It's the UFC event of the year. Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor is a spectacle that has reached far and wide, spanning across eight different cities in five countries as the two headlining men trotted the globe on a trash-talking voyage. From Dublin to Brazil; London to Las Vegas, Aldo and McGregor's pre-fight bickering on the UFC's exhaustive world tour has seduced a global audience.
With all the time, money and effort devoted to the McGregor/Aldo show, it's easy to forget there's another blockbuster title fight in the co-main event of UFC 189. Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor is an event in and of itself: so grand in scale that the welterweight championship clash between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald feels like an insignificant drop in a titanic ocean. The astronomical Aldo vs. McGregor hype has swallowed every other fight on the card; serving as the ravenous main course after a fixing of appetizers.
Jose Aldo's last minute rib injury, however, has all but crippled the main event.
On June 23rd, it was announced that Aldo had suffered a devastating injury in training and that his championship showdown with McGregor was in serious jeopardy. Then, it was revealed that Aldo's suspected fracture was in fact just a bruise. Then, a conflict between the Brazilian and American medical authorities broke out. Brazilian reports say Jose had suffered a fracture while US doctors diagnosed a bone bruise. All the while, the featherweight champ has remained as quiet as a church mouse, leaving his investigative head coach Andre Pederneiras to make sense of it all.
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All this kerfuffle has been draining. It's sucked the life out UFC 189 and it's partly Jose Aldo's fault. This late injury is no lone incident. If Jose Aldo does pull out of UFC 189 it will mark the fifth time he'd have to reschedule a title fight. SPORTSJoe's Darragh Murphy provided a breakdown of Aldo's injury complications on Thursday:
"UFC 125 - Aldo had just been named the first UFC featherweight champion after the organisation adopted the 145lb weight division but his first defence against Josh Grispi quickly became a non-event when the Brazilian withdrew from the card, citing an injury.
UFC 149 - Another undisclosed injury put the kibosh on Aldo's planned bout with Erik Koch in July 2012 which led to teammate Renan Barao's interim bantamweight fight with Urijah Faber being moved to the main event. .
UFC 153 - Erik Koch would have been cursing Aldo's training partners when the rescheduled title fight was also scrapped after the Nova Uniao fighter damaged his foot in training.
UFC 176 - This event was just the second time that the UFC had to cancel an entire pay-per-view when Jose Aldo fell out of his scheduled fight with Chad Mendes after a shoulder injury late on in training meant that he couldn't compete."
That's an extensive list of injuries for a fighter reaching his athletic prime at 28-years-old. More knocks and bruises in the gym could stunt his longevity in the sport. Perhaps, like Cain Velasquez, the Brazilian should reassess his training methods and take his foot off the gas in sparring practice. Gutting it out until the end of the round after almost suffering a shattered rib isn't 'tough' or wise. At least not in the training room.
Now, on the eve of the most promoted fight in UFC history, the injury-riddled champ may have to withdraw from another main event. This time, however, there won't be any rescheduling. Chad Mendes will battle with Conor McGregor for the interim featherweight championship if the Nova União captain opts out.
Although Mendes vs. McGregor is a compelling bout and an intriguing stylistic matchup, it's not what we were promised. Neither is McGregor vs. Aldo. It's a far cry from the prime vs. prime featherweight spectacle we'd all envisioned - because Jose Aldo got injured. Again. And this time, the consequences are devastating.
If McGregor usurps the champ, it will count for nothing. He fought a 'ribless' Aldo, after all. 'If McGregor fought a healthy Aldo, the result would have been completely different!' This is the excuse-laden aftermath that awaits if (when) the Irishman dethrones his Brazilian nemesis. The crafty champion already has his pre-fight excuse in the books to completely discredit his opponents' win.
If Aldo manages to soldier on and adds another championship feather to his cap, the UFC McGregor money-making machine will crash and burn. Not being able to beat a bruised-ribbed champion spells disaster for McGregor and the UFC. It'll be hard to market a rematch if McGregor loses, but if Aldo loses, you can bet he'll be booked to avenge his loss - similar to how teammate Renan Barão was promised vengeance on TJ Dillashaw after losing at UFC 173.
We could still be treated to an Octagon frenzy in two week's time. A rock'em sock'em slugfest or a technical chess match of the highest level. It could still dazzle and entertain and provoke two patriotic nations to collide in a war of words and bellow of chants at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but it won't be what was promised.
Much like when Anderson Silva fought Chael Sonnen for the first time in 2010, the bout was marred with post-fight controversy because of Silva's sore ribs - (and Sonnen's failed drug test) expect the outrage to be exemplified tenfold when UFC 189 concludes on July 11.