It would be unfair to say that a legacy created by a decade’s dominance was wiped out in a mere 13 seconds at UFC 194, when Jose Aldo’s switch was forcefully flipped by the left-hand of Conor McGregor.
But while hazy memories of Aldo’s greatness may live on, the prevailing perception of the man has certainly changed somewhat.
Once a dignified champion with an aura of calm confidence and a whiff of the invincible about him, Aldo has morphed into something else entirely in recent months. Previously satisfied to let his fists, elbows, knees and feet do the talking for him, the South American ‘Scarface’ is suddenly motor-mouthed.
His UFC 200 opponent, Frankie Edgar, claimed in an interview with MMAFighting not so long ago that Aldo’s new found verbosity was inspired by the man who ended his phenomenal title run. His McGregor-esque antics, said Edgar, were an attempt to generate McGregor-esque “buzz”.
‘The Answer’ may have been right about the Irishman’s impact on Aldo, but perhaps his reasoning was slightly askew.
It’s just a theory mind you, but maybe Aldo’s yammering is a sign of recently developed insecurity as opposed to a desire to self-promote. No longer entirely confident in his ability to communicate his superiority in brutally coherent hails of strikes, the former pound-for-pound king is asserting himself verbally, in an apparent attempt to convince everybody, himself included, that things haven’t changed.
He tells anyone who will listen that McGregor’s win was a fluke and has continually refused to accept that he even engaged in a fight at all. It was one punch, Aldo protests, as if that somehow disqualifies it.
While he has been consistent in this regard, his thoughts regarding his desire for a rematch seem scattered. At times the 29-year-old veteran has claimed that he has consigned the loss to the past, while at others he is threatening to fight the Dubliner in the street if no other avenue to vengeance presents itself.
The whole thing reeks of desperation and a confused psychological vulnerability.
When a dominant fighter, in any code of combat, suffers a brutal knockout like Aldo did in his last contest, there are always questions about whether they will ever be the same again. Outside the octagon at least, it seems as though the great featherweight is a different man.
Inside it…well we will find out on Saturday night.
Speaking to Fox News recently, Edgar indicated that he believes Aldo isn’t going to be the same in the wake of the devastating defeat as he was in their first encounter back in February 2013, a fight that the Nova Uniao representative won via unanimous decision over five rounds.
“It has to mess with you,” said Edgar. “Close losses mess with you, never mind getting knocked out with one punch. Especially to a guy like Conor, who is going to relish in it the way he does and talk about it the way he does, no one’s better than him with that.”
“I don’t want to say it was embarrassing because it can happen to anybody, but for Aldo, I think it was a little embarrassing. To be on top for so long and then have it happen like that to that guy. That’s definitely got to mess with him.”
It’s a belief that seems to have influenced Edgar’s gameplan somewhat, as the former UFC lightweight champion stated that he intends on testing his opponent’s chin, heart and desire in the early going, when Aldo’s self-doubt is likely to be at it’s strongest.
“It’s really going to come down to that night,” Edgar told Damon Martin. “I think if he’s looking to quit right now, those first couple of punches we’re really going to find out if he wants to step and say he’s still a fighter and he still wants this. A lot of people that get knocked out like that do lose that fight.”
“I do think if I hit him with some good stuff early on, he’s going to really be questioning himself. Not only is he going to question himself from his last fight, but he’s going to question himself in the first couple of minutes of our fight.”
“I get it done within three,” Edgar added confidently.
It’s seems like a sound approach, but wounded animals can act in one of two ways. They can lie down and give up or they can become absolutely savage. If Jose Aldo retains even the residue of the character that made him such a dominant force for so many years, Edgar could find himself regretting this strategy.
What makes this fight so interesting though, is the fact that, as Frankie put it, even Aldo doesn’t yet know the true impact of those infamous 13 seconds in Las Vegas last December.
“Maybe he’ll bounce back and be more motivated, but he himself won’t know until we step in there”.