Just a few months ago, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo was complaining about his pay — which at UFC 169, where he made his last title defense, was $120,000 to show and double that to win. Compare that to Alistair Overeem, who made $285,714 to show took home over $400,000 to win, or Frank Mir, who made $200,000 to show and were both on the card as well, and you can see why. Neither Mir nor Overeem are current UFC champions. Aldo is, and holding a championship belt should mean something.
Undefeated in the promotion, Aldo is the inaugural and only featherweight champ the UFC has ever known. “Scarface” has dominated the competition, offing names like Frankie Edgar, Chan Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas, Kenny Florian, Mark Hominick and Chad Mendes (who he will meet again at UFC 179). Outside the UFC, he has also beat Urijah Faber and top featherweight Cub Swanson. In other words, Aldo has faced the best of the best and keeps on winning. So why isn’t he making more, and why don’t fans pay him as much attention as even Anthony Pettis a single weight class up?
The arguments have generally been a language barrier with fans outside Brazil (Aldo isn’t proficient in English; like most Brazilians he speaks Portuguese), the general lack of attention fighters get in the lower weight classes and a lack of self-promotion as well.
Language barriers are tough to overcome, especially when you have the busy schedule a UFC champion does — not to mention a relatively short time where learning the language really helps — though Aldo’s title reign has been longer than most. Still, fighters like Junior Dos Santos, who has really improved his English over the years, should be commended but seen as exceptions. Aldo simply may never get to that point, but that doesn’t detract from his skill in the cage; it just means he needs to find other ways to sell himself other than on the mic.
So we come to his upcoming second bout with Mendes. A month or so back, Aldo penned an open letter to Mendes that was widely translated into English and showed the first hints that Aldo was learning the promotion game. Responding to Mendes’ belief that he was feigning injury to duck the rematch, Aldo had the following to say:
“Concerning my injuries, maybe I have so many because I’m probably not taking the same ‘supplements’ you take. I have injuries because I work very hard to beat your *** as I did last time. And I think you remember well, and have nightmares about it to this day. I did all the necessary medical tests, but if now you are also a doctor, I can send the exams for you to evaluate. Maybe you could prescribe one of your supplements for me to get better faster?”
Clearly dripping with sarcasm, Aldo essentially accuses Mendes of being on performance-enhancing drugs, though there has never been any evidence of that being the case. The letter goes on and shows that Medes has basically sparked the ire of Aldo; but has he really, or is this, again, just Aldo finally learning the game?
If that’s the case, there was more gamesmanship at UFC 179’s media day today. In a stare down caught on camera, the two fighters got face to face without any apparent issues. However, after the press moment, when the two get close again, Aldo shoved Mendes back fairly hard, and UFC personnel were forced the intervene.
The incident is reminiscent of the recent Jon Jones/Daniel Cormier altercation, and the UFC will likely need to look at cracking down on these confrontations before they get out of hand. But how much is real animosity between fighters, and how much is hyping the fight? Aldo the villain is a role that he could probably sell even with a language barrier, and perhaps he has come to realize this.
Either way, whether you agree with them or not, these tactics work. We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out in the cage and how the UFC responds to another confrontation outside the octagon.