Jose Aldo is just the latest UFC star to eye a future career in the Sweet Science, but the featherweight champion plans on following a different path than many of his cohorts.
Conor McGregor’s ongoing pursuit of a lucrative showdown with Floyd Mayweather was just a trigger point for the MMA-to-boxing crossover that has become all the rage. Since then, Jimi Manuwa has called out David Haye, Stipe Miocic has expressed interest in boxing fellow heavyweight king Anthony Joshua and Cub Swanson has angled for a clash against Paulie Malignaggi.
Aldo, however, sounds as though he would prefer to follow a more traditional route, working his way up from than bottom rather than signing to face a big-name opponent right off the bat.
“Boxing is -- that’s always been a personal wish of mine and it’s something that I like to think of a little bit down the road, but the wish that I have is not to just -- I don’t have any specific one fight that I’d like to have,” Aldo said through a translator during a recent media call. “I’d like to start a career in fighting smaller shows and see where that takes me.”
For now, though, Aldo has more pressing matters to attend to, namely his title defense against Max Holloway in the UFC 212 headliner on Saturday night. Holloway has won 10 consecutive fights in the Octagon and claimed interim gold with a third-round stoppage of Anthony Pettis at UFC 206 this past December. While the 13-second KO loss to Conor McGregor remains a blemish Aldo can’t erase, otherwise the 30-year-old Brazilian is arguably the sport’s greatest featherweight of all time.
Nonetheless, Aldo believes that challenges beyond Holloway remain at 145 pounds.
“I think there’s a lot of guys coming up, new guys who are going to be coming up and be fighting for the title soon,” he said. “So, it really doesn’t matter to me. My job is to go in there and defend my belt.”
The former World Extreme Cagefighting titlist could also envision himself moving up to lightweight, assuming all goes as planned against Holloway at UFC 212. And then, there are other things that wait Aldo outside of fighting, though he did not get into specifics regarding those matters.
“I think right now I have to get through this title fight and once I get through that, I can start thinking of some of the other things I would like to do,” Aldo said. “I think there may be a lot of challenges in other divisions or with other guys that I haven’t fought before. So, I think there’s plenty left for me to challenge myself. And in my personal life, I have my own things as well, but that’s between me and my family.”
One challenge that Aldo believes does not await is a rematch with McGregor. The Irishman never defended the belt he won against Aldo at UFC 194, instead squaring off twice against Nate Diaz at 170 pounds before vanquishing Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight strap last November. Since then, McGregor has become a father and remains in talks to face Mayweather in a boxing match, presumably before 2017 ends. A return to featherweight seems to be the least likely of all possibilities.
As a result, Aldo isn’t holding out hope that he will ever get a chance to avenge his lone defeat in UFC competition.
“Although it was a while ago when I fought Conor, it was something that I tried to make the best out of. I’m not going to sit around and cry, but in the end, we did lose the fight. So, if I were to go back and change anything, I would change that. But everything else that went around it, the division was promoted. The UFC -- myself, I was promoted,” Aldo said.
“I try to see the good in it, the silver lining and everything but, the UFC tried to make this fight happen again, and it didn’t. The guy does not want to fight with me again. It may be the last time that people ask. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore and that’s fine. It happened. It’s in the past.”
Aldo, who threatened to retire earlier this year, seems to have moved past his unhappiness. A win over the surging Holloway would only further establish himself as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Should that happen, Aldo might look to take a hiatus of a different kind, one that allows him to pursue a different combat sports dream.
“Holloway, he’s a guy that I’ve been looking for, for a while and I knew that we’d end up facing each other. He’s a tough guy,” Aldo said. “And in my MMA career, I’m happy to go to the gym every day. This is what I chose to do with my life. I’m happy to be able to do this, and I know there’s plenty of people out there who would love to be doing it and can’t. Boxing is something that I love to do. It’s a wish of mine that I’ve had to not just put on big fights, but put on a career in boxing.
“But that’s something I’m going to have to discuss with UFC and see what’s the best way of doing that down the line. But right now, I’d like to defend my belt and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”