Things are not so cheery right now for UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
Just days after his friend and training partner, Renan Barao, lost the UFC bantamweight title to T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173, Aldo spoke in an interview with ESPN Brazil, where he talked about fighter pay and his drawing power for the promotion.
Throughout the interview, which was transcribed by Bloody Elbow, it becomes clear that Aldo feels that his back is against the wall. He sees himself as a star, yet he doesn't think the UFC sees him as a star. He feels that his pay is insufficient relative to other fighters and believes he's "devalued."
Aldo told ESPN Brazil:
I do feel devalued, for sure. Every fighter dreams to reach a level where he will make good money. I have other thoughts nowadays - I've been around the world, I have a big wide vision about that. ... We see a lightweight being paid as much as a beginner. We see a heavyweight non-champion and non-title challenger earning a lot more than us. This situation makes us a little sad but I have to keep battling, we can't lose our focus.
Still, he feels he's worth more, and it bothers him to see non-champions (like Alistair Overeem in the above UFC 169 salary link) earning as much or more than he does inside the cage.
Furthermore, Aldo notices that his marketability is considerably less than that of other stars. Whether the UFC doesn't push him enough or whether the public simply doesn't care about him enough, Aldo said that non-English speaking standouts like Anderson Silva and Renan Barao don't get the exposure they should.
Just as it appears Aldo is about to voice his frustrations over the matter, however, he remains cool and composed and comes to terms with that fact. In the end, that's not what matters most.
"What matters inside there is how we fight, not the language," Aldo told ESPN Brazil.
Coming after negative comments about fighter pay, however, it's clear that Aldo is a tad frustrated and disappointed with his current standing within the promotion. He has not lost since signing with the Zuffa-owned WEC in 2008, a stretch of 14 fights with the company.
And yet the disappointment is apparent in his tone and word choice. He's making a lot of money by most people's standards, but by professional athlete standards, and even UFC superstar standards, it might not fully reflect and reward his incredible run as champion.
Now, Aldo marches toward a rematch with Chad Mendes at UFC 176 in August. Should he win there, he will have nearly cleaned out the division, and superfight talks will undoubtedly rekindle.
Getting Aldo to actually participate in a supefight is another issue entirely, of course. If Aldo's recent comments are any indication, to actually make one of these high-profile scraps a reality, the UFC might just have to toss a few more dollars his way.