Seemingly all UFC fight cards have seen some sort of dramatic change made to them lately and the next event is no different.
On July 11, the UFC Featherweight title was originally planned to be contested by reigning champion, Jose Aldo against #3 ranked challenger Conor McGregor.
However, another injury has sidelined the Brazilian born fighter yet again and a change had to be made; a change that may prove to be one that changes the landscape of the 145lb division permanently.
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Jose Aldo (25-1) has been on top of his division ever since becoming a pro in 2004. But, after Aldo sustained a fractured rib during training for the ninth straight title defense between the UFC and WEC, UFC president Dana White announced that due to the injury, #1 ranked Featherweight Chad Mendes would step up to face “The Notorious One” for the interim championship.
White pointed out that Aldo has had a history of pulling out title fights thus creating a dispute for the 145 lb. title for the first time since its inception into the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
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Chad Mendes (17-2) is a worthy replacement for Jose Aldo. “Money” has been nearly as dominant as Aldo over the past few years, with Mendes’ only two losses of his MMA career coming at the hands of “Junior”.
Aldo and Mendes fought for the first time back at UFC 142 where a knee strike knocked out the previously undefeated Mendes late in the first round. The rematch, however, was very different. At UFC 179, the two had a five round war in which many sources consider the 2014 Fight of the Year where both man showed off their skills and endurance.
Chad Mendes has long been considered one of the best fighters in a stacked Featherweight division but his performance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has elevated him to getting another shot at the belt.
Conor McGregor (17-2) has become over the past year one of the most recognizable stars in mixed martial arts. Partially due to his infamous trash-talking & cocky persona, McGregor has understandably rubbed more than a few people the wrong way, most notable Jose Aldo.
Seemingly, McGregor was on a collision course for a title shot after defeating Dustin Poirier at UFC 178 however a TKO victory over Dennis Siver in January cemented his future. After the referee stopped the bout, McGregor immediately vaulted himself out of the Octagon, into the crowd in Boston, Massachusetts and began screaming at Jose Aldo, who was sitting cage side.
Although no punches were thrown that night, the fight had begun. Dana White awarded McGregor a shot at the Featherweight title, effectively skipping over #2 ranked fighter Frankie Edgar (who had been previously promised a title fight earlier). Regardless, the championship was now in play.
Both fighters went on a world tour to promote the battle with both men engaging in wars of words at every turn. McGregor’s brass attitude was proven with his personal guarantee of his victory to become the UFC Featherweight champion by KO in the first round. We shall see how well he can predict the future on July 11.
As Jose Aldo heals, his championship reign suffers. Aside from Anderson Silva, Aldo has been the most dominant Brazilian champion in recent years.
For the first time ever, there will be a new man staking his claim as Featherweight champion and even though Jose Aldo will be the official titleholder, there will be a more than capable opponent waiting for him when and if he returns to defend what has been his ever since his UFC debut.
Chad Mendes vs. Conor McGregor has "Fight of the Night" potential written all over it and rest assured that Jose Aldo will be watching very closely at his next opponent on Saturday night.