A rib injury has forced Jose Aldo out of his UFC 189 title defense. | Photo: Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com
It turns out that it was wise for Ultimate Fighting Championship to put a contingency plan in place for its UFC 189 headliner.
UFC President Dana White announced Tuesday on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” that Jose Aldo has withdrawn from his featherweight title defense against Conor McGregor on July 11 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. As a result, Chad Mendes will face McGregor for an interim 145-pound championship at the event.
“Andre Pederneiras, his coach, called and basically said that Aldo’s rib is too painful, and he will not be fighting,” White said.
Aldo injured his rib in sparring early last week, putting his status in question. The UFC later released a statement announcing that Aldo had suffered a bone bruise and cartilage injury to his rib and was still expected to fight at UFC 189. However, the promotion also revealed that Mendes would take Aldo’s place if the Brazilian was ultimately unable to compete. According to White, that was the most logical next step.
“Jose Aldo has pulled out of five title fights. Conor’s ready to go. The No. 1 guy in the world, Chad Mendes, is ready to go, so it makes sense,” White said. “They’ll fight for the interim title, and whenever Jose Aldo is ready, then that fight can happen to unify.”
Although having a backup plan keeps the UFC 189 lineup relatively intact, the promotion invested heavily in Aldo-McGregor rivalry, including an international press tour and a big-budget commercial set on the streets of Las Vegas.
“It’s his [Aldo’s] decision,” White said. “I don’t feel great about it. We’ve spent a lot of money promoting this fight. A lot of people are excited about the fight, so it’s definitely disappointing.”
McGregor, who joined White on SportsCenter, believes that no interim label should be attached to the title at stake when he and Mendes collide.
“If a man is scared for his life, we cannot force him to step inside and face me. I feel he is afraid. The doctors have cleared him to fight -- it’s a bruise. He has still pulled out,” McGregor said. “Rightfully so, the belt should be taken from him and we should contest for the interim belt. Or, in my opinion, the real belt.”
Mendes challenged for the featherweight title at UFC 179, dropping a competitive five-round verdict to Aldo in one of 2014’s best fights. The Team Alpha Male product returned to action in April, when he stopped former No. 1 contender Ricardo Lamas inside of a round at UFC Fight Night in Fairfax, Va., on April 4. A two-time NCAA All-American wrestler, “Money” presents a different challenge for McGregor than Aldo would have.
Nonetheless, the Irishman likes his chances.
“I am confident against any man on the roster,” said McGregor, who is 5-0 in the UFC. “I feel I am No. 1 on the roster. That is why an opponent change does not matter. Essentially the opponent is an illusion in there. It’s you vs. you. It does not matter who is across from me July 11. I will charge forward; I will put the pressure on and I will get the victory.”