There haven’t been as many pictures of ribs on the web since Tony Roma’s last major marketing campaign. UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo is showing his off all over the place in both defiance and affirmation after pulling out of his much ballyhooed title defense next week in Las Vegas against the brash media darling Conor McGregor.
And if the UFC hadn’t planned it better, then number 189 would have had a takedown of serious consequences for the fans and those who planned to watch on PPV. Instead when Aldo first announced he had a rib injury, there was no hesitation that in no way shape or form that the organization was going to lose it’s most high profile non-champion McGregor in the main event. Enter Chad Mendes who has twice lost title bouts to Aldo and in the last one particular considered the Fight of 2014, showed he is, if not yet a champ, he’s worthy of being mentioned as one of the best in the division. Maybe the most worthy next to the fast rising, fast talking and attention garnering Irishman he will now face.
It isn’t as appealing as having the champ fight of course, it isn’t in any division, but under the circumstances the Plan B to have Mendes at the ready should Aldo’s ribs not heal in time deserves an “A” for foresight and competitive balance. Whether he is the match for the fiery-hot McGregor won’t be known for a week, but on paper it doesn’t look like a desperation move or happenstance in any way. That losing showing to Aldo last year still resonates with fans and Mendes as he mentioned this spring on Inside MMA. He has been talking for a shot at McGregor and has amped up the rhetoric with a barrage of tweets and interviews promising not only victory, but a dominating as well.
Aldo is upset that some are upset that he again won’t be able to defend his belt, thus the campaign of his own to legitimize an injury that might be looked at with skepticism in some circles. But he is the enigmatic champ of the UFC, their only one since they started the featherweight division and Aldo carried over the WEC title he won in 2009 with a current record seven title defenses, or two more times than he has had to pull out, delay other fights with an assortment of injuries. Seven title defenses isn’t the makeup of a lazy or overly careful man and this latest withdraw only compounds the frustration in his camp over those who would say otherwise.
The UFC had promoted this showdown between the consistently dominating Aldo and McGregor, not quite three years removed from winning both the featherweight and lightweight titles in the Irish based Cage Warriors promotion. They jetted all over the place, posing and talking a lot to a lot of people, mostly done by the more flamboyant McGregor who is 5-0 in the UFC. Never has a lighter weight class been such the center of attention.
Given Aldo’s track record of injuries the UFC was in no way going to lose the momentum for the anticipated sell out crowd on a card feature Robbie Lawler defending for the first time his welterweight belt against Rory MacDonald as the other co-main. Mendes and McGregor will fight for the interim strap, that alone has stuck in the crawl of the Aldo camp as well and even more rib pictures to again verify he is injured.
It is a win-win and maybe win for the UFC. Mendes and McGregor will not back down from hype just they way they won’t back down from each other in the octagon. Mendes is California cool to McGregor’s heated personality, both very marketable whichever one wears the temporary belt and that Aldo is showing more passion for being on the sideline than ever before, he might return sooner with a vengeance not seen before to unify a belt he feels shouldn’t be on the market to start with this time.
Plan B is as good of a backup as anyone could want.
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