Andre Pederneiras (left) says a move to lightweight is unlikely for Jose Aldo. | Photo: Marcelo Alonso
In the minutes and hours since Jose Aldo trounced Chad Mendes at UFC 142, the question has returned to the lips and fingertips of MMA fans and pundits. It’s a proposition the featherweight ace has heard before, and one which has been asked of many dominant prizefighting champions: What could he do at the next weight class up?
According to Andre Pederneiras, Aldo’s trainer and the leader of Brazilian squad Nova Uniao, the question won’t be answered anytime soon.
“If it depends on me, it won’t happen. Unless he leaves the team to train somewhere else and someone agrees with that, because I will not,” the coach joked in an interview with Sherdog.com. “It won’t happen for now, unless he goes straight for a title shot. Not, ‘Oh no, he left the featherweight belt, moved up to lightweight and started from the beginning,’ no way.”
At Saturday’s post-fight press conference in Rio de Janeiro, UFC President Dana White left open the possibility of Aldo moving up to challenge current lightweight titleholder Frankie Edgar, but ultimately left the call to “Scarface” and his team.
“I would have no problem with him staying at his weight now and defending his title there or moving to 155 pounds, whatever he feels like he wants to do,” said White.
Talk of Aldo shifting weights got new legs after his rousing finish of Mendes, a previously unbeaten stud wrestler from Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male who many viewed as Aldo’s toughest remaining test. The next obvious contender, former Shooto and Sengoku titleholder Hatsu Hioki, saw his prospects cool after a lukewarm win over George Roop in his October UFC debut.
Crucial to Aldo’s victory was takedown defense, which the champ used to shut down seven Mendes takedown attempts. While Aldo spent time sharpening his wrestling with lightweight contender Gray Maynard during his most recent training camp, Pederneiras asserts that the complete fighter on display Saturday was a result of much more than three months’ work.
“The staff of the academy trains every day for this, and Aldo has been training since he came to MMA,” he said. “This training wasn’t done in three months, but over five years. So, he put into practice what he has done in these three months, the physical, and that was it.”
In the end, Aldo’s ability to stay vertical and escape from Mendes’ grasps set up a blistering, highlight-reel finish. But while his in-cage skills may be rapidly maturing, the 25-year-old from Manaus showed after the win that he still has plenty of youthful exuberance. In a repeat of his celebration at WEC 38 in San Diego, Aldo sped out of the cage as soon as the fight was stopped and dashed into the crowd at Rio’s HSBC Arena, where he was engulfed by a sea of his ecstatic countrymen.
“I expected him to do something stupid, especially here,” Pederneiras laughed, producing from his pocket the Flamengo soccer jersey which Aldo was supposed to wear after the win. “He did [the same thing] in San Diego and he had to hear a lot from the commission staff. But here, with all that crowd, I knew.”
Leonardo Fabri contributed to this report.