I’m excited to see Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo, as I’m sure you probably are. I mean, who out there doesn’t want to see an interdivisional superfight between two of the most athletic, exciting competitors populating the contemporary mixed martial arts scene?
The fight promises to be an epic, only not in the The Iliad or The Odyssey sense.
It will be epic in the way that the greatest Harlequin romance novel of all time is epic. It’s a quick, thoughtless extravagance. A guilty pleasure that will entertain you for a night, then leave you feeling regretful for indulging where you know better than to indulge.
Not that I've read a lot of Harlequins (Subtext: "I wonder if they'll buy it").
Now, you’re probably wondering why I have likened Pettis vs. Aldo to a genre of entertainment geared toward perpetuating the fancies of the sexually frustrated, and that's a fair question.
The reason, you see, is that like the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey belongs nowhere within an 800 mile radius of any text properly fitting into the cannon of English literature, Pettis vs. Aldo just doesn't fit into the current UFC landscape.
Basically, both are popular money-makers and buzz-creators, but fundamentally senseless in their creation.
First off, title shots for new division arrivals should only be given for one of three reasons.
One, a top-ranked fighter’s title aspirations are blocked within his own weight class (Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo). Two, a desperate situation demands it (Vitor Belfort vs. Jon Jones). Or three, a division utterly lacks a legitimate in-house contender (Belfort vs. Jones?).
Pettis vs. Aldo is none of these things. An argument could be made that Pettis is an elite UFC talent, but his promotional accomplishments certainly won’t blow you away—he’s 3-1 in the UFC, has never fought for a title and has zero wins over top-five opponents.
That’s not to belittle his recent achievements, which have been impressive. So impressive, he’s on the cusp of a title shot at 155. But is a three-fight win streak really enough to transcend divisional boundaries?
It’s not as though the featherweight class is void of viable title candidates. Guys like Chad Mendes, Chan Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson are all right there, and Dennis Siver isn't too far back himself.
Besides, it's not like Pettis is blocked at 155, only delayed.
So why go out of the division to find a contender when there are plenty already in-house? Logic seems to be in short supply here, especially since Pettis has said he'll be one and done at 145-pounds.
Speaking with Bleacher Report’s own Damon Martin, Pettis remarked, “I wouldn’t drop down to featherweight and try to stay down there and keep the belt, I just want to fight Aldo….”
A Pettis victory therefore means an absentee featherweight champion, one who would presumably vacate his title in pursuit of the lightweight strap. That’s the plan according to Pettis, anyway.
For sure I want to fight Ben Henderson. Ben Henderson is a guy that’s on my list, but he already had a bout contract signed, he’s fighting Gilbert Melendez, and unfortunately for me it’s a couple of months away,” says “Showtime.
Pettis’ desire to fight a pound-for-pound player for keeping busy's sake is very admirable. It’s the kind of drive every fighter should display. But logistically, it makes no sense.
Besides Pettis' suspect "featherweight" credentials, a fight with Aldo threatens to damage the legitimacy of the entire 145-pound weight class. Fans love the idea of dominant champions—like Aldo—and a Pettis victory and subsequent return to 155 rids the division of a deity and devalues the title in a big way.
Even if he were to return to 145 after challenging Henderson, the featherweight division—the real featherweight division—would have to wait until early 2014 to see another championship fight. That’s a long delay for a weight class that hasn't seen an actual featherweight challenger fight for the belt since Chad Mendes did it back in January 2012.
If Aldo were to beat Pettis, it would solve many of the long-term issues facing the featherweight division, but it would severely complicate things at lightweight. Would Pettis still be the No. 1 contender if he loses to a smaller opponent? If not, who fights for the title next?
Gray Maynard would probably be called upon to step in, but he really needs another win before becoming a truly viable challenger. Specifically, a win over Pettis would get him there.
It should, perhaps, be obvious, but Pettis vs. Maynard should come before Pettis vs. Aldo. It’s a meaningful, if not blockbuster fight that would establish an undisputed lightweight contender and leave the 145-pound division to raise a deserving contender on its own.
If Pettis beat Maynard, he could fight for the lightweight title. If he lost, maybe he could pull an Edgar and drop down, though he’d likely need one win before garnering a date with Aldo.
If Pettis and Dana White are firmly set on Aldo for his next opponent, a catchweight fight would be best, but that would still do nothing for the logjam at featherweight, nor the title picture at lightweight. All it would do is preserve an undisputed featherweight champion regardless of the result.
When it comes down to it, Pettis vs. Aldo is an awesome matchup that is shaping up to happen at the wrong time. It may dazzle for 25 minutes, but it will produce significant, lasting collateral damage.
Still, it’s difficult not to want. I remain intrigued, even perceiving the situation as I do.
I know the fight is an impetuous indulgence—one that will probably happen a couple years from now anyway—but I still want it now. I know it handcuffs four or five deserving featherweight contenders, but I still want it. I know that it could ruin the best lightweight fight of 2013, but I still want it.
I also want ice-cream for breakfast every morning, a mystical talking pet tiger that dispenses sage advice whenever I’m in need and a hover car with a built-in Dominos Pizza restaurant in the backseat.
I want all this, but unfortunately, none of it really makes sense. And neither does Pettis vs. Aldo.