A fighter's face can tell you a lot about his career. What starts off as a blank canvas over time will begin to display the effects of wars waged in the cage. With each scar comes a memory. Every mark has story, a name and a date associated with it. Some are memories of battles won, others are permanent reminders of failure which are revisited each morning in the bathroom mirror.
For José Aldo though, his scars run a bit deeper. The former UFC featherweight champion has a deep scar on his left cheek, which runs from the corner of his mouth to his ear but this scar was earned long before the Brazilian had even found his identity as a fighter.
When he was a baby his sisters elected to see what would happen if they rolled him onto a barbecue pit. The tissue damage his face received endures to this day, earning him the nickname ‘Scarface’ – a moniker which would ultimately emphasise his reputation in the cages he fought within.
As a child growing up in the favelas of Manaus, Aldo was picked on mercilessly – probably not helped by the scars inflicted on him by his sisters. Growing tired of his almost daily beatings, he enrolled in capoeira classes. Next for him was a relocation to Rio de Janeirio to study the grappling art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which he took to practically overnight.
Aldo spars with longtime trainer Andre Pederneiras | Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
With few alternatives for a young man growing up in poverty, Aldo took to sleeping at night on the very mats he trained on during the sunlight hours. The daily beatings grew less frequent. Soon, they stopped altogether.
It turns out that this was exactly the type of fighting education that José Aldo needed and he promised to himself that he wouldn't stop training until he achieved something in mixed martial arts. He wouldn't have to wait very long.
Only months are moving to Rio, the 17-year-old Aldo had his first professional fight. 18 seconds after the opening bell, the fight was over and Aldo was feeling the rush of his first ever MMA victory. He would experience that feeling six more times in just over a year.
It's often said in MMA that that if you don't have any losses on your record then you're not fighting the correct competition. Aldo suffered his first (and for a long time his only) defeat at the hands of Luciano Azevedo just 15 months into his professional career. He wouldn't lose again for a decade.
Having compiled a 10-1 record Aldo was invited to join the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) featherweight division. At this point in the MMA timeline the UFC was clearly the biggest player in town but they didn't yet operate weightclasses south of 155lbs so, almost by accident, the WEC became the home of the best lighter-weight fighters on the planet and José Aldo was perhaps the best of them all.
Aldo won all eight of his WEC fights, seven of them inside the distance. When the WEC was acquired by Zuffa and the decision was made to add a 145lb division to the UFC, Aldo's WEC title was transferred to the UFC title of the same weight. José Aldo, the boy who emerged from the poverty of the Brazilian favelas, was now a UFC champion.
And for all the world it looked like he would be a champion for as long as he decided he wanted to be a fighter. Aldo defended his belt seven times in succession without ever really appearing to be in real danger.
That was until a loud-mouthed Irishman showed up on the scene. Even before he joined the UFC, Conor McGregor was talking up a bout with Jose Aldo and after tearing through his first six opponents in the Octagon the stage was finally set for Aldo to face his biggest challenge yet.
After a claustrophic world tour which only served to heighten the tensions between the two, José Aldo and Conor McGregor finally stared across the cage at each other last December. And then, almost before it began, it was over. Aldo's ten tear reign atop the featherweight division ended in the time it took McGregor to extend a left cross across the chin of the advancing Brazilian, removing him him from his senses as well as the championship from his waist.
It now seems inevitable that José Aldo will get a chance to exorcise the demons of that loss to McGregor, possibly at UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden next November after Aldo's conclusive out-pointing of Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 and it's difficult to argue that the Brazilian and the Irishman aren't now the two best 145lb fighters in the world.
Despite their first fight ending so decisively for McGregor, it would be foolish to expect anything so similar to happen again when the two fighters likely lock horns later this year. McGregor can't improve on his 13 second win and Aldo can't do worse.
And if there's one fighter in the world who has a history of overcoming adversity, it's José Aldo.