People always say to get respect, you have to earn it.
While the statement is true, it is flawed. Case in point: UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who has earned respect but doesn’t seem to get it.
Aldo (26-2) faces interim 145-pound titleholder Max Holloway for the undisputed featherweight title in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 212 from Rio de Janeiro in Aldo’s home country of Brazil. Just looking at the record of Aldo makes one think, “How can you not respect someone with this record?”
Aldo was the last WEC featherweight champion, and when the promotion folded at the end of 2011 and merged with the UFC, Aldo was named the champion. After winning 18 consecutive fights, Aldo was scheduled to defend the belt against the rising Conor McGregor at UFC 189 in July 2015. This was without a doubt the biggest fight of his career.
Throughout his career, Aldo was soft-spoken, didn’t say too much in interviews and would let his fighting do the talking for him. And it had worked. The Brazilian had gotten the recognition of being one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and the all-time greatest fighter under 155 pounds. Even with those accolades just started, it had only worked to a point. Hardcore MMA fans saw the greatness of the man known as “Scarface,” but those were the only ones who knew.
Due to his past unwillingness to do interviews — and being short when he did them — Aldo left nothing to let the casual fan know who he is. Add in the fact that Aldo’s reluctance to learn and master the English language, like fellow Brazilian champions Anderson Silva, Junior dos Santos and Lyoto Machida did, hurt him in the place where the majority of his fights would take place, he turned out not to be the pay-per-view attraction his fighting skills warranted him to be.
To promote UFC 189, the UFC embarked Aldo and McGregor on a world tour. This was when Aldo shined, and his personality showed in his disdain for the antics McGregor was pulling. But right when the respect seemed to be there and Aldo looked to be getting closer to superstardom, he pulled out of the fight 10 days beforehand, citing a rib injury. Many fans doubted the injury and felt Aldo was ducking the brash Irishman.
The UFC made an interim title fight on the show replacing Aldo with Chad Mendes. McGregor won the fight by second-round TKO to become the interim champion and setup an unification bout for UFC 194.
In many fight fans’ eyes, if Aldo could beat McGregor, he would be the superstar his fight skills showed, and it would garner him the biggest payday of his career. Instead, Aldo came right at McGregor, and “Notorious” hit a flush counter left to knock out the 30-year-old in just 13 seconds to become the undisputed featherweight champion.
Even though Aldo bounced back from the devastating loss to capture interim champion when he dominated former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar UFC 200 like none had ever done before, everyone still points to the McGregor fight as the one that defined his career.
Heading into UFC 212, Aldo is motivated. Everyone is talking about Holloway, who became the first man to stop former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and became the interim titleholder at UFC 206 in December.
“How could I be impressed when he beat a guy who was never a featherweight?” Aldo said. “He had one fight at featherweight, that’s it. That doesn’t really tell you anything.”
It fathoms the mind to think how we can forget someone who won 18 consecutive fights while going an unheard-of 10 years without losing or going to a draw, is a three-time featherweight champion and is one of the greatest fighters of all time.
No fighter should get penalized for losing a fight. Every one loses. It’s part of life. Respect shouldn’t get tossed away when someone has a bad day at work. Who doesn’t have a bad day?
“I’m ready, like I always am, and I expect a good result,” Aldo said. “I think you’ll see the best of me on Saturday night. I promise that.”
Hopefully all the fans will recognize and respect Aldo if he does what he promises to do. What a shame it would be if it doesn’t happen.
You can listen to a preview of UFC 212 here.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and Boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can listen to his podcast, “The Fight Club Chicago,” here. You can email him at [email protected] and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA.