Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
Nova Uniao head coach Andre Pederneiras believes Brazilian greats Rafael dos Anjos, Jose Aldo and Patricio Freire will cement their statuses as all-time greats soon.
Right after return from Las Vegas with dos Anjos, “Dede” Pederneiras spoke with Sherdog about his first experience in the corner of the former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion. Aware that dos Anjos was now the #6 ranked lightweight according to the UFC rankings, Pederneiras did not like the idea of dos Anjos as an alternate for the recently formalized Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier rematch.
“If UFC offers that, [dos Anjos] is the one who should choose, but I don’t think that would be a nice idea. I have no doubt that Rafael is coming to fight for the belt, so he doesn't need to hurry for that”, said Pederneiras, before recalling everything the athlete went through for that fight. “Definitely his body needs to rest at least 15 days. He passed through crazy stuff in that camp. First, he trained five weeks to fight three rounds against a southpaw elite grappler [Islam Makhachev], where [he] would need to keep the fight standing up. In the middle of the camp, he got COVID-19 with very strong symptoms. Twenty days later, he recovered and returned to train for the same opponent. But five days before the fight, the southpaw grappler was substituted by an elite right-handed striker in a five-round main event, [totally] changing the strategy. That was crazy!”
The Carlson Gracie black belt continued, giving props to Paul Felder as one of the best strikers in the division, saying, “Paul could give a hard time to any of the top 5 in a stand-up fight and Rafael exchanged blows with him for five rounds. Definitely [dos Anjos] deserves a physical and mental rest.”
Even being very happy with the great partnership with dos Anjos, Pederneiras was not sure if the former champ would do his next camp in Nova Uniao.
“I truly hope so,” Pederneiras wished. “But that's his decision. Every time Rafael comes to Brazil, he brings wife and kids in a gigantic change that costs a lot. He is the one who needs to evaluate, but for the Nova Uniao side, he will be always very welcome.”
Dos Anjos came to the camp to train with Aldo ahead of their bouts. Aldo will be taking on Marlon Vera on Dec. 19 at the year-end UFC card. Put simply, “Dede” believes that Aldo will knock Vera out.
“Vera is such a dangerous fighter, but I see Aldo is getting more adapted to the division each month,” Pederneiras admitted. “He is punching hard and I believe he will [get a] knockout this time.”
While Aldo is not the champion of any division right now and has moved to bantamweight, Pederneiras still fully believes that Aldo is the greatest featherweight to ever compete. One fighter that could one day challenge Aldo’s legacy is not even on the UFC roster: Bellator MMA two-division champ Freire. “Pitbull” recently scored a first-round knockout of Pedro Carvalho at Bellator 252 to advance to the featherweight grand prix semifinals.
“For everything [Freire] is doing in two categories in Bellator, I think he is the best featherweight in the [sport], period,” the Nova Uniao patriarch stated. “But when we talk about legacy, I see Aldo ahead of him. Of course, if he keeps doing what he is doing, one day, he might be the GOAT of featherweight division, but now Aldo is still the king.”
Other Brazilian fighters are moving up the rankings, including rising bantamweight and ex-Nova Uniao fighter Raoni Barcelos. Even though Aldo and Barcelos both compete in the same division and Barcelos is on his way up, Pederneiras was quick to dismiss a future matchup between the two.
“I also see Raoni with great chances in that division, but [as long as] Aldo and Raoni don't have the belt, I really don’t see the possibility of them facing each other,” Pederneiras declared. “There are many possibilities in the bantamweight division. Furthermore, UFC is not like Bellator where the category champion must face the [grand prix] champion and we needed to accept by contract a Nova Uniao fight between Marcos Galvao and Eduardo Dantas. We don’t need to do the same in UFC.”
The bantamweight divisions are flourishing in both the UFC and Bellator at the moment. This gives a longtime coach like Pederneiras hope.
“There are a lot of possibilities out there”, Pederneiras concluded optimistically.