The UFC has quite the quandary on their hands after Saturday’s UFC 164 fight card. Anthony Pettis’ coronation as the new king of the lightweight division has created a number of appealing options for the promotion.
That’s the upside of the situation. The downside is that no matter what UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby decide is the best option for the UFC and its fans, there will be a handful of fighters and fans saying that they made the wrong decision.
One interesting scenario is the fight that Pettis called for shortly after UFC president Dana White wrapped the UFC title belt around Pettis’ waist on Saturday night in Milwaukee. Pettis, during his in cage interview with Joe Rogan said, "Joe Silva told me to make his job easier. Jose Aldo, we have some unfinished business, my belt against your belt."
As callouts go, I don’t know if you’re supposed to let it be known that the man behind setting up the fights planted the seed for the callout, but hey, a callout is a callout.
A bout between Pettis and UFC featherweight champion Aldo was supposed to take place at UFC 163, but an injury to Pettis scuppered that fight, opening the door for Chan Sung to face Aldo on that card. Aldo won that fight by fourth round TKO, successfully defending his title. However Aldo paid a price during the fight, breaking his foot early in the first round.
A fight between Aldo and Pettis was intriguing prior to Saturday, with Pettis also holding an active UFC title it’s reached the level of superfight. As we all know the UFC has been hinting at some type of superfight for quite some time, and now the possibility exists for them to deliver that fight, but will they?
One hold up is that both divisions are stacked with legitimate contenders that could compete for those titles. The other hold up, according to UFC president Dana White, is that Aldo’s management team’s stance is making the featherweight champion appear afraid of the new lightweight champion.
Following Saturday’s fight White spoke at the post-fight media scrum and said that the Aldo versus Pettis fight was the most appealing fight to him, but:
Here's the thing. You can tell 100 percent Anthony Pettis is willing to go wherever it takes. I know that Jose's coach is saying, 'Bro, he can come down here at 145.' Because they think [Pettis would] be at a disadvantage whereas I actually think he'd be at a huge advantage at 145. He's big, strong. Either way, whether Pettis goes to Aldo or Aldo goes to Pettis, they’re going to fight.
When you come out and make a statement like that, you make it look like your guy is afraid of him. You make it look like Aldo is afraid. And that might not be Aldo's same opinion. It might be his manager saying, 'This is what I want to happen here.' But it makes it look like he's afraid of Anthony Pettis, which already gives Anthony Pettis an advantage.
It didn’t take White’s comments long to reach Aldo and his manager Andre Pederneiras in Brazil. Aldo, appearing on the Brazilian TV show Planeta Nocaute (h/t to MMAFighting.com) on Sunday had the following to say about being afraid of any fighter:
I can fight Cain Velasquez if they want. It’s not up to me, I’m not the matchmaker. I want to fight, I’m here to fight. I train everyday to destroy whoever they put in front of me. I’m not scared of anyone. They have two arms and two legs, and I will do my best and win.
The hang up, according to Aldo, has nothing to do with fear and everything to do with certain items that were promised to Aldo:
(Andre) is absolutely right. They forced us to do something and Andre wants something in return. I agree with everything Andre says, and I can fight anyone. Sometimes Dana says things that you better not pay attention. (Dana) knows he promised us things and he knows he has to give us, so that’s why he says those things. We’ll see what happens.
White has always been excellent at controlling the conversation and forcing things in the direction where he wants them to go. His planting the seed that Aldo is afraid of Pettis comes across in that manner. But when you have the bully pulpit and can mold public opinion and more or less force the fights you want to see happen take place, why not do so?
The problem is what does the UFC do with the top contenders in each division if the Aldo versus Pettis fight does take place? Or is the pull of a presenting a superfight so strong that nothing else matters to the promotion?
We’ll find out shortly, and when we do expect some fighters and some fans to be less than please with whatever decision is made.
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