RIO DE JANEIRO – With his 14th-straight victory in the featherweight division, UFC champ Jose Aldo (21-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) is beginning to run out of possible opponents at 145 pounds.
Sure, there’s a few names making their way up the ranks right now, but is it time for Aldo to make the move up to lightweight in search of greater challenges?
UFC president Dana White said he’s just fine with Aldo staying put at featherweight, but he certainly won’t stand in the way if the champ decides to move up in weight.
“People have been asking me about Jose Aldo moving up to 155 pounds to take on Frankie Edgar or some of the top guys there,” White said at Saturday night’s post-UFC 142 press conference at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro. “That’s up to him. He’s going to have to make that decision whether he wants to make that move or not.
“I would have no problem with him staying at his weight now and defending his title there or moving to 155 pounds – whatever he feels like he wants to do.”
After earning a first-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Chad Mendes at Saturday’s UFC 142 event, Aldo is now 11-0 during his combined time as a UFC and WEC fighter. Mendes was supposed to provide a stylistic challenge for Aldo, but the champion showed capable takedown defense before launching into a highlight-reel finish consisting of a knee and several devastating punches.
Following the first professional loss of his career, Mendes admitted he simply ran into a better man in the evening’s main event.
“Jose is a great champion,” Mendes said. “He’s got very athletic moves and a style that’s very hard to train for. We did our best.
“Honestly, this is the best camp that I’ve ever had. It’s the best I’ve ever felt, so both mentally and physically, I was 100 percent prepared coming into this fight. But obviously, it just wasn’t my night. My natural reaction was to drop down, and his natural reaction was to throw the knee. We collided, and I lost.”
It was Aldo’s first finish in the UFC after coming to the promotion when the WEC shuttered its doors. It was also one of the most impressive outings of his career, and it took place in front of his countrymen.
“I started hearing that Gray Maynard couldn’t take him down in practice,” White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.con). “And you saw it tonight. Mendes couldn’t get Jose Aldo down. And even when he did, he couldn’t keep him there. That’s scary when you’re a wrestler.”
White said he still believes Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre rate above Aldo in the pound-for-pound pecking order, but with the impressive performance, he thinks the featherweight champ and lightweight kingpin Frankie Edgar are a toss-up for the No. 4 spot.
“Aldo looked fantastic tonight,” White said. “He was in tremendous shape. He came in, and you could tell his head was in this fight, and he came out performed against a real guy who was undefeated and came to take that belt away.
“I hate this pound-for-pound [expletive] now. You’ve still got to look at the year ‘Bones’ had. Anderson’s run is tough to beat. But it does make it interesting for Frankie Edgar. It’s crazy.”
Aldo doesn’t currently have any clear-cut challengers left at 145 pounds. There was a time when he toyed with the idea of taking a fight at bantamweight, but the 25-year-old has since added significant muscle in recent years and no longer appears capable of making the 135-pound limit. Names like Yuri Alcantara, Hatsu Hioki, Erik Koch and Dustin Porier all present potentially viable options for Aldo, but none seem to really signify must-have matchups.
So perhaps greener pastures lie in a division 10 pounds heavier.
White is leaving that for his champion to decide.
“Jose Aldo looked fantastic,” White said. “Whatever he wants to do – 145, 155 – I’m good.”