Former WEC and UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo has been a longtime proponent of unionizing fighters and improving fighter pay in the sport. But with the COVID-19 pandemic comes a slight adjustment in his stance.
Speaking with reporters at UFC 251 Media Day on Wednesday, Aldo cited the current economic climate as reason that this isn’t the right time to make a push for a fighters’ union.
“I think this is a horrible time to do that,” Aldo said (via MMA Fighting). “We see so many companies going bankrupt, people losing their longtime jobs, and here’s the UFC trying to make us work, trying to give us work. Look at all the money they’re spending. Look at everything they’re doing to get back and get us back into fighting.
“I do agree that there needs to be some type of union and fighter pay needs to be discussed, but right now just look at the families that don’t know what’s gonna be tomorrow, what’s gonna happen to them. Here we are, we have a chance to work. We’ve made it this far. It’s hard enough to get here, so this is not the right time to do that.”
This comes at a time when the likes of Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal have been at the forefront of the push for improved pay and treatment of fighters. Masvidal was at least able to have his own contractual demands largely satisfied, hence he’s headlining against welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on short notice.
You may recall that it was only four years ago that Aldo wanted to be released from his UFC contract after Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez was booked instead of a rematch between himself and McGregor in a featherweight title unification bout. Not only was he not released (obviously), but after years of being at odds with Dana White, he’s getting a title shot against Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight belt even though he’s on a two-fight losing streak.
As far as what he’s experienced on Yas Island, aka “Fight Island,” he’s got nothing but praise for the promotion and how they’ve handled everything thus far.
“I’m really happy, I’m really impressed with everything,” Aldo said. “The UFC’s making everyone feel really comfortable. The quarantine was fine, I didn’t have a problem with that. The whole process to come here, the whole infrastructure, everything that’s put in place,
“I’m pretty amazed and it’s kind of surreal to see all this happening. All this good happening in this bad time.”
UFC 251 takes place on July 11th from Abu Dhabi. The main card airs live on pay-per-view.