Jose Aldo has become one of the sport’s dominant champions at 145 pounds. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Twelve consecutive opponents have tried and failed to solve the violent riddle that is UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. At 5-foot-7, he casts an imposing shadow over the 145-pound division with his mesmerizing blend of speed, technique and power.
Almost universally regarded as one of the Top 5 pound-for-pound fighters in MMA, Aldo will put his 12-fight winning streak on the line, along with his featherweight crown, when he collides with two-time lightweight title contender Kenny Florian in the UFC 136 “Edgar vs. Maynard 3” co-main event this Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston.
In this exlcusive interview with Sherdog.com, the 25-year-old Brazilian discusses his upcoming title defense, the criticism he received in wake of his unanimous decision victory over Mark Hominick at UFC 129, dealing with newfound fame, the idea of fighting more often and the impact mentors like Nova Uniao founder Andre Pederneiras and UFC veteran Pedro Rizzo have had on his life and career.
Sherdog.com: How was your training for this fight?
Aldo: It was strong. My coach, Andre Pederneiras, was always there watching my preparation. He wants me to come on strong in the fight. Everything has been as planned. We scripted it beforehand, and I said I wanted to be well-prepared for this fight. If Florian isn’t ready, I’ll leave him behind.
Sherdog.com: Many say that Florian will be your toughest opponent. Do you agree?
Aldo: I think they say that due to his experience, having fought in three divisions, challenged for a title and so on. He has always been among the top fighters, but that will change when we start to fight. I’ll show my work. I respect all those who fight for the title, but I’m confident, well-trained, getting better every day. Let’s see what happens.
Sherdog.com: One gets the sense that you are driven for this fight. Is there really an extra motivation?
Aldo: I think my last fight was good and well-played, but everyone got the impression that I was tired in the last round and that didn’t happen. So I’m focused on going out there, introducing myself well and leaving no doubt. I received several criticisms [after fighting Hominick] and learned to get used to it. They talked about things that I didn’t agree with, but I tried to take advantage of what they said.
Sherdog.com: What has changed in your routine in response to the growing popularity of MMA in Brazil?
Aldo: To be honest, it has been a little difficult. I thought I was prepared, but the routine is very heavy, especially the commitments outside of the fights. “Dede” [Pederneiras] has taken care of things and my wife also helps me. They help me, especially with the sponsorships, [saying], “You have to have a cap here, a shirt there.” I’m not used to it yet, and I even ask for excuses for not having worn a shirt or a cap. I try to maintain balance and think about every move I make. Some things I used to do, I cannot do anymore, but it’s part of the job.
Sherdog.com: What has changed in your career with the transition from WEC to the UFC?
Aldo: There were two moments. In WEC, many saw the event and liked it very much. [The UFC] rocks in the business of media and fans ... everything has changed completely. Before, I went to the mall and only a few people knew me. Today, I have to stop to take pictures and sign autographs for a lot of people.
Sherdog.com: How has it changed your personal life?
Aldo: That has also been complicated (laughs). I always liked to play -- those who know me know that I always liked fooling around -- but I had to change my way of speaking, so as not to publish rubbish. I have to have another image. I’m a public person. Also, I consulted friends like Pedro Rizzo, who passed through some similar situations, and I learned how to act.
Sherdog.com: Are you satisfied with the amount of fights that the UFC puts you in?
Aldo: I’ve always fought a lot. During my the time of WEC, I came to do two fights in less than a month. I understand a little. Because I’m the champion, they have to put me in certain events to have higher returns, but I would like to fight more often, and I’ll ask to fight again in December. Three fights in a year is OK for recovering and getting back to training just right.
Sherdog.com: How important are Rizzo, Pederneiras and your wife in your career?
Aldo: In the begining, I watched Pedro ripping up everyone in the UFC and I wanted to be like him. He was my mirror. I wanted to break everybody, too, using the muay Thai techniques I learned from him. He is my idol, and, at that moment, I wanted to be like him. Today, I’m the champion and he’s on my side and it’s awesome. He’s a striker and he fought in the UFC, so he gives me lots of advice. I’m always talking with him to learn and to avoid falling into the errors he fell into. Dede is everything. He has always believed in my work, saying I would be champion. I’ve always worked by focusing on what he teaches. My wife has been with me from the beginning. Today, we laugh about the difficulties of the past. We passed through many hard times. These people are everything to me.
Sherdog.com: You were backstage at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro. Do you wish to compete the UFC’s next Brazilian event?
Aldo: The UFC in Rio was the fulfillment of a dream. I never cared what the fans yelled, mostly because I didn’t understand. Now, seeing the Brazilian public calling out the names of Brazilians, I felt our strength. It hits on our will to fight for family, friends, everyone. I think there will be another event there next year, and I hope to be there.