From the first day the UFC introduced the featherweight division, Jose Aldo has been the only person on the roster to hold the title, so it’s not hard to imagine how difficult it was for him to watch Conor McGregor get awarded an interim belt after his fight with Chad Mendes at UFC 189 this past July.
Aldo was supposed to face McGregor in the main event, but a rib injury that occurred just two weeks out from the show forced him to withdraw from the fight. Even now, nearly six months later, it’s still difficult for Aldo to talk about considering how much he wanted to be there that night to face McGregor.
"It was a very difficult moment for me," Aldo told FOX Sports recently. "Especially since I’m always really active and always training, helping everybody out. It was a really tough thing. It was really bad for a while. I couldn’t train, I couldn’t do anything.
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"It was a sad moment but I’ve just got to stay positive and move forward. Now I’m happy that I’m training, everything is going well, camp was good and I’m just looking forward to the fight."
As hard as it was to watch McGregor fight someone else, Aldo isn’t too concerned about the gold belt he’s toting around to press conferences and media obligations while calling himself champion.
Aldo knows — just like he wants the rest of the world to know — that there has only been one real featherweight champion, and it’s not Conor McGregor.
"First off, everybody knows that I am the champion. He’s just interim, he just walks around with a belt but everybody knows that I’m the real champion," Aldo said. "I don’t worry about what he does but I’m going to go in there and when I win, then everything will go back to normal.
I believe he got to where he is just by talking. I believe he’s behind Chad (Mendes) and Frankie (Edgar). He got here by marketing himself.
— Jose Aldo
"I’ll be the champion, and the only champion."
While McGregor is ranked No. 1 at featherweight as the interim champion, Aldo doesn’t actually buy his spot in the rankings especially when he sees two more dangerous and more accomplished contenders surrounding him.
Aldo looks at McGregor as a loudmouth, who was granted a title shot based on a loud mouth rather than what he actually did in the Octagon.
"I believe he got to where he is just by talking," Aldo said. "I believe he’s behind Chad (Mendes) and Frankie (Edgar). He got here by marketing himself. I’ve always believed he’ll be at the end of the line behind me, behind Frankie, and behind Chad."
Aldo is confident that he’ll beat McGregor just like he’s done every other featherweight contender who has tried to wrestle the title away from his grasp since he became champion in 2011.
As much as Aldo dislikes McGregor ahead of this fight, he knows that beating him at UFC 194 won’t make the outspoken Irishman go away, but it might silence him for at least one night.
After that, Aldo is sure that McGregor will worm his way back into title contention again, maybe following the lead of another prolific talker who fought for UFC titles on three occasions in two different weight classes during his career.
"I believe I’m going to win this fight and I have no doubt about it, but I don’t think he’ll go away. He kind of put Ireland on the map and he did a lot for the country so I believe he’s going to go a different way. He might go the Chael Sonnen way and maybe talk himself into another title shot, but I don’t think he’s going to completely go away because he did a lot for where he came from so he’s always going to be there," Aldo said.
There’s no denying the anger that simmers inside of Aldo every time he’s around McGregor, and that will only ratchet up even higher when the two of them come face to face next week at the UFC 194 press conference and then again at the weigh-ins 24 hours later.
McGregor will certainly do everything in his power to get a rise out of Aldo, but the featherweight champion promises on fight night he will be just as cold and detached as he’s been on the seven previous occasions he defended his UFC title.
"I’m not paying attention to anything he does. I don’t care what he does. I’m always focused, I stay focused and that’s how I’ve always been throughout my whole career," Aldo said. "When we get inside (the Octagon), that’s how I am — I’m calm, I don’t worry about anything else. I’m always just focused on the task ahead. I’ve always been like that."
For months leading up to the fight, McGregor had made any number of predictions on how long he believes Aldo will last once the two of them finally lock horns in the Octagon. Aldo isn’t nearly as brash when it comes to calling his own shot, but he promises that the destruction of Conor McGregor will be something the entire world will want to watch.
"I don’t care about his predictions or anything he says. I know how the fight will end," Aldo said. "I know how it’s going to go down. Many people that fought him said that he’s not that strong, he doesn’t punch hard, so I don’t worry about how he thinks the fight is going to go — I know how the fight is going to go on my side. That’s for you guys to see at the fight."