The featherweight division has a new king, and his name is Jose Aldo. His takedown defense and fierce striking were all he needed to wrestle away the WEC crown from the very game Mike Thomas Brown. At only 23 years old, the Brazilian sensation has shown the poise and maturity of a grizzled veteran.
Like many before him, Aldo has been labeled a “can’t miss prospect” by fans and media. Is Jose Aldo any different from the other fighters who have carried that tag? Jose Aldo has only been a professional fighter for five years, and with a record of 16-1, he has gained a reputation of finish first, asks questions later.
While Aldo worked his way through the 145 lb. division, it was apparent that we would someday hear Joe Martinez announce “Your winner and NEW Featherweight champion of the world, Jose Aldo.” Despite his undeniable talent, his unfamiliar role as champion could cast a shadow over his expected long title reign.
Time after time, we have seen the unbeatable either lose dramatically or have their aura of invincibility diminished. We saw it when Georges St-Pierre lost to Matt Sera. It was only twenty-eight days ago when the world believed Lyoto Machida was invincible as he was expected to walk through Shogun Rua. Twenty-four hours later, Machida’s cloak of invincibility was removed while winning a unanimous decision that many felt should have gone the other way.
History tells us to not expect the unattainable from these fighters as we tend to be let down like a sad kid on Christmas. Logic says we should sit back and let everything work itself out. If Jose Aldo goes on a tear, great! If not, then it wasn’t meant to be. MMA lacks that one fighter who transcends the sport and can bridge the gap between sports fans and everyone else. In Pro Wrestling, it’s Hulk Hogan. In boxing, it was Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. In mixed martial arts, it’s the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That is where the problem lies.
MMA is only 24 years old, while boxing has been around for hundreds of years and has had time to evolve. While MMA is rising in popularity every day, it’s boxing that comes off as the can’t miss spectacle. Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto drew 1.25 million buys on pay-per-view. Despite UFC 100 out-drawing that number by five hundred thousand buys, the Pacquiao fight was covered as a major sporting event by all the media outlets.
Manny Pacquiao is the number one pound-for-pound fighter in boxing and is one of the most popular sports figures. Sadly, except for Kimbo, no one in MMA can be placed in that category. Sure fighters such as Couture, Lesnar, Liddell and, Ortiz draw some attention. But they are not that popular with the average sports fan.
With mixed martial arts’ continued evolution, it’s a matter of time until a fight such as GSP vs. Dan Hardy is covered as extensively as a Red Sox vs. Yankees game. When that day comes, the sport will need a fighter who fans have no doubt is the baddest man on the planet. Jose Aldo just might be the perfect candidate. If the young fighter can keep his new life as a champion in check, he could be the one guy that bridges the gap. Oh, and don’t say it can’t happen because he doesn’t speak English. Manny Pacquiao seems to be doing just fine.