NEWARK, N.J. — There appears to be nobody in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s featherweight division that can compete with Jose Aldo.
Yet he’s most likely a fighter about to lose his title.
Aldo breezed through the latest challenger, Ricardo Lamas, at UFC 169 at Prudential Center on Saturday night by dominating the first four rounds then cruising to the finish.
As soon as the news conference began early Sunday morning, Aldo was questioned about whether now would be the right time for a superfight with lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
He left no doubt in his response.
“I want the fight, Pettis wants the fight, the fans want the fight. So why not? We are ready to fight, so let’s get the fight,” Aldo said through a translator. “It’s not me, it’s about (UFC president) Dana (White). I’m ready, I’ve always been ready, I want that fight, everybody wants the fight. If the fight was tonight, I would fight him, so it’s up to the UFC and Dana.”
Aldo has held the belt since before the weight class was even added to the organization. He was the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion when the promotion was folded into the UFC. He had defended that belt twice and has now successfully defended the UFC title six times without much resistance.
Plus, he has often discussed the difficulties of cutting to 145 pounds. The move to lightweight might make sense even if Pettis, the champion at 155 pounds, was not such an exciting matchup stylistically.
As it is, Aldo and Pettis are two of the most exciting and dynamic strikers in the sport.
White was thrilled to hear Aldo jump at the chance.
“Sounds like we’ve got a fight,” White said. “That was easy. We got that deal done. One more thing I don’t have to do on Monday.”
The only thing left was to get the blessing from Pettis, which seemed like a foregone conclusion. It was Pettis who first proposed the bout when he was still only the top contender for the lightweight belt.
A year ago Sunday, after Aldo dramatically increased his profile with a win over former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar on the Super Bowl weekend card in Las Vegas, Pettis texted White during the post-fight news conference.
He was having a difficult time lining up his title opportunity at lightweight, so he proposed dropping down to featherweight to fight Aldo.
White loved the matchup and booked it, despite protests from Aldo’s camp that Pettis had not earned the opportunity. Pettis, however, was forced to pull out of the fight with a knee injury.
He recovered and defeated Benson Henderson for the lightweight belt, and now the Aldo fight again looks possible.
Pettis wasted no time accepting.
Not long after White announced at Prudential Center that all that was left for booking Aldo and Pettis was the formality of Pettis accepting, a UFC official appeared on the dais and whispered something to White.
Apparently, Pettis’ manager was in the building and had spoken to the fighter.
“Anthony Pettis just called. He said he absolutely, 100 percent wants the Aldo fight, and he’ll take it. So there you go,” said White, who indicated he probably received a text too, but he had no cell service in the arena.
There is no word on when the fight may happen. Pettis suffered another knee injury and is out of action. He says he would be ready to go for the July 4 weekend card in Las Vegas, but that timetable is optimistic.
If and when the fight does happen, Aldo would vacate the featherweight belt. He could choose to stay at 155 pounds, which he would almost certainly do if he beats Pettis to win the belt. The other option would be to drop back to featherweight and challenge for the belt again.
Renan Barao also retained his bantamweight belt in the main event Saturday night. His situation is less clear, with no clear-cut next contender for the belt.
White said he hopes a few upcoming bouts in the 135-pound division help shake out the murky title picture.
The real storyline was about the loser of the fight, Urijah Faber. He lost his sixth straight title fight, but he is undefeated in his career in nontitle bouts.
Saturday’s bout was not without controversy, though. While Barao was in total control, Faber seemed to be defending himself when referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight late in the first round.
Faber was even giving a “thumbs up” at the time of the stoppage. He was justifiably frustrated with the outcome.
“It’s funny. Herb Dean was the referee when I lost my first fight against Tyson Griffin. I did a cage-dive into a steel bar and I ended up getting seven staples in my head in the first eight seconds. I almost got knocked out like two or three times, and he let me fight through it all. You know?,” Faber said. “I’ve had wrestling matches where I’ve been dazed before and had to do four or five matches in the same day. So it’s unfortunate, being a guy that’s very tough that prides myself on that, in a big show like the one we had today where I don’t get to fight to the bitter end.”
White also disagreed with Dean’s decision.
“You know you’ve heard me up here a million times talk about Herb Dean. I think he’s the best referee in the business,” White said. “He rarely ever makes mistakes, but he made a mistake tonight. Faber was blocking those shots, he gave the thumbs up. You know, the guy’s the best in the business as far as I’m concerned. Tonight he made a mistake.”
Faber, 35, was insistent in his belief this was not his last chance at a UFC belt.
As for Las Vegan Frank Mir, a former heavyweight champ who dropped his fourth straight fight on Saturday with a unanimous decision loss to Alistair Overeem, White said he has not made a decisions regarding the future of the former champion.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.