Former featherweight UFC champion Jose Aldo made two statements on Saturday night at UFC Vegas 17: one with a post-fight callout and another with body art.
After outpointing Marlon Vera in the co-main event, Aldo immediately called out ex-champion T.J. Dillashaw, who in January is due to return from a two-year drug suspension.
For Aldo, the callout was strictly business after a previous loss to Petr Yan in a bout for the vacant title damaged his prospects for winning another piece of gold.
“I don’t have anything personal with T.J.,” he told reporters after the fight. “I just want to make great fights for the fans. I think T.J. is a great former champion, and I think this fight makes sense for everybody.”
Dillashaw quickly responded to Aldo on Twitter and let the gamesmanship begin.
Aldo now remains in the title picture with a win over the surging Vera, who previously halted the run of star Sean O’Malley. After three failed attempts to reclaim a belt, he and his team believe he is still on track to capture another UFC belt.
“After every fight, I sit with [my coach Andre] ‘Dede’ [Pederneiras] and talk about the future,” he said. “Always ‘Dede’ tells me, of course, one day you are champion again.”
Those who watched Aldo not only saw the ex-champ’s turnaround, but a distinct patch on his chest that UFC commentators initially said was a tattoo. As it turned out, it was a nod to Aldo’s past – and possibly a violation of the UFC’s athlete outfitting policy.
Aldo explained that the symbol was for the Brazilian Navy Seals, of which he had a link from previous boxing training a facility that also hosted Brazil’s Olympic boxing team.
“The truth, I didn’t know if I needed permission because it’s the Navy Seals, and I put it there in the hotel before I came here, and I warmed up for three hours without a shirt,” he said. “Nobody told me anything. I don’t think it’s a problem because it doesn’t have any sponsor information. If I caused any problems, I apologize.”
After one year and three bouts as a UFC bantamweight, Aldo no longer feels alien to the 135-pound division. When he first made the drop, he and everyone else questioned whether he could take off 10 pounds from an already lean frame. But with changes in diet – save for his beloved hamburger habit – he made the adjustment.
Now, he feels like he can make the weight “easy.”
In the final round of the bout against Vera, Aldo also took the advice of his coach and his wife to seal his win.
“‘Dede’ told me that the fight is 1-1, and I need to change the name,” he said. “He told me to put it on the ground. Before I left [Brazil] for the fight, my wife told me she had a dream where I took the back and finished the fight. I tried to finish him.”
Just before taking the stage at the post-fight presser, Aldo broke the news of his win to his wife, who was thrilled to play a part.
“She told me, ‘I told you! I told you! You need to get the back and finish him!’” he said with a laugh.