Former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo has opened up on the controversial referee stoppage that ended his recent bantamweight title fight with Petr Yan.
Aldo and Yan fought for the bantamweight title, which was left vacant when Henry Cejudo retired earlier this year, in the first of three title fights on the UFC 251 bill in July.
While Aldo had his moments in the early phases of the fight, Yan began to crank up the offence in the championship rounds. The fight ultimately ended in the fifth-round, when Yan pelted Aldo with a hellacious barrage of ground-and-pound—although many felt that referee Leon Roberts stepped in to spare the former featherweight champion too late.
In an interview with MMA Fighting, Aldo finally shared his own input on this stoppage. Contrary to the widespread backlash, he says the referee did “excellent” work.
“The referee was great, man – excellent work by the referee,” Aldo said. “It’s hard to think about stopping a title fight. If he stopped it early, everyone would talk about it. I wasn’t out at any moment. I went down and was trying to recover. Everyone who gets in there, or those who have been knocked down before, knows how the body reacts. You get slower, that’s a fact. Fighters who say it should have been stopped earlier are just kidding themselves. You get slower, you try to move, but it’s completely different.
“To me, the referee did an excellent job. Getting punched once or twice more won’t make any difference in your life. You’re willing to do it. What if the referee doesn’t stop it there, I recover and land a good one that knocks him out? Every referee goes to our locker room before the fight to go over the rules, and I always tell them to not stop the fight, only if I have no reaction. As long as I’m fighting, let me in there. It’s part of the sport.”
Despite the way the fight ended, Aldo says he’s also happy with his performance, which could mark his final bid for UFC gold.
“We fought smart for two rounds,” Aldo said. “When I came back to the fourth, I don’t know why I changed my strategy again. I should have kept it, controlling the distance, but it’s his merit for imposing his rhythm, coming forward and controlling until the fifth. We thought about fighting [the way I did in round one], but he connected a good punch, and I went down and stayed there for a while trying to recover and couldn’t fight until the end.
“But, like I said, I’m very happy,” Aldo added. “I was able to land kicks, I was able to land punches. I think I should have done more combinations with my hands. I think it was a good performance regardless. I think it’s more of his merits for being able to neutralize some areas we had in mind than me not doing something.”
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