In the main event of UFC 194, Jose Aldo’s incredible reign as WEC and UFC featherweight champion came to a skittering halt when he walked into a Conor McGregor left hand just 13 seconds after the fight began.
Almost seven months later, on the main card of the historic UFC 200, Aldo rebounded from this career-altering loss in the strongest way possible, out-striking long-time contender Frankie Edgar to a unanimous decision win, and winning the interim featherweight title in the process.
The reason for the creation of this interim title, of course, comes down entirely to McGregor. Shortly after his title-winning blitzkrieg of Aldo, the Irishman set his sights on the lightweight strap, and after an unfortunate injury to then lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, ended up in the welterweight division, where he would lose to Nate Diaz in one of the year’s biggest upsets.
Today, McGregor is preparing for a UFC 202 rematch with Diaz, and not surprisingly, that rematch is incredibly important to his career. If he loses, it’ll be two losses in a row to the same man, and this will deflate whatever is left of his mystique. If he wins, meanwhile, he’ll restore some of that mystique, and continue on down the road as MMA’s biggest and most marketable star.
The ramifications of this rematch extend far beyond McGregor, however. The outcome of his UFC 202 bout with Diaz will also have a huge impact on the featherweight division and the many elite fighters that currently fill its uppermost ranks. McGregor still is, after all, the division’s undisputed king.
Aldo, who now wears interim gold in McGregor’s stead, is acutely aware of the strange influence this welterweight bout will have on his division. During a recent media scrum in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian explained that the more worrying outcome for him is a McGregor victory.
“He has to lose [to Diaz.],” Aldo told the media. “Otherwise, they will do a third fight. If he wins, they will do another rematch with Nate, and that’s bad.”
The reason this would be so “bad” for Aldo, of course, is that he’s unlikely to earn the McGregor rematch he so desperately craves as long as the Irishman is fighting outside the featherweight division.
If McGregor loses to Diaz again, however, Aldo’s future looks much brighter. In fact, the Brazilian believes a second loss to Diaz will send McGregor back down to featherweight, which would lay the groundwork for their title-unifying rematch. And should such a rematch occur, Aldo believes there would be no better choice of location than the UFC’s debut in New York City this November.
"If he loses (to Diaz), it’s highly likely that they put us to fight on November 12 at Madison Square Garden,” Aldo explained. “The Irish community is big over there.”
If McGregor wins and continues to compete in heavier divisions, Aldo told the media that he expects a bout with streaking contender Max Holloway is next. And though this isn’t the fight the interim champ is hoping for, he said it’s a fight he’ll take, especially if it’s in New York City.
“If it’s a fight against Holloway, I don’t see any problem. This event in New York will make history. I really hope I’m at this card because I want to be part of history,” Aldo explained. “But I really hope [the McGregor rematch] happens.”
Yes, it’s safe to say that Jose Aldo will be watching the UFC 202 main event very closely, as its outcome will have a huge impact on the course of his immediate career.
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