot.

On Aldo’s style versus McGregor’s style

I think Aldo has the advantage. McGregor moves forth too much and has a lot of trouble striking when being struck. He’s a counter-striker who comes and goes on his own time. He does it really quickly, to his merit, but he can’t exchange with a guy who’s striking at the same time as him, remember Diego Brandão, who was the only one who got inside of [McGregor] and the only person to put him against the fence. I think that’s the way. I find it unlikely that he’ll be able to come at Aldo.

On Aldo’s state of mind a month away from the fight

It’s not something someone who’s training with him should be talking about, but each session he takes steps forward, and I notice the difference in each session. He’s correct a lot of things he promised he would correct and it’s impressive how quickly he absorbs the aspects of the game we’re trying to impart. And another thing, he’s got great listening. It’s like a video game. If someone who’s outside says, “Aldo, I want a knee,” he throws it immediately and it connects. He’s a good listener.


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