As UFC 189 drew near this past summer, the debate as to whether Jose Aldo would -- or should -- compete with a broken rib took top billing.
Ultimately, the reigning featherweight king elected to withdraw from the July 11 contest, paving the way for Conor McGregor to win interim gold by stopping Chad Mendes in the new headliner. While McGregor hinted at an injury of his own following the event, it wasn’t until several months later that the Irishman revealed that he tore “80 percent” of his ACL 14 weeks prior to facing Mendes.
If Aldo had indeed made it to fight night, McGregor fully expected the Brazilian to go after his knee.
“I had a busted up leg and they [Aldo’s team] knew I had a busted up leg and they planned to target it,” McGregor said during a recent conference call. “They celebrated that because it happened on the World Tour. They knew it; their whole camp knew. They celebrated and plotted a way to attack it.”
However, once word of Aldo’s injury hit the mainstream, the “Notorious” one claims that he made his opponent an offer in order to keep the original main event afloat.
“He bruised his rib and pulled out of the fight. I said to him, ‘Show up and I won’t target your body. I’ll hit you clean in the face,’ and he still didn’t show up,” McGregor said. “No amount of adversity I cannot conquer. My mind is stronger than anything. I went in with complete belief that my shots would land.”
For McGregor, there was never a question of pulling out of the fight due to his ailment. In his mind, that would have been an insult to virtually anyone who had an interest in UFC 189.
“Fans pay their hard earned money to see that show; $7 million gate, $50 million pay-per-view, God knows what else in sponsorship and merchandise sales throughout the whole week,” he said. “If I’d had walked from that show I’d have flushed the company’s money down the toilet. I’d have flushed the fans money down the toilet. I’d have flushed my own money down the toilet.
“I showed up. I came through for everyone that’s put in so much. That’s why I done it. I could have walked, and I tell you what: 100 percent of the roster would have walked.”
Aldo’s withdrawal and McGregor’s victory over Mendes only served to heighten interest for their eventual meeting, which will now be a featherweight title unification bout at UFC 194.
Initially, the SBG Ireland product thought that Dec. 12 might be a little too soon to rebook his clash with Aldo, not because of his knee, but because he wasn’t sure that his opponent would be able to make the date.
“It was nothing to do with me. It was because of Jose’s little weak body. He banged up his body and he pulled out of the contest. It’s left him five months. I felt it might rush him into camp. It might rush him back into heavy training and the same thing might occur. That was a worry for me,” McGregor said. “I know if an exit presents itself for my friend Jose he’s gonna take it.
“I just wanted to give him a little bit more time. I might breathe a little easier when he touches U.S. soil. It seems to have worked out. He seems to be showing up this time, so I’m happy.”