Jose Aldo’s camp says his ribs may be broken, still undecided on UFC 189

Doctors, the UFC, and champion Jose Aldo's camp can't agree on how badly he's injured, and if he will fight at UFC 189.

Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Remember last week when scary rumors of featherweight world champion Jose Aldo breaking a rib were put to bed by a UFC statement saying that several unnamed doctors told them the ribs were only bruised, with torn cartilage? The MMA world sighed a collective sigh of relief that the very expensive and nearing UFC 189 main event would go on as planned…probably.

Well, it’s time to start holding your breath like a person pained with injured ribs, again, because Jose Aldo’s camp has some unnamed doctors of their own who contradict the UFC’s and say that the champ’s ribs are indeed broken. According to Aldo’s head coach and manager, Andre Pederneiras, Brazilian doctors have concluded from looking at images of his rib cage that he has fractured ribs, while American doctors say they are bruised.

"There’s medical report here and an evaluation there. I’m not a doctor to say which one is correct," Pederneiras told assembled media after Shooto Brazil 55 in Rio de Janeiro.

"I know he’s injured and this rib injury is painful. He’s using anti-inflammatory and we will wait to see if he gets better. The fight is on, and we’ll check him again next week."

That week is now this week. Pederneiras went on to say that Aldo is resting completely right now and undergoing some fancy treatments to help him heal.

Now, before you go off saying that either the fighter’s camp or the UFC is trying to serve up a healthy portion of malarky, remember that oftentimes bone bruises are just a shade away from a fracture, and that different doctors can give different interpretations of the same image scans. The only thing we can say with certainty at this point with regards to Aldo’s fighting presence at UFC 189 is that – contrary to what you may have heard – there is nothing certain, yet.

"We will only have this answer [this] week," the coach/manager said.

"He’s under treatment. He did an injection and is under a PRP [platelet-rich plasma] treatment, and is waiting to get better. They take his blood, use only the good plasma, and inject it on the injury. The fight is 15 days away. Doctors say he will get better day after day. We can’t say how he will feel 15 days from now."

That cautious approach seems appropriate given the potential seriousness of rib injuries. Broken ribs can get worse, and sometimes protrude and puncture organs, risking internal bleeding and even death.

Unfortunately, the regulating body for Las Vegas’ UFC 189 (the Nevada Athletic Commission), who in their own mission statement describe part of their role as ensuring "the health and safety of the contestants," are once again taking a position that fighter health is none of their business and that the UFC can regulate themselves in an important matter. "If he’s hurt and he can’t fight, he’ll reveal it to us, or he should," the NAC executive director Bob Bennett recently told MMA Junkie.

"I understand they’re taking a look at it, and they’re evaluating him, and those are all questions that really should be directed at the UFC, because we’re working hand-in-glove with them. At this point and time, it’s not a regulatory issue.

"He comes in, he fills out a pre-fight questionnaire, and my ringside physicians go through their normal physical examinations. If he can’t pass the normal physical examination that’s done, we would get into additional questioning. But anything prior to that, if nothing’s revealed to us that prohibits him from fighting, just like every athlete has some type of injury prior to an event, whether it’s baseball, basketball, or football – everybody’s injured to a certain extent. But if he’s hurt to the extent that he can’t fight, I’m sure the UFC is going to let us know, and bring it to our attention."

That’s an alarmingly inappropriate stance for the director of the world’s most influential fight commission to take. The commission is charged with ensuring the health and readiness of competitors for fights, not waiting for mysteries to be revealed to them. Sometimes, that takes a little extra investigating.

What’s more, isn’t Aldo’s camp saying that he has a broken rib, publicly, enough of a revelation for the NAC to look into the matter further with, say, a relatively inexpensive x-ray of the champ when he arrives in Nevada, the results of which could be inspected by their own doctors?

Guess not. So, Nevada can book an expensive trip for an agent to go to Brazil and conduct a surprise test of Aldo (which they botched by not getting the proper paperwork done for their man. So, the results were reportedly destroyed because of improper procedure), but giving his badly injured ribs a more than routine look is beyond them.

That’s disappointing. It is also unfortunate to once again hear the commission director say that the UFC should, in effect, regulate itself and decide these own matters because, after all, the commission works "hand-in-glove" with the UFC. That’s a particularly poor choice of analogy given the big money which the UFC produces for Nevada in tax revenue.

We got a similar answer from the commission myself back when they tried to explain to us why only the UFC needed to be alerted about Jon Jones’ positive cocaine metabolites test. The commission did not step in and stop the fight between Jones and Daniel Cormier, out of concern for the health of Jones, who was in the midst of a taxing training camp while also apparently using cocaine.

Addidionally, they told us that the UFC should be the ones to decide if the fight against Daniel Cormier would go on, and whether Jones himself should be made aware of the test results.

That philosophy from the commission is based on either unintentional or willful ignorance of the conflict of interests involved in letting the UFC be the ones to decide matters of fighters health when they may conflict with their own desire to have big money fights go on as scheduled. In either case, it is disturbing.

Unfortunately, the NAC has to do it’s own job with meager funding from a state that makes big money off of big fighting. Oftentimes they simply don’t have the resources to do all that they should or want to.

Other times, they trip over their own feet in trying to do the right thing – like in their pre-fight testing of Jon Jones before UFC 182 where they tested him for things they later said they shouldn’t have, or in their fruitless testing of Aldo more recently. 

For now, the NAC is sitting out this issue of fighter health, and it is up to Aldo and the UFC to sort it out for themselves as if UFC 189 is not being regulated. In that wild West atmosphere, our earlier advice has to be underscored: When it comes to Jose Aldo’s health and readiness, nothing is certain, so don’t rush to believe anything you’re told.