With the proposed featherweight championship unification bout between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway out of consideration for UFC 208 on Feb. 11 in Brooklyn, N.Y., could an interim lightweight title fight be on the drawing board?
According to Aldo, who spoke recently with MMAFighting.com, his next fight could be a bout for an interim lightweight championship.
“I now expect and believe I will be fighting in early March. Either March 3 or March 4, I can’t remember. I believe they will soon announce an interim lightweight title fight with me,” Aldo said, after stating that the UFC 208 fight with Holloway would not be happening. “They’ve been trying to find me an opponent, and — surprise, surprise — at least one has already turned down the fight against me. I’m waiting to see who they will find.”
But an interim lightweight title fight? So soon after Conor McGregor won the title at UFC 205 in November?
That very well could be. It’s no secret that the promotion is hurting for title fights to headline its upcoming early 2017 pay-per-views.
The UFC recently shuffled its 2017 schedule, moving a planned Jan. 21 pay-per-view in Anaheim, Calif., to August. Officials also caved to demands to build a women’s featherweight division, but was unwilling to wait for the woman everyone felt the division should be centered upon, Cris “Cyborg” Justino, to be ready to return in March. Why? Likely because they are running short on active champions.
McGregor is taking a maternity leave of absence, Demetrious Johnson is injured, Amanda Nunes and Dominick Cruz are fighting on Dec. 30, Michael Bisping is on the mend as is Daniel Cormier, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Stipe Miocic are taking breaks.
With a Holloway injury taking him out of the Feb. 11 fight, it would be a gamble to count on him for UFC 209 on March 4 in Las Vegas, when the promotion needs a marquee headliner. So manufacturing an interim lightweight title fight might be the route the promotion goes.
While most attention in the lightweight division, with McGregor on the sidelines, has focused on No. 1 ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov and No. 2 ranked Tony Ferguson, opting for one of them to face Aldo could give the UFC several options.
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If Aldo were to win, he would become the second man in UFC history to hold two divisional belts simultaneously. There would be some obvious asterisks, though, as he was elevated to featherweight champion from his interim designation without a fight, and the lightweight belt would be of the interim variety; unlike McGregor, who held both the featherweight and lightweight titles concurrently.
Should Aldo win an interim fight, it could set up a blockbuster showdown with McGregor upon the Irishman’s return.
Even if Nurmagomedov or Ferguson were to win an interim title fight with Aldo, defeating someone of the Brazilian’s stature would elevate either man into a more marketable position for a unification bout with McGregor.
So far, however, Aldo didn’t have much information about such a fight beyond his belief that it is likely to happen.
Asked about who turned down the opportunity to fight him in an interim lightweight title tilt, Aldo said, “You gotta ask the UFC that. They’ve asked me not to say anything. I won’t say who it is because it’s a surprise. A guy we never thought would turn it down turned it down, because his father didn’t think it was good.”
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