Almost as stunning as Liz Carmouche's near-miss submission on Ronda Rousey on Saturday was UFC president Dana White's late-night announcement that featherweight champion Aldo is refusing to face Pettis.
Pettis is the UFC's No. 1-rated lightweight contender who, you may recall, texted White not long after Aldo defeated Frankie Edgar at UFC 156, begging for a featherweight title shot.
The media and fan base seemed to love it, and White announced plans for the bout to be held August 3.
Following Rousey's UFC 157 victory over Carmouche on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim White said that Aldo and manager/trainer Andre Pederneiras didn't feel Pettis was deserving and were thus not willing to accept the fight.
"Jose Aldo came out and said, 'There's no way in hell I'm fighting Pettis,' " White said. "He's absolutely refusing to fight Pettis. [He] doesn't think he deserves the shot."
It's clearly a bonehead move by both Pederneiras and Aldo. There are few fights that could be made in MMA that promise to be more compelling than an Aldo-Pettis match.
This, though, is not a crisis by any means. White insisted that despite the protestations from Aldo, he will fight Pettis.
White pointed out the folly of Pederneiras' logic, noting that if Aldo were to choose to move up to lightweight – as has often been discussed – he'd instantly become the No. 1 contender there.
The same should be true in reverse. Given Pettis' status as the top lightweight contender, he should be the top featherweight contender, as well.
Fighters can't be forced to take bouts they don't want, but champions are a notable exception. Once a fighter wins the title, he or she is then agreeing to face whoever is believed to be the most significant challenge.
There is no need for White, Aldo and Pederneiras to engage in a lengthy public war of words over the issue, however.
All White needs to do is to provide Aldo with a simple choice: Either he agrees by the end of the week to defend his title against Pettis or be immediately stripped of his championship.
Stripping a champion of a title won in the ring should always be a last resort. It's a major problem in boxing, where corrupt and short-sighted sanctioning bodies manipulate the titles so often that it's hard even for those who pay close attention to understand all the machinations.
There is little other choice here, though, as Aldo is taking a stance that defies logic.
Pettis' plan isn't necessarily to campaign as a featherweight. He correctly recognizes that a fight with Aldo would be a career-defining fight, one that would bring plenty of attention and money and would enhance the winner's legacy.
His goal, essentially, is to take on Aldo, one of the truly great fighters in the world, and then move back to lightweight to meet the winner of that division's April 20 championship match between Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez.
An Aldo-Pettis fight would be a major one in the MMA world. And then the winner versus the Henderson-Melendez winner also would be significant.
It would allow the UFC to put on two events that would be massive in terms of competitive significance and fan and media interest.
That should always be the goal.
And so, if Aldo refuses to fight the bout that makes the most sense, the simple solution is to strip him quickly and not allow the situation to linger.
Stripping a champion of a title should never be a decision made easily.
In this case, though, the short-sightedness shown by Aldo and Pederneiras gives UFC officials little choice but to offer him the ultimatum. Champions cannot, and should never be, allowed to dictate who their challengers will be.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation