RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — The UFC booked Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes as the main event of UFC Fortaleza on Feb. 2, but was willing to change plans.
The promotion’s alternative idea was to make former champion Jose Aldo the event’s new headliner, matching him up against fellow Brazilian featherweight Renato Moicano, but only one side agreed to the plan.
At the UFC 232 post-fight press conference in Inglewood, UFC president Dana White said that Aldo wanted to fight Moicano in a three-round fight instead of a five-round main event, and that’s why the promotion booked him as the co-main event for Fortaleza.
Speaking with the media in Rio de Janeiro last week, Aldo clarified that his coach Andre Pederneiras was the one to push for a three-round bout.
”I never turned anything down,” Aldo said. “The thing about three or five rounds, it was ‘Dede’ who thought it wouldn’t be good. You can ask him. He made the fight three rounds, he thought it would be better. To me, it doesn’t matter. Five, 10 rounds, however many they want, I’ll do it against Moicano or anyone else. I have no problem with that. I train for that, that’s what I do every day. I want to get there and always do my best. I never said otherwise.”
The former UFC and WEC featherweight kingpin said he would be happy to headline UFC Fortaleza in February, but opted to follow Pederneiras’ suggestion.
”It’s tough to see me in the in the co-main event,” Aldo said. “Of course, respecting both of them, Raphael (and Moraes) will be the main event, (but) it’s tough to see the name I have and not being the main event. I had that in my mind, but if I got to where I am today was thanks to ‘Dede’, and he knows really well what he’s doing.”
Moicano, 5-1 in the UFC, has never entered a five-round fight before in his MMA career. Aldo, on the other hand, fought 14 championship fights in a row between 2009 and 2017. His most recent win in the Octagon, a first-round knockout over Jeremy Stephens, was Aldo’s first three-round contest since WEC 41 in 2009.
That long history — and the slim chance of guaranteeing a title shot with a victory in Fortaleza — was the main factor that made Pederneiras decided against a main event slot.
“Aldo became WEC champion in 2009, so we’ve been training his body for five rounds for nine years,” Pederneiras explained. “There’s a huge toll in what you do. So, when someone thinks, ‘Oh, it’s just two more rounds’ — no, it’s a completely different preparation.
“Since there’s no possibility that Aldo fights for the belt, I explained him everything and he agreed. If (Brian) Ortega had won (against Max Holloway), this fight could be five rounds to elevate him (for a title shot), but even if Aldo accepted a five-round fight now and knocks [Moicano] out in 30 seconds, his next one won’t be for the title, everybody knows that.
“If Dana says before the next fight, ‘This fight will determine who fights for the title,’ he will fight five, 10, 12 rounds, whatever is necessary, but that’s not the case for this fight now.”
During his recent media scrum in Rio de Janeiro, Aldo announced that his plans on retiring from the sport by the end of the year after completing the three fights he has left in his contract with the promotion.
UFC Fortaleza takes place at the Centro de Formação Olímpica in Fortaleza, Ceara, and airs live on ESPN+.