When Conor McGregor won the UFC lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez in November, he became the first fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight classes concurrently, as he still owned the organization’s featherweight belt at the time. Yet given that it had been nearly a year since he’d won that featherweight title, and that he seemed to have no immediate plans to defend it, the UFC ultimately decided to strip him of it, ending his reign as two division champ as they did.
When they stripped McGregor of the featherweight crown, they promoted Jose Aldo – the man he knocked out to win it – back to undisputed featherweight champion. Given that Aldo had been knocked out by McGregor so recently, this was an immediately controversial move, as many fans and pundits posited that it’d be hard to consider him the real champ until he avenged his loss to McGregor.
In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com, however, Aldo explained that in his mind, he’s the legitimate, bona fide, undisputed featherweight king – loss to McGregor be damned.
“I consider myself the champion,” the Brazilian explained. “No, the way that I got the belt doesn’t affect how I view myself. I’ve always been the champion. The champion is the person that defends the belt, not the person that gets the belt and flees the division. I should have gotten an immediate rematch. It was completely warranted and what should have happened. It didn’t happen, though. When they gave me Frankie Edgar, I knew that belt wasn’t going to remain the interim belt. I knew Conor wasn’t coming back; everyone knew he wasn’t coming back. That’s the real belt. I’m the one that has defended this belt. I’ve been the king of this division for a long time. I’ve never not seen myself as a champion. I lost a fight. That’s it. I knew that I was going to be the champion of this division and that’s how I still see myself. I’ve always been the champion.”
Aldo also touched on McGregor’s repeated claims that he’s still the UFC featherweight champion.
First of all, I never stopped being the champion. When I lost to Conor, he should have rematched me right away. Like I’ve always said and done, the champion is the guy who defends the belt against all challengers. Guys who run from title defenses are not champions. All Conor did was he beat the champion. But he never did what he had to do to become the champion. He’s never been the champion of the featherweight division.
He’s two-faced. He says a lot of stuff to the press, but behind-the-scenes, he turns down fights left and right. He picks opponents, he picks events. He’s not willing to face challengers the way a champion should be ready to face challengers. That’s not a true champion. He spent a year without defending the belt, so his math doesn’t add up when he says, I was the champion for less than 12 months. He wasn’t the champion at all. He never defended the belt. He wanted to stall an entire division. That’s not being a champion. I’ve never seen Conor as the featherweight champion. He’s not the champion now. I’ve never stopped being the featherweight champion.
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