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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

A different Aldo? Former champ ready to regain title in UFC 218 rematch

Jose Aldo takes on featherweight king Max Holloway in Saturday night’s main event in Detroit.

Jose Aldo Jose Aldo prior to his UFC 200 bout against Frankie Edgar in July 2016. Source: Tommy Lakes/The42

JOSE ALDO HAS experienced mixed fortunes since his defeat to Conor McGregor.

His initial response to that 13-second knockout two years ago was promising. The Brazilian bounced back by overcoming Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 in July 2016 to win an interim UFC featherweight title, before being promoted to undisputed champion when McGregor was stripped of that status due to inactivity.

Aldo had his first outing in his second reign as the UFC’s featherweight king back in June, when he welcomed Max Holloway to his native Rio de Janeiro for the headline bout at UFC 212. However, it turned out to be another fight that indicated a changing of the guard in the 145-pound division, as 25-year-old Holloway stopped Aldo with strikes in the third round.

Losing for the second time in three bouts, and in his own backyard, was a bitter pill to swallow for a man who had won all of his previous 18 fights — a run which stretched back to May 2006 — before his swift stoppage defeat to McGregor in December 2015.

Nevertheless, Aldo remained defiant as Holloway officially became the man to beat in the featherweight division. Aldo’s camp claimed that he had carried an injury into the Holloway bout as he eventually turned his attentions to making a return against Ricardo Lamas, which was scheduled to take place in Winnipeg on 16 December.

Max Holloway Reigning UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

However, the former champion was the beneficiary earlier this month when Frankie Edgar picked up an injury which forced him out of this weekend’s title bout against Holloway in Detroit. With a replacement opponent required to face the champion in his inaugural championship defence, the UFC turned to Jose Aldo.

Saturday’s UFC 218 headliner will mark the first time that Aldo has entered an undisputed UFC title bout as the challenger. Not since November 2009, when he defeated Mike Brown to win the WEC featherweight title, has he gone into a fight bidding to dethrone a champion. Aldo’s camp are adamant that this fresh approach could be key.

“This change in opponent and title shot has really inspired Aldo,” says Emerson Falcao, Aldo’s Muay Thai coach, in the first episode of the UFC’s ‘Embedded’ series for UFC 218.

“He doesn’t have the pressure to defend the title anymore. We’re seeing a different Aldo. An Aldo from back in the day — aggressive, with that thirst to become the champion again. We believe this is what it’s going to take to bring the belt back to Brazil.”

Source: UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship/YouTube

The gulf between Aldo and some of his competitors allowed him to coast through much of his six-year reign as the best featherweight in the world. Now he has a point to prove. At 31, and with 13 years of mileage as a professional fighter already on the clock, can he still be the best in the world, or will Saturday show that talk of his decline hasn’t been premature?

“I’m very well prepared and focused for this fight,” Aldo insists. “I can visualise the victory.”

The clash of Holloway and Aldo will top Saturday’s card, with heavyweight contenders Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou meeting in the penultimate bout of the night.

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Paul Dollery

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