Let's say that Jose Aldo beats Anthony Pettis but doesn't fight again for the rest of the year. He's still the frontrunner for “Fighter of the Year,” right? B.J. Penn is one of the reasons I got into MMA and loved watching him challenge the best guys from a weight class above him. Frankie Edgar and Pettis are coming down to 145, but they are two of the best lightweights in the world. I think 2013 could be a huge year for Aldo's legacy. -- Adam from Toronto
Jordan Breen, administrative editor: I don't think “huge” even goes far enough in describing the magnitude of what Aldo could do on this particular campaign. I'm not going to write an essay on whether the whole strange-but-wonderful matchmaking debacle here is “fair” -- sorry, Ricardo Lamas -- or “logical,” but the fact is that Edgar and now Pettis are the two most skilled, most accomplished fighters Aldo has ever faced. Say what you will for the “state of the featherweight division,” but Aldo is daring to be great.
For reasons I've articulated here, I think Aldo-Pettis represents a particularly unique opportunity for high-stakes violence, but this goes beyond the chance for some momentous fireworks. This is a legacy fight for both fighters. I just blabbered about how important this was to Aldo's ledger, but let's not forget that beating Jose friggin' Aldo would constitute a serious feather in Pettis' Brewers cap. Either way, come Aug. 4, someone's fight record is going to be looking rosier.
Also, I notice that your email suggests only the possibility of Aldo going for “Fighter of the Year” candidacy. Surely you're not writing off Pettis like that, right? Keep in mind, he already trashed Donald Cerrone with a pantheon-level liver kick this year. “Showtime” is also a young fighter who is finally healthy and eager after missing a portion of 2011 with a shoulder injury, so he might even want to get in a 145-pound title defense. Pettis could be looking at a 3-0 record this year with a UFC title and wins over Donald Cerrone, Jose Aldo and, let's say, Lamas. Hell, there's even a storyline, with Lamas just having corrupted the eye socket of Pettis' compatriot, Erik Koch.
The one caveat to this discussion is that the UFC and Bellator both got a quick jump on getting their respective champions back into circulation. More than a few MMA super-elites might get the sought-after three bouts in this year. There will be competition, of course. However, with Pettis and Aldo each already having put a damn impressive win in the book and the fact that they are now scheduled to face each other, there's already a hypothetical frontrunner; a third bout might just be unnecessary icing on the cake.
Did I say one caveat? I forgot that we're talking about MMA, so there's another one, too: Aldo might get hurt. Pettis might get hurt. Every featherweight might get hurt. If a rash of injuries explodes this year, as it did last, all bets are off and the “Fighter of the Year” will just be the last athlete standing.
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