Following the legalization of mixed martial arts in New York, the UFC will finally get to set up its Octagon in Madison Square Garden. The promotion is bringing a card worthy of the occasion and even was able to secure its top star to headline the show. The world is talking about UFC 205. The world is talking about Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez. After the Wednesday’s press conference, the world is even talking about featherweight contender Jeremy Stephens.
However, coming off the announcement of perhaps the greatest card in the sport’s history, the MMA world is also now talking about Jose Aldo.
The Interim Featherweight Champion and one of the most accomplished mixed martial artists ever is on the outside looking in. He sees McGregor able to hold on to the legitimate UFC Featherweight Championship while taking a third consecutive fight outside of his weight class and has decided he’s had enough and wants out.
And perhaps Aldo should want out. Jose Aldo’s ten-year unbeaten streak went up in flames at the left hand of Conor McGregor last December and he’s been demanding an opportunity at redemption ever since. If his only desire is a rematch against Conor McGregor for the Featherweight Championship, there’s a good chance the UFC will never actually be able to give him what he wants.
Fans want the most compelling fighters in the most exciting fights possible and the UFC wants fans to consume their product and spend lots of money doing it. Right now, Conor McGregor is the most compelling fighter in the sport and his fights are the most exciting because of it. Today’s biggest fights happen when his interests, the interests of the UFC, and the interests of the fans align and UFC 205 is a prime example of that.
The UFC is putting on the biggest fight they can, Eddie Alvarez is staring down the biggest payday of his career, Conor McGregor is looking to claim another world championship, and fans are supporting the spectacle. Everyone in this situation is doing as they should and acting in their own best interest.
If you look purely at skill and technique, Jose Aldo is at worst one of the three or four best mixed martial artists of all time. It would be a major blow to the UFC’s legitimacy to lose a fighter of his caliber in the pursuit of profit. Fighters working their way up the ranks and challenging the champion is the foundation of the sport and everything else loses context.
At the same time, is the UFC really expected to stand firm and clash with their biggest star in order to accommodate one of the worst drawing and most inactive champions they’ve ever had?
There are no easy answers here. For every champion in the UFC looking to make the most out of their pay-per-view points, there are at least five or six legitimate top contenders who have pretty much made it known to the world that fight promotion is anathema to them. Those contenders being rewarded based on the merit and performance is essential to the sport, but so is drawing an audience and keeping the lights on. It’ll be interesting to see how the UFC goes about putting out this fire because many more seem to be on the way.
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(MMATorch columnist Jason Amadi is back after an absence of several years. It’s great to have him back writing a weekly column. Follow him on Twitter @JasonAmadi.)