Aldo Ends Retirement; Comeback Scheduled for UFC 301

March 19, 2024
2 months

José Aldo hasn’t fought since August 2022 after Merab Dvalishvili defeated the iconic Brazilian at UFC 278. However, with UFC 301 checking into Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aldo’s hometown, the 37-year-old has decided to end his retirement and fight. Is this a one-night stand or a re-blossoming of his career?

Aldo Can’t Resist Big Event in Rio

José Aldo is one of the staple names in MMA. The Brazilian joined the UFC in 2011 and has fought in both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. He has fought greats that span multiple generations of MMA, having shared the cage with Urijah Faber, Conor McGregor, and Alexander Volkanovski. While he’s fought worldwide in destinations in the US, England, and Japan, he has often saved his best performances for his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, like defending the UFC featherweight championship. Undoubtedly, he wants to return here at UFC 301, produce another stellar performance, and make MMA breaking news again.

One Night Only?

There is little information on the extent of José Aldo’s return. The Brazilian might just check in with Dana White to help him sell tickets and pick up a decent paycheque, or he could be trying to forge another run in the UFC that excites MMA news websites.

Aldo originally left the sport in 2022 after losing to Merab Dvalishvili. He planned to pursue other opportunities and look after his son, who was born shortly after his fight at UFC 278. In addition to enjoying fatherhood and watching his beloved Flamengo play soccer, he used his time outside of the UFC to start an amicable boxing career. In 2023, he fought three fights (one exhibition, two professional), amassing a 2-0-1 record as he remained undefeated. Where does this UFC return leave his fledgling boxing career? Or will he return to the sweet science after the final bell rings at UFC 301?

While most UFC fans would like to see Aldo return to the promotion full-time, there are arguments that he should not bother. He bowed out in 2022 at a time that suited him. He wasn’t able to fight like the man he once was. Aldo had to look back to 2019 for his last stoppage win, which must have been jarring, considering that the Brazilian was once known to be a KO specialist. Yet leaving at 31-8 meant he could leave the sport behind with his head held high. Sure, one more fight gives him the chance to round out his total career fights to 40 and retire on a W, but he could end up doing more damage. How will it feel if his opponent turns up to the fight and retires him again in his hometown? Is that the end that Aldo wants?

Does O’Malley Need to Be Concerned?

The current UFC bantamweight champion is Sean O’Malley. He will know all too well that José Aldo could force his way back into the title picture if he wins his return fight and potentially another after that. Aldo is a UFC Hall of Famer, adored by the fans and Dana White. In theory, he could demand a title shot and probably get it, owing to his popularity. Although, he will want to earn it the proper way.

Ultimately, with the best part of two years out, Aldo must rebuild his stature in the division. While he’s fought the likes of Petr Yan, Marlon Vera, and Rob Font before, there are a lot more contenders against whom he would need to establish himself before even considering a title shot. Umar Nurmagomedov, Aljamain Sterling, and Henry Cejudo would all like to fight Aldo and prove their dominance in the division by knocking off a UFC legend.

Although given that both Aldo and O’Malley fancy themselves as part-time boxers, it could be a very real opportunity for the pair to meet in the boxing ring, even if they don’t contest an MMA fight.

Who is Aldo Fighting?

Jonathan Martinez is the designated villain, standing on the opposite end of the cage, trying to stop José Aldo from having a triumphant return. He’s a bantamweight, currently ranked #14 in the divisional standings with a 19-4 overall record, owing to his taekwondo and jiu-jitsu skills. He fights out of Texas but has Salvadorian and Mexican ancestry—the latter adding to the spectacle as the fight picks up the classic Brazil-Mexico MMA rivalry.

If Aldo returns full-time to the UFC, this is the type of opponent he must defeat the first time and do it convincingly. Martinez, however, will want to make the most of this opportunity. If he knocks off a UFC legend, his ranking will rapidly surge, especially considering this is his first PPV fight since February 2020.

Martinez enters this fight hot, having won his last six fights. Two of those victories came from some lethal leg kicks that left both Adrian Yanez and Cub Swanson seeing stars, as Martinez picked up the Performance of the Night on both occasions. However, one attribute that will work against Martinez is that the crowd will be very much against him, and this will be his first fight in Brazil, which is a very different occasion to the US. The fans in attendance will vehemently back Aldo, which could be an irritating experience for the American fighter.

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By Dean McHugh.