Jose Aldo rules the UFC featherweight division with an iron fist, but the competition to challenge for his title is fierce. There are several 145-pounders with a legitimate claim to contendership, and just as many that would make an interesting opponent for Aldo.
That is why it came as a rather large surprise when it was announced that Anthony Pettis—a lightweight—would be the next to challenge for the division title.
While many were instantly salivating at the prospect of the pairing, others were confused or outright angered.
The champion counts himself as one baffled by the decision, something he touched on when speaking to MMA Junkie.
There are already various contenders within the weight class. If someone just shows up and immediately challenges for the belt, he's cutting in line, and everyone sees that. I don't think it's fair. I think if you're going to drop down, then prove yourself by first having great fights within the weight class, and then you've earned the right to fight for the belt. That's how I think. But since we're already booked, no problem. I'll just go and win that fight.
Aldo's sentiments have been reflected by the UFC's larger stable of featherweight fighters who all have to move down a rung to make room for Pettis. Compounding their frustration is that Pettis will be the second straight out-of-division title contender to occupy Aldo's time.
In February, "Scarface" welcomed former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar to the division, defeating him via unanimous decision.
Aldo vs. Pettis is now set for UFC 163.
In the meantime, two of the division's internal title threats—Ricardo Lamas and Chan Sung Jung—will compete at UFC 162, presumably to determine the next in line for a title shot.
If Aldo decides to play the system that the UFC is pushing by importing title contenders, however, the wait for whoever wins that match may just get longer.
"If everyone is cutting in line, I might as well do the same thing," Aldo said. "I'd like to move up one division and have an immediate title shot. We took the Pettis fight with this in mind."
"It's [set]," he continued. "Exactly. We put that in [the contract]. It's black and white. When we accepted the Pettis fight, we brought that up right away. Since everyone wants to cut into our line, let's cut into their's too."
A move to 155 has long been speculated for Aldo, who suffered from some draining weight-cuts in the past. Should he decide to move up to 155 and fight for the title, it is uncertain that he'd ever return to his current class.
That's speculative, however, and it's far from guaranteed that Aldo indeed does jump to 155 post-UFC 163. The move would be especially unlikely if he fails to retain his featherweight strap against Pettis.
There is almost no way that the UFC would grant someone a title shot coming off a loss in another division. That has only happened twice in 2013.
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