Jose Aldo’s decision to request his release from the UFC and essentially walk away from his mixed martial arts career was years in the making and resulted from what he believes was a repeated pattern of disrespect.
Globo revealed the news Monday that Aldo was unhappy that he hadn’t gotten a rematch with featherweight champion Conor McGregor and planned to walk away from the sport that had made him rich and famous.
Aldo is the former UFC featherweight champion who is ranked fifth pound-for-pound. He went more than 10 years between losses while compiling an overall record of 26-2.
Aldo and manager/trainer Andre Pederneiras, in separate lengthy interviews Thursday with Yahoo Sports, each listed numerous reasons why the man who is regarded by many as one of the top-three MMA fighters ever, is leaving the sport while still in his prime.
“It’s not just one thing or two things or three things with the UFC,” Pederneiras said. “If on the one hand you take the level of disrespect that is embodied in things like giving him leftover fights on nine days’ notice and calling him a chicken when he says no; promising an instant rematch [with McGregor] and not making it happen and making it contingent on a fight with Frankie Edgar and then still not making it happen; the overall level of disrespect is so great.
“It would be disrespectful to anyone. But it hurts more because it’s disrespectful to a guy like Aldo. He was undefeated in the WEC, undefeated in the UFC, an incredible fighter to watch who leaves his heart in the cage every time and then who, as a person, as a human, embodies values that are so important to his community [and] to his countrymen that have made him beloved and made him an idol. It’s like, ‘Really? You can’t give this guy the respect he deserves?’ What more would he have to do to be deserving of more respect?”
The UFC declined to comment.
Aldo said he has been offered contracts to play professional soccer in the past and said he will see if he can find a team that will give him an opportunity to compete in that sport.
He said his situation with the UFC has caused him to lose interest in fighting and said he has no plans to compete in mixed martial arts again, with the UFC or anyone else.
Aldo won the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title on Nov. 18, 2009, and held it until the organization closed. When the WEC was absorbed by the UFC in 2011, he held the title from that point until he was knocked out in 13 seconds by McGregor at UFC 194 on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas.
He wanted an immediate rematch with McGregor, but the UFC instead chose to allow McGregor to pursue the lightweight title in a fight with then-champion Rafael dos Anjos. When dos Anjos was injured and pulled out of the March 5 fight in late February, the UFC offered the bout to Aldo on 10 days’ notice.
It would have been a lightweight bout and not for a title. Aldo, who was on vacation at the time, declined. It instead went to Nate Diaz, and when Diaz beat McGregor at UFC 196, McGregor insisted on a rematch and got it at UFC 202.
Last week, UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports he was making a bout between lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and Khabib Nurmagomedov because Nurmagomedov is the No. 1 contender.
White said at that point he wanted McGregor to fight Aldo for the featherweight belt. But on Monday, White went on SportsCenter in a bizarrely timed announcement that came only minutes after the presidential debate and announced McGregor would face Alvarez for the lightweight belt in the main event of UFC 205 on Nov. 12 in New York.
That was the final straw for Aldo, though it was hardly his only point of contention with the company.
“First of all, my dissatisfaction is not about not getting this fight with Conor McGregor,” Aldo said. “My dissatisfaction has been brewing for a long time. Before my loss to McGregor when I had to pull out of our first fight [scheduled for UFC 189 in July], I was not happy with the way the UFC spun my rib injury. I was not happy to see them mischaracterize my injury and not support me as I had to pull out of that fight.
He said he was unhappy with his salary, noting “I don’t think what I’ve received in the UFC is commensurate with what I have achieved as an athlete or what I’ve done in the sport and in my weight class. But that’s not all that different from other UFC athletes. We all know the pay is not what it should be.”
Aldo said he spoke to the UFC at one point several years ago about potential “super fights” against a lightweight and was told if he did, he’d have to give up his featherweight title immediately and campaign full-time at lightweight.
He said he never received a discretionary bonus from the UFC such as those that are given to some other fighters. He said the only bonuses he received were performance bonuses such as Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night that he earned in the cage.
He said he harbors no hard feelings toward either White or McGregor but said his issue centers to a large degree on what he described as White’s changing status within the company.
“Conor is not my issue,” Aldo said. “My issue is that I feel Dana is not in control any more. It’s a runaway train. Things have been promised and not delivered and he’s no longer in charge, no longer the boss.
“Frankly, it’s starting to feel like a circus with promises made and not kept. If that’s how it is going to be, I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”
He said he was comfortable walking away from the sport and said he didn’t think his legacy would be diminished by the loss to McGregor.
But he said he can’t stomach the trend to trash talking and sensationalism he said is taking over the UFC.
“I hear a lot of people say the reason I don’t call the shots and that I’m not happy with my income is that I don’t sell fights,” Aldo said. “People have said that to me and they’ve said it about me. I’ve heard people say, ‘Jose needs to be a better marketer; he needs to sell his fights more.’ But that’s not the philosophy I was raised with. My coach is a martial artist. I’m a martial artist. What we do starts with respect.
“Where the sport is going is not respectful. The people who are selling fights are people who are giving each other the middle finger, throwing objects at press conferences, getting caught snorting cocaine and making headlines for all kinds of wrong reasons. What I was taught and what I believe in is, I do my best inside the cage. I believe people want to watch me for my ability as an athlete. … If the direction the sport is going is you’ve got to make headlines for the wrong reasons in order to be worthy of respect and in order to be worthy of the right income, it’s not something I’ll ever be on board with.”
Pederneiras said that to fully understand the root of Aldo’s unhappiness, it’s important to know something about his background. Aldo is one of Brazil’s biggest stars, and is a huge philanthropist who donates his time, money and likeness to all sorts of causes, Pederneiras said.
Aldo comes from one of the poorest areas in Brazil and what he has overcome in his life to become a superstar in his sport is the stuff of movies.
“We have so much poverty that many Americans can’t begin to fathom it,” Pederneiras said. “There are communities where kids live in slums on the hill and they can’t leave the house on a given day because the drug lords are having a shootout so they can’t go to school that day. Or, it’s a situation where the father has been shot, the mother is working three jobs and still can’t put food on the table and the kids can’t go to school because they haven’t been fed for three days. It’s a level of poverty that is really difficult for most people in first-world countries to comprehend. Jose Aldo came from that. That’s where he was born. That’s where he was raised. Those are the issues he’s faced as a child.
“We have millions of kids who can mirror Jose Aldo and look to him and say, ‘He was where I am and he got out. I can, too.’ It’s motivated our entire country. … There are slums where a tourist can do a favela tour and book a guide and check it out for the sake of having a sneak peek. That’s not the place I’m talking about. I’m talking about places where nobody in their right minds would go in and most people can’t get out of.”
It is there where Aldo does much of the charity work that has made him a legend in his homeland.
He’s opened a gym for kids; he buys the children gifts on Christmas and on World Children’s Day. He provides food and clean water and educational materials and clean gym equipment and outfits.
Pederneiras is building a fighter training center and Aldo is an investor. It’s being built inside of an orphanage located in one of the worst favelas in Rio de Janeiro.
There will be free classes for children and seniors. Aldo wanted to put the gym there as a way of trying to make life better for the area’s residents.
“This is one of the best, most respectful athletes you will ever meet,” Pederneiras said. “That is the guy that nobody knows. This is the story that never gets out to the press. He gives them money out of his pocket all the time. He funds all of these charities. He does so much good for people here. And on top of that, he’s not only been one of the best fighters in this sport for a long time and he’s done everything he’s been asked.
“He’s been made promises again and again that weren’t fulfilled. I want to be clear: This issue is so much more than Aldo being [angry] that he didn’t get the McGregor rematch. I taught him the same values that I taught my sons, to never lie and to always tell the truth and be a man of his word. And he’s angry because there were all of these promises made to him that aren’t kept.”
Pederneiras said Aldo receives offers of all kinds from all sorts of companies and wants to be free to consider them without having to seek the UFC’s permission.
He said Aldo doesn’t want to fight and isn’t looking to sign with another promoter. He said Aldo “has no desire to be affiliated with [the UFC] anymore and doesn’t want to have to cross-reference his [UFC] contract every time he receives a business deal.”
Aldo went to great lengths to make the point he harbors no grudges or ill will and said White has been kind to him and his family.
“I don’t feel on the professional side I’ve gotten the respect I’m due and I’ve lost my passion,” Aldo said. “I’ve lost my motivation for this sport because of the way things have gone. I am in peace, but I want to be released and done with the UFC.”
Article originally appeared on Yahoo Sports.
While we very much enjoy the entertainment factor and the spectacle that Conor McGregor brings, his actions also pushes the UFC and the sport of MMA into a sports entertainment circus rather than a serious professional sport, making it a harsher work environment for fighters with more traditional martial arts values who don’t believe in trash talk and participating in hooligan-like antics just to sell fights.