Ariel Helwani's in-depth interview with Jose Aldo is one of the most informative we've seen for some time.
Aldo, speaking at length to clear up what he has described as misunderstandings due to mistranslations, spent 75 minutes telling MMAFighting.com what is happening with the Max Holloway fight, the featherweight title, and McGregor refusing a rematch amongst other things.
First and foremost, the Max Holloway fight penciled in for UFC 208 is off. Aldo is accusing the Hawaiian fighter of making up excuses to delay the fight while saying something else to the media.
This fight was set. We had told the UFC we wanted to fight on that date. For us, it was set. The UFC said, OK, and they asked that we not discuss it any further before UFC 206. I was told the winner of the Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis fight would be my opponent in Brooklyn, and my understanding was that both Holloway and Pettis were told the same thing before their fight. After that fight, Holloway said a bunch of different things. First, I heard he twisted his ankle and wouldn't have time to heal. Then I heard he had a trip booked to Disney World with his kids and he wouldn't be able to reschedule. Then I heard his gym is closed during the holidays and he wouldn't have enough time to train. So he's basically going around, talking a lot of trash, saying a lot of bullshit and acting like a punk. He just talking shit.
Yeah. I just want to say, any time I've been asked to fight by the UFC, I never turned it down. I've been asked to fight when my wife was pregnant or when we had a newborn at home. When I fought Frankie Edgar, she was pregnant, when I fought Chad Mendes, she was either pregnant or we had a newborn. I had a lot of stuff in my family going on, and that has never been a reason to not take fights. You can ask anyone. You can ask [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby. When I've been asked to fight, I take it.
He later revealed that he expects to have his next fight in March, and that a fighter who the UFC 'never expected to turn down a fight' refused to fight him, because his father thought it was a bad idea. Helwani then checked into it and was told everything said was on the money.
BTW, after speaking to Aldo, I fact-checked everything he said about 208 and the March card. He's not playing games. It's all accurate.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) December 21, 2016
Also extremely interesting was his insistence that he never rejected the Conor McGregor fight that was offered to him when Rafal Dos Anjos became injured ahead of UFC 196. Instead it was his coach who didn't give him the opportunity to accept it. Aldo then claimed that when he fought Frankie Edgar, both men knew it was for the title as they knew McGregor wasn't coming back to the division.
No, I didn't turn that down. [My coach] Andre Pederneiras turned down that fight and wouldn't let me take it. I've never personally turned down any fights.
Yes, I consider myself the champion. I've always been the champion. The champion is the person that defends the belt, not the person that gets the belt and flees the division. I should have gotten an immediate rematch. It was completely warranted and what should have happened. It didn't happen, though. When they gave me Frankie Edgar, I knew that belt wasn't going to remain the interim belt. I knew Conor wasn't coming back; everyone knew he wasn't coming back. That's the real belt. I'm the one that has defended this belt. I've been the king of this division for a long time. I've never not seen myself as a champion. I lost a fight. That's it. I knew that I was going to be the champion of this division and that's how I still see myself. I've always been the champion.
After accusing McGregor of being two-faced by turning down fights "left, right, and centre", and picking and choosing his opponents, Aldo then outlined that the UFC wanted to see the rematch, and even went as far as to tell him it was a done deal, only to go back on their word at the last minute.
The first thing we did after my fight with McGregor was ask for the rematch, and it should have happened. We've tried to make that fight a lot of times, as has the UFC. When I sat down with Dana and explained to him all the reasons why I was frustrated as a fighter, he said to me, 'I've tried to make the fight. [Conor] doesn't want to fight you. I can't force [Conor] to fight you. You and I, Jose, we want this rematch to happen. But he's not saying yes.' We've been trying, but the problem isn't on my side of the equation. Conor is two-faced and he doesn't want to fight me. He wants to talk a big game to the press. He doesn't to step up and take the fights to prove he's a real champion.
I went to bed one night believing the UFC was going to announce my rematch with Conor McGregor and I woke up to read the news that they booked Eddie Alvarez instead. My conversations with the UFC were, 'It's happening. We're booking it.' And then literally overnight something changed without my participation. The bottom line is, Conor doesn't want to fight me. There's nothing else I can do. I don't think there's anything else the UFC can do. If he keeps saying no and keeps running away, he's going to keep running away. He's a clown.
So why does Conor not want to fight Jose Aldo? Because he doesn't feel that he needs to. This is something that the man himself has said, arguing that the 13 second KO which he predicted was proof that Aldo did not deserve a rematch. He has said many times that he is chasing history, and at this point he sees Jose Aldo as something that has been conquered already.
Aldo, on the other hand, is at a loss when it comes to why Conor won't take the rematch.
I don't know. I'd like to understand why. It's an interesting question. Is he afraid? I don't know. All of us fighters we work and train hard so we can test ourselves against one another. That's what we do. That's why we're in this. There shouldn't be a fighter that doesn't want to fight another fighter. It's all about how you match up and constantly proving and testing yourself against other people. I don't understand when a fighter doesn't jump at the chance to test themselves against another fighter.
The interview was enthralling from start to finish, and the exerpts taken above don't even touch on the issues admirable reasons why Jose Aldo doesn't speak English, and his involvement with MMA fighter's unions.
You can read the Q & A sesssion in full over on MMAFighting.com