Last week was a particularly wild MMA rollercoaster. News broke that an injury sustained in training may prevent Jose Aldo from fighting Conor McGregor. While all around him were losing their heads, one man stayed calm and collected throughout.
At first it was thought that Aldo had broken a rib during sparring and would not be cleared by doctors to fight. After examination the injury was diagnosed as bruising and cartilage damage. A few days later the doctors seemed to disagree exactly what the problem was.
Without getting too Donald Rumsfeld about the whole affair we should take a leaf out of Conor’s book and stick to the ‘known, knowns’.
Here are four things we know about the main event fight on July 11th at UFC 189.
1. Conor McGregor will be fighting someone
This is what Donald would call the ‘known, knowns - things we know that we know’. In an interview with the UFC commentator Jon Anik on Saturday night during the UFC Hollywood event Conor was asked has the whirlwind of news put him off his preparation stride. Conor’s reply put everything in perspective. – “It’s been a familiar week in the fight business… many people sign on the dotted line and don’t show up, its part of the fight business. I carry on as a professional. I will show up on July 10th at 145lbs and then I’ll show up on July 11th to win the belt.”
2. Jose Aldo is badly injured
Anyone who has got a bang in the ribs will know it’s a debilitating pain. Worse still, there’s not a lot you can do to speed recovery other than ice and pain killers.
On a recent podcast, UFC veterans Chael Sonnen and Rich Franklin discussed the effects of a rib injury. Both were reminded of times they had rib cartilage damage but thought they had broken ribs so intense was the pain.
They recalled how turning in bed at night and even breathing with sore ribs became exercises in pain management.
Whether Jose Aldo’s ribs are broken or he has cartilage damage he is injured. He will be on reduced training and more than likely will be below 100% when he arrives in Las Vegas in July.
How this will affect his performance only time will tell. If you need evidence of how much a rib injury can affect performance, watch Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen at UFC 117. Silva entered the fight with injured ribs and looked astonishingly below par as Sonnen battered him for four and a half rounds. Silva managed to sink a deep triangle choke to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
3. There will be a title on the line
While doctors are still going back and forth about an exact diagnosis for Aldo’s injury he has said he will turn up and fight. Some people are speculating that this has more to do with the estimated $3 million he stands to lose by not fighting.
This is a little unfair. Aldo is the only champion the UFC featherweight division has ever had and is undefeated in nine years and 18 fights. He’s fought the top featherweights put in front of him. It would be hard to imagine after all the bad blood from the press tour earlier in the year that Aldo has lost his appetite for competition.
In the event that Aldo is not medically cleared to fight, Chad Mendes has been asked to prepare as a potential replacement. Given he’ll be stepping up on short notice and the UFC have poured a massive amount of money and effort into promoting the event, an interim title will be up for grabs.
Naturally, everyone would prefer a fully fit Aldo defend his title but a stern test against Chad Mendes will answer a lot of the questions circulating about McGregor’s ability to deal with an accomplished wrestler.
4. Whether or not it’s at UFC 189, McGregor and Aldo will fight in the future
If injury prevents Aldo from fighting on July 11th it’s highly likely he will still fight The Notorious at some point in the future. If McGregor beats Mendes this should set up a nice unification bout to merge his interim title with a recovered Aldo’s proper title late in 2015 or early 2016.
If Mendes manages to beat McGregor he can expect the unification bout with Aldo. McGregor would most likely be one fight away from a title challenge partly due to Aldo having beaten most of the top featherweights already and but mainly because Conor has also proved he is a draw, so it makes sense to keep him active in big fights.
Regardless of who turns up, The Notorious is as confident as ever. His parting shot in the interview was aimed at Aldo first and then Mendes - “Step up to the plate and fight like a man, fight like the champion you should be… I wouldn’t like to step in and fight me, I’d probably go running too so if it ends up to be Mini Mendes I’ll smoke him too. I hope Jose shows up and fights like a man.”
The Dubliner didn’t hold back during the course of the Saturday night interview.
The SBG stand out laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Brazilian for the injury. Instead of bringing in new training partners to mimic McGregor, he believes Aldo should have stuck to what he knew.
McGregor moved his entire training camp including team-mates to Las Vegas three months out from UFC 189.
“This is the way it should be done… You should not be bringing in random new people. The people who got me to this level are the people I train in with day in and day out. So they are the people who are here with me in Las Vegas” explained the title challenger.
He went a little further when asked would he target the injured area. Not looking to benefit from a cheap shot the former amateur boxing champ reaffirmed he would be focusing on a KO, not a TKO.
Chan Sun Jung (The Korean Zombie) dislocated his shoulder in the fourth round of his title fight with the champion. Aldo spotted the injury and aimed numerous high kicks at the injured area that ultimately led to the stoppage.
Conor rejected the idea of following similar tactics - “I’ve told him not to worry about the rib. I’ve told him to worry about his chin that’s what I’ll be hunting. I intend on cracking him on the chin and stiffening him up. I will not purposely target an (injured) area as he did with The Korean Zombie. I will target the chin” the Dubliner described.
Like all the fight fans, Conor wants to fight Jose Aldo for the real title. Naturally, when the Notorious talks there’s always a nice little verbal gem that sums up the situation. In this case it was the advice he offered Jose – “A little bit of ibuprofen, a little bit of ice and a little bit of toughen the f**k up.”