Cathal Pendred: Jose Aldo may already be beaten - As soon as you talk about retirement you're done
Cathal Pendred attributed a waning desire as the principle factor behind his retirement from MMA and it’s that exact neurosis he believes will lead to Jose Aldo’s downfall when faced with Conor McGregor at UFC 194 this weekend.
A refrain often pedalled by those who earn a crust in the neurotic world of mixed martial arts is that fighting is 10pc physical and 90pc mental.
Since there’s no tangible way of measuring this assertion, it’s probably best we take them at their word. Since his emergence on the global stage, McGregor has proved himself to be the sport’s undisputed antagonist-in-chief. Even his greatest detractors would be hard pushed to deny him that particular accolade.
All six of his previous UFC opponents have been subjected to the now customary verbal assault and, in that vein, he has given featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo similar treatment since they were first matched last January.
This included on an unprecedented world media tour in March, when the constant interaction between the duo appeared to have driven the Brazilian to near distraction.
After a rib injury caused Aldo to pull out of their bout scheduled for July 19 at UFC 189, the Dubliner was far from complimentary. Nor has he been in the interim. The 27-year-old's victory over Chad Mendes saw him capture the interim featherweight title only served to further ratchet up the anti.
Finally, after almost a year of waiting, Aldo and McGregor will conclude their business on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and, in no short thanks to the SBG man, the whole affair has acquired a very personal dynamic.
For McGregor’s friend and teammate Cathal Pendred, making it so was Aldo’s first mistake and will be to his great detriment.
“He’s taken everything Conor has said to him personally, which is even worse for him,” he told Independent.ie.
“The scariest thing if you’re fighting Conor is the belief he has in himself. I’d say Aldo thought before that, that Conor was just this guy who talked sh** and was just looking for camera attention.
“But when they went on that tour, he saw that Conor actually believed every word he said and is the most confident guy you could ever meet. That’s got to be scary when you come up against it. I’m sure Aldo saw in his eyes that this guy truly believes he can beat him, and that’s a scary prospect.”
Of course, Aldo isn’t just another contender to be toyed with. This is a man who has not lost in over a decade, the only featherweight champion in UFC history and, without any shadow of a doubt, the most ferocious striker McGregor will have ever encountered.
Though, at times, he has cut a figure of indifference, disdain even, when forced from relative obscurity in Rio to either defend his title or fulfil media obligations. He has made reference to his impending retirement which, according to Pendred, makes him unduly vulnerable.
“I half think he nearly would have retired now, but kind of feels like he has to shut Conor up. I think you have a shelf-life as a fighter and I think he’s done because of what he says himself.
“He talks about retirement and, from my own experience, as soon as you think about it that means you’re pretty much are done. In my mind, he’s got one foot out the door already. In MMA you can’t do it half-heartedly; you’re either all in or all out.
“I don’t think he’s physically done, because he’s only 29. I didn’t give up because I’m physically done; I’m only 28 and not even in my prime, but mentally I feel like I’ve given everything and I don’t have that drive in me, and I kind of the feel that’s what it’s like with Aldo.
“I really don’t feel that he’s arsed, or as passionate as he once was. I see similarities in what I felt in myself, that the drive is gone from him.”
Aldo was inherited by the UFC when they absorbed the WEC in 2010 and his arrival was greatly anticipated. His performances in the latter promotion were never anything but spectacular and the UFC honoured his position as their 145lbs.champion.
Yet, his seven subsequent title defences have all too rarely replicated those showings and, even as he undid contender after contender, the division failed to catch alight.
That is, until the Aldo’s forthcoming opponent entered the fray and the status quo was forever changed.
For Pendred, the combination of the outspoken Dubliner's unflappable self-belief and his unorthodox assaults will bring about the end of the Brazilian’s reign, the longest of any of the current UFC champions.
“I’m really, really confident that he’s done and this is a worst case match up for him, and it’s going to end badly for him. That’s me being unbiased; people won’t believe me but that’s honestly the way I look at it.
“He’s coming up against the type of guy he’s never fought before; there is no fighter out there like Conor. You don’t what to expect from Conor so it’s hard to even prepare for him. On the top of that, there’s Conor’s range and the way he fights.
“I can tell you for an absolute fact that when Conor steps into the ring that night he will absolutely 100pc believe he is the better fighter and not just by a little bit, but a country mile.
“That’s why he performs so well; he believes the guy he’s standing across from doesn’t even deserve to be in there with him. He just obliterates them,” he said.