UFC 251: Jose Aldo promises knockout performance at Fight Island

Brazilian aims to become two-division world champion in Abu Dhabi against fast-rising Russian Petr Yan

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Jose Aldo has promised to provide knockout of the night at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday as he looks to fulfil a dream of becoming a two-division world champion.

The Brazilian veteran, one of the stars of the sport and a guaranteed future Hall of Famer, faces fast-rising Russian Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight belt at the opener on Fight Island – one of three championship bouts on the card.

A former champion at featherweight, Aldo knows what adding gold at another class would do to an already stellar career. In Yan, though, he’s taking on one of the promotion’s brightest prospects, who boats six wins in six UFC appearances.

“It was always a dream of mine to be the champ in two divisions,” Aldo said at the W Abu Dhabi hotel yesterday. “At first I thought I was going to go up to lightweight, but now I’m down to bantamweight. I really think that one day when I stop fighting I’m going to be able to look back and see everything that I did.”

First in the trio of title fights at Flash Forum, the clash is a highly anticipated one considering the protagonists' respective skill sets. Aldo, 33, may have lost his past two bouts, but he has still registered 28 wins from 34 pro fights.

And he seems to be relishing the chance to take out an athlete with Yan’s burgeoning reputation and repertoire.

“If it’s up to me it’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth,” Aldo said. “Like I’ve been saying, nobody’s watching my training, nobody knows what I’ve done this camp. It was my best camp: my speed, my power, my everything. So if it’s not fight of the night it’s going to be knockout of the night.”

Typically vocal about fighters' rights, Aldo questioned the timing of the controversy surrounding pay, with a number of his peers calling to be better recompensed. Jorge Masvidal, the late stand-in for Sunday's headline tussle with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, has been particularly vocal.

FFor Aldo, the current climate – Fight Island alone was created to help international fighters compete during the pandemic – demands a little more perspective.

“This is a horrible time to do that,” he said. “We see so many companies going bankrupt, people losing their long-time jobs and here’s the UFC trying to give us work.

"Look at all the money they’re spending, look at everything they’re doing to get back and get us back into fighting.

“I do agree there needs to be some type of union and fighter pay needs to be discussed. But right now, just look at the families that don’t know what’s going to be tomorrow, what’s going to happen to them.

“And here we are, we have the chance to work. We’ve made it this far, it’s hard enough to get here, so this is not the right time to do that.”

Despite his impact on UFC, some have debated Aldo's validity as contender for the bantamweight crown.

He lost to Marlon Moraes at UFC 245 in December, although it was a hugely contentious split decision.


Fight Island getting ready


Aldo, though, believes he should be in Abu Dhabi. “I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I know that I won that fight. Even the judges afterwards said they agreed with me. I beat Marlon, who was the No 1 contender. So it doesn’t bother me at all. I deserve to be here.”

Yan shares his thinking. “He deserves to fight for the title,” he said. “He’s been promised title shots before. He’s still very dangerous; obviously he’s very famous and a legend of the sport. So it’s going to be a very interesting fight.”

On his rise through the division, Yan said: “It’s happened pretty fast. Two years ago I signed to UFC and now I’m fighting for a title. It’s good to look back at this journey.

"Everything happened for a reason. I’m ready to be a champion this weekend.