By Joseph Sykes | Sports Editor
This Saturday, Conor McGregor steps into the Octagon at UFC 194 looking to drop that nagging “interim” tag from his Featherweight Championship. In order to do that, the 145-pound McGregor must defeat 29-year-old Brazilian titleholder Jose Aldo – a 25-1-0 jiu-jitsu black belt.
The fight between Aldo and McGregor is known as a unification bout, which means whoever emerges victorious will become the undisputed champion, but that’s not what makes this matchup so enticing. This dual is fueled by hate, with each side throwing verbal jabs at one another for nearly seven months now. What caused all this animosity? Let’s back track a little.
“Aldo v. McGregor” was originally scheduled for UFC 189 on July 11. However, Aldo backed out at the last minute claiming he suffered a rib fracture. The UFC reported no such injury occurred, though. Instead of facing Aldo, McGregor fought and ultimately defeated the American Chad Mendes for the interim title. McGregor was understandably frustrated that Aldo didn’t fight him and called the Brazilian out after knocking out Mendes in the second round.
McGregor’s lashing out toward Aldo is typical of the Irishman’s jaunty personality. After it was announced that the fight was back on for December, McGregor told the media that it would only take “one round” to defeat Aldo. “Four minutes. I’ll KO him.”
This sounds like standard trash-talk, which is a common activity fighters participate in, but it wasn’t until a September press conference when things got really out of hand. UFC president Dana White invited the two to center stage for a stare down, but almost instantaneously the two became entangled in a shoving match and had to be restrained.
The hostility between Aldo and McGregor is fascinating because at heart, these men are respected around the UFC, just not by each other. Mendes, who was knocked out by both McGregor and Aldo, praised both of their fighting styles during a press conference earlier this year.
“I’m just going to say Jose is a different beast, man,” Mendes told the media. “He’s a tough dude. [McGregor] is accurate. He’s got power, but he’s more accurate than anything. That’s a fight that I’m looking forward to watching. It’s going to be a good one.”
Mendes’ comments toward his fellow featherweights reflect what’s important in the world of mixed martial arts: the actual fight. All that trash talk will be silenced at the sound of the opening bell.
Well, not necessarily. Both Aldo and McGregor have been known to “flip the bird” at opponents and chew them out during breaks in the fight. Fans can more than likely expect some of that.
Nonetheless, the fight will be a great one. McGregor’s fighting style is riveting. His accurate punches and his excessive use of leg strikes never seem to quit. Aldo, on the other hand, favors defense, which can be seen in his knockout record – he only has two compared to his opponent’s 16.
This match is the last chapter in the story of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.