Jose Aldo has pulled out of multiple scheduled title fights. He has had neck and back problems and now a motorcycle accident. If featherweight is a division about speed and athleticism, how much longer is Aldo a viable champion? He gets hurt every other scheduled fight at this point. He is starting to seem like a “what could have been” sort of fighter, and that is depressing. -- Grant from Edmonton
Chris Nelson, associate editor: As I write this, it’s been exactly eight months since the last time we saw Aldo step into the cage. That’s the longest he’s been out of commission since joining Zuffa in 2008, so I understand the concern. Over the last four years, Aldo’s become one of the most exciting fighters in MMA, not just for his offensive output but also for the “who can stop this guy?” factor. It’s always a bummer when we’re denied an opportunity to see him in action, and it’s doubly frustrating that the reason for his latest pullout isn’t even training-related. It’s reasonable that MMA heads, and especially fans of the lower weight classes, are getting a little antsy for an Aldo fix.
At the same time, I don’t think this recent rough patch is any reason to panic just yet.
Even with the sundry injuries you mentioned, Aldo’s longest absence prior to this was seven months -- not so bad when you consider the UFC’s welterweight champ hasn’t fought since April 2011. By all reports, Aldo was healthy and ready to go against Frankie Edgar before this motorcycle mishap put him back on the sideline. Good news: Nova Uniao leader Andre Pederneiras has already forbidden Aldo to ride his bike in the future. And while Aldo’s still an athletic young lad at 26, he’s certainly not the 22-year-old dynamo who was fighting every few months in WEC; there will be more bumps and bruises, and they’ll take a little longer to heal.
Injuries aside, it’s no surprise if Aldo is being more cautious than before. He has more to lose than ever -- more to gain, too -- as well as a legacy to uphold. Aldo has rarely looked anything less than dominant inside the Octagon, and I believe part of the reason is that he doesn’t come into fights injured. Just look at his “worst” showing, when he faded late against Mark Hominick, reportedly due to an infection on his foot and the antibiotics he took to ward it off. After suffering another foot infection in his recent accident, it makes sense that he wouldn’t want to risk a repeat.
Of course, I could be wrong, and Aldo could turn out to be the most injury-prone champion in UFC history. Only time will tell on that one, but for now, I believe we’re just seeing a great young fighter having a stretch of bad luck -- one from which he should be able to bounce back.
As for how much longer Aldo is a viable featherweight champion: I would say until someone beats him.
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