Jose Aldo announced his retirement from the UFC yesterday after 18 years in MMA. During that time, he established himself as the most feared featherweight on the planet – a division he ruthlessly reigned over for five years. A rare fighter, universally loved and respected among fans, Aldo will be greatly missed.
Few sports communities are as divided as MMA fans. Constant fiery debates erupt online over who qualifies as the “greatest of all time,” who deserves to be higher in the pound-for-pound rankings, or even who is next in line for a title. Yet on days like yesterday, when a true sports legend hangs up the gloves, we see this often fragmented fanbase coming together.
A consensus contender for “Featherweight GOAT,” Aldo will be remembered for his ferocious leg kicks, outstanding takedown defense, and grit and determination you’ll only find among the most elite athletes.
Perhaps most impressively, Aldo’s career wasn’t defined by his devastating knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 194 – arguably one of the most famous moments in sports history. . The Brazilian could have easily slipped from memory as the champion he was, to instead become ‘the guy McGregor knocked out in 13 seconds’. Instead, Aldo fought back to claim interim featherweight gold at UFC 200, only to have his coveted title fully restored to him after the Irishman vacated the belt.
He did not find himself goalkeeper after the end of his league days, he remained in contention; he gave Max Holloway two of the best fights the featherweight division has ever seen at UFC 212 and 218, before facing Renato Moicano, current champion Alexander Volkanovski and Marlon Moraes.
Losses to Volkanovski and Moraes forced Aldo to reconsider his future in the division, with several more featherweights ahead of him for a title shot. In almost all cases, fighters drop to their most “natural” weight when changing divisions, with very few successful examples of fighters dropping down a weight class.
As he had done throughout his career, Aldo took the tougher route and moved on to face Piotr Yan to challenge for the bantamweight belt at UFC 251. from a fearsome Russian boxer, despite wild weight reduction and no previous experience at 135 pounds in the UFC. Despite Yan’s comprehensive victory, few could argue that Aldo looked out of place in a UFC title fight nearly three years after his last attempt at a championship. He just got beaten by the best fighter of the night.
Some eyebrows have been raised, given that Aldo may look a little young to hang up the gloves at just 36, but he’s been fighting for UFC titles since 2011 and the caliber of opponent he consistently has confronted sin this time obliges. even more respect for the man. His resume is as impressive as any in the UFC – with the possible exception of Jon Jones. Urijah Faber, Alexandre Nogueira, Jonathan Brookins, Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, Frankie Edgar – and these are just fights he had before 2012!
When it comes to the end of his career, there hasn’t been the dramatic fall from grace that we often see in aging fighters. Aldo simply decided he had had enough. There was no patronizing “I think he should stop” from Dana White as we saw with Junior Dos Santos, nor fan calls to call it a day – and why would there be? It wasn’t until late last year that we saw Aldo beat a highly rated Rob Font. A true contender to the last who has faced adversity time and time again and persevered, with minimum complaints and maximum entertainment value.
Alas, all good things come to an end. Commentators and fans fear that Aldo will not receive a proper send-off; no chance of leaving his gloves in the octagon and giving Joe Rogan one last interview before walking out to rapturous applause in a packed stadium somewhere.
However, one can take comfort in the fact that he is almost certain to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, where he can take his rightful place alongside greats like Georges Saint-Pierre, Michael Bisping and Forrest Griffin.