This Saturday night the UFC faces a quality quandary when featherweight champion Jose Aldo faces Chad Mendes in the main event at UFC 142. On one hand you have Aldo, as dominating a title-holder as there is on the UFC roster, yet also a man on the verge of cleaning out his division who poses a marketing challenge based purely on his inability to speak fluent English. On the other you have Mendes, a decorated American wrestler who is undefeated and somewhat of a “golden boy” yet also a competitor who hasn’t shown an ability to finish foes so much as smother them on the mat.
So who should the higher-ups at Zuffa be rooting for when the lights dim in Rio de Janeiro? I think Mendes.
In my estimation the UFC needs to establish a few more legitimate contenders at 145 and doing so takes time. With Mendes holding the belt a rising star like Dustin Poirier or Jimy Hettes won’t be force-fed to Aldo and even if one were to earn a shot against Mendes the worst case scenario likely involves being taken down and blanketed for twenty-five minutes rather than enduring a soul-shaking stoppage from the 20-1 Brazilian. Comparably, if Aldo remains champion, how many legitimate adversaries can you list for him at the moment? Hatsu Hioki has a helluva hard fight coming up with Bart Palaszewski and he barely got by George Roop. The reality is the featherweight division is another year away from having its ranks truly established in the same way 155 was five years ago when it made its return to the UFC.
Also, the money is usually in the chase where fan-favorites like Aldo are concerned and it would be a hard to sell an argument pertaining to Aldo vs. Mendes II not being infinitely bigger draw with “Scarface” coming into the fight seeking revenge for a lay-and-pray decision defeat rather than simply defending his belt against Mendes a second time.
Another benefit relates to Mendes’ ability to promote the UFC in the United States. He’s the kind of outdoorsman/workhorse who blue-collar fans like and no doubt does pretty well with the ladies too. He can go on talk-shows, do promotional events, and countless other media-related things that Aldo can’t because he’s a native English speaker.
All that being said, even though I would personally love to see Aldo come away with the victory in order to remain an image of true excellence in the Octagon, the UFC is probably better off in the big picture if he loses. At the end of the day MMA is a business and they’ve already got two other popular Brazilian champions to put South American asses in the seats.
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PHOTO CREDIT – UFC