My Surprised Sadness when Jose Aldo Lost – June 8, 2017

First off, I’d like to thank those of you who read this blog, whether it’s frequently or irregularly, as I set a new record for most monthly views and visitors in May.

Not surprisingly, I went to the bar to watch UFC 212 a few nights ago.  The bar was pretty empty by the usual UFC fight night standards, since the main card wasn’t the most attractive to the casual observer and was actually rather thin outside of the top 2-3 bouts on the main card.  What did surprise me, however, was how disappointed and sad to an extent I felt on the drive home after watching Jose Aldo get stopped in the third round by Max Holloway.

I’ve never been a Jose Aldo fan.  That sounds harsh, but if you were to ask me to list my favorite fighters, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned him.  That said, however, I never disliked him or went out of my way to cheer against him, I was just indifferent on him.  I appreciated his talent and considered him to be among the world’s best pound-for-pound, and I do feel that he’s the greatest featherweight to ever compete in mixed martial arts.  Maybe that’s why I felt a sense of disappointment as I traveled home in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

As I’ve stated before on here, I began regularly watching the UFC and MMA as a whole in late 2008.  The first featherweight title fight I ever watched live on television was WEC 41 in June 2009, when Mike Brown defended the title against Urijah Faber.  I’ve always had a thing about cheering against a promotion’s poster boy, so I cheered for Brown to win that night and from that point on I always considered myself a Mike Brown fan.  Fast forward to November 2009, when Mike Brown squared off against Jose Aldo at WEC 44 for the featherweight title.  Aldo defeated Brown in dominant fashion, finishing Brown 1:20 into the second round, and I was blown away by how decisively he won the title that night.  That started the Jose Aldo era in MMA’s featherweight division, and without knowing it at the time, I had just watched a legend’s career really begin to take flight.

Jose Aldo, in hindsight, was really the first dominant champion in MMA whose entire tenure as champion I really got to watch unfold right in front of me.  Sure, I got to see a good portion of Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre’s time at the top of the sport, but by the time I began watching the sport regularly those two were already established as dominant champs.  They were in the middle of their long title reigns.  In the case of Aldo, I got to watch his entire tenure at the top as it was happening.  I even had the privilege of watching him fight in person at UFC 169, when he defeated Ricardo Lamas via unanimous decision.

So for me, Jose Aldo represents the first dominant champion who I was able to watch execute his top talent as it was unfolding for the whole world to see.  I wasn’t just watching highlights years after the fact like I have with fighters such as Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Matt Hughes.  This was an elite fighter I was watching and appreciating at the same time of the rest of the MMA community.

Perhaps I’m overthinking things.  But I was just surprised at how I felt a little disappointed to know that I had watched a historical era in the featherweight division come to an end on Saturday night.

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Who’s the Real Champion?

I spent the weekend watching a great deal of mixed martial arts and boxing this weekend, as I attended a UFC event live, watched another UFC event on television, as well as a Bellator event and a boxing match on Saturday.  After watching combatants compete for the UFC “interim” featherweight championship, as well as boxing’s IBF heavyweight championship, it made decide to share my opinion on the current drama in the respective weight classes.

Who is the UFC Featherweight Champion?

Well, if you’re a fan of mixed martial arts or just a casual follower of the UFC, you know that Conor McGregor won the UFC’s featherweight title back a year ago today.  But he never defended the title, having fought twice at welterweight against Nate Diaz, and capturing the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez, and he recently vacated the featherweight title (whether he was stripped of the title by the UFC, or he voluntarily relinquished the belt is up for debate, but the moral of the story is that he’s not officially the UFC’s featherweight champion anymore).

So now the UFC recognizes Jose Aldo as their featherweight champion, the long-time champion who lost his title to McGregor, and the man who won the original version of the “interim” championship at UFC 200 in July when he defeated Frankie Edgar.  Aldo was promoted to the undisputed champion when McGregor vacated the title.  So then in the meantime, Max Holloway defeated Anthony Pettis for the new version of the “interim” championship on Saturday night at UFC 206.  So at the moment, Aldo is the “undisputed” champion and Holloway is the “interim” champion.  But in my opinion, the title is still vacant, and when Aldo and Holloway do fight to unify their two titles, that’s a when a new real champion will be crowned in my opinion.

The way I view things, is that the UFC without possibly realizing it made a mini four-man tournament consisting of Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, and Anthony Pettis to crown a new undisputed featherweight champion.

Who is Boxing’s Heavyweight Champion?

The answer to this question is much murkier than the answer to who’s the champion of the UFC’s featherweight division.  Tyson Fury had won the lineal championship (as well as the WBA, WBO, IBF, and IBO versions of the title) from Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015, but has never defended them due to a variety of out of the ring issues.  Furthermore, there’s the chance that Fury never even fights again.

In the meantime, the titles that he was forced to vacate have been assigned to new champions, with Joseph Parker holding the WBO belt now after defeating Andy Ruiz over the weekend, Anthony Joshua being the IBF champion after defeating Charles Martin in April, and Joshua scheduled to face Klitschko for the still vacant WBA title in April 2017.  Plus there’s also the WBC champion Deontay Wilder.

Of the three current title holders, I think that Joshua is the best of the three, and while Fury is still rightfully regarded as the lineal “man who beat the man who beat the man” champion, I feel that the winner of April’s Anthony Joshua/Wladimir Klitschko’s fight for the IBF and WBA versions of the heavyweight championship should crown an “interim” lineal champion as well in the event that Tyson Fury’s future is still in doubt by then.  Hopefully at some point, the winner of Joshua/Klitschko can either face Fury, or Wilder to further unify all the disputed versions of the champion to create a truly undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.