Jose Aldo confirms UFC 301 final fight on contract, hints at boxing match at Jake Paul vs. Mike Tyson

Jose Aldo is leaving all his options open as he returns from retirement against Jonathan Martinez at UFC 301.

Aldo (31-8 MMA, 13-7 UFC), a UFC Hall of Famer and former UFC/WEC featherweight champion, will end his retirement from MMA competition less than 20 months after his previously declared final fight, which was a unanimous decision loss to Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 278 in August 2020.

Many questioned why Aldo, 37, would return to MMA after hanging up the gloves and subsequently competing in a pair of boxing matches, which he said was much easier to train for in terms of physical toll. The reasons are twofold, with the most prominent being his refreshed energy toward stepping back into the octagon.

“I think I needed a break for my mind and my body,” Aldo told MMA Junkie on Wednesday through an interpreter. “Just due to the amount of demand I put on myself and the tole that it had taken on me training for the past 20 years. I found a discipline I could focus on which was boxing, and I did that for a while and I was able to kind of recover from all the pressure and everything else.

“Wanting to be the champion and every fight in there, the tole and the demand I put on myself (was significant). Now I feel like I’ve done that, and I’m able to come back.”

The second element of Aldo’s return is to finish up some business. He confirmed the clash with Martinez (19-4 MMA, 10-3 UFC), which serves as the bantamweight bout of the May 4 card at Rio Arena in Rio de Janeiro (pay-per-view, ESPN, ESPN+), will mark the final fight on his current UFC contract.

Aldo said he wants to see what opportunities are available to him after this fight. He was rumored for a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather this past year that didn’t materialize, and although he’s not certain that particular pairing will come around, he sees some marquee possibilities inside the ring.

“That’s basically what I told the UFC a couple months ago: I want to do this fight, see where I’m at, see how I do, see how I perform and then I can make a decision,” Aldo said. “I’m looking at maybe a big boxing fight maybe somewhere down the line later this year. But we’ll revisit that with the UFC once this fight is done with Jonathan Martinez.

“That fight with Floyd Mayweather was basically all set and done. Ali (Abdelaziz) was the one that was negotiating that and I don’t really know what happened and it ended up not panning out for us to fight in Saudi Arabia. But there’s a big event on Netflix later this year (with Jake Paul vs. Mike Tyson), and hopefully, I can get on that. But we’ll have to see. There’s a lot of options floating.”

Depending on his performance, Aldo didn’t rule out the possibility of signing a new UFC deal and making another run at the bantamweight title. He said he still thinks he’s capable holding gold, but understands that idea doesn’t even matter if he doesn’t get his hand raised at UFC 301.

Aldo also verified reports he was originally offered a matchup with Dominick Cruz in his hometown. The matchup of former UFC and WEC titleholders has been a dream for years, but it has never come to fruition. Aldo admits he would’ve loved to finally make it happen, but the shift to a lesser-known foe in Martinez, who is an honorable mention in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie bantamweight rankings, didn’t shake his focus.

There’s a lot at stake for Aldo at UFC 301 in terms of accumulating leverage on his side moving forward, and that reality is not lost on him as he revs up for fight night.

“Obviously it would’ve been good for me, for Dominick, for all the fans and the media who had been asking for this fight for such a long time,” Aldo said. “There’s a lot of history around a fight between myself and Dominick, but Jonathan Martinez is a very tough opponent and what really matters to me is I look at every fight like I’m fighting the best and I’m fighting the biggest challenge. That hasn’t changed.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 301.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie