The most dominant featherweight in mixed martial arts history, Jose Aldo, promised during a media call on Wednesday that he will be present in Las Vegas on Dec. 12 to fight interim champion Conor McGregor.
While it might seem strange a seven-time defending UFC champ would have to make such a promise, his attendance is not being taken for granted after what happened earlier this year. Aldo (25-1) was scheduled to fight McGregor in one of the biggest events of the year at UFC 189 on July 11, but was forced to withdraw less than two weeks prior with a rib injury.
McGregor (18-2) remained on the card and knocked out three-time title challenger Chad Mendes, who accepted the fight on short notice. Ten days away from the rescheduled fight against McGregor, which headlines UFC 194 at MGM Grand Garden Arena, the Brazilian champion said he has been 100 percent since the injury and promised he'd be there this time.
"That's for certain," Aldo said. "I will be there. That's more certain than all of our deaths in the future. I will be there and I will win, as usual."
McGregor, 27, who trained for the July fight in Las Vegas but remained in his native Dublin for this camp, said he would "breathe easier when [Aldo] touches U.S. soil."
Prior to his fight against Mendes, rumors surfaced that McGregor had suffered a knee injury while training on the World Tour, a global promotional tour that took place in March. McGregor denied anything was wrong with his knee at the time, but has since admitted he fought Mendes with a partially torn ACL.
On Wednesday's call, McGregor claimed Aldo's camp knew about the injury since it happened while they were around one another on the tour. He said he still showed up despite the injury and has criticized Aldo for not doing the same.
"Nothing can stop this train from taking over, absolutely nothing," McGregor said. "I had a busted-up leg and they knew I had a busted-up leg. They planned to target it. They celebrated. It happened on the World Tour and they knew. Their whole camp knew it and celebrated and plotted a way to attack it. I mean, he bruised his rib and pulled out of the fight. I told him, 'Show up and I won't target your body. If you show up, I won't hit you once to the body.' He still didn't show.
"International Fight Week, hell of a World Tour, fans saved their hard-earned money to come in and fly and see that show. A $7 million gate and $50 million in pay-per-view. God knows what else in sponsorship and merchandise sales. If I had walked from that show, I would have flushed the company's money down the toilet. I would have flushed the fans' money down the toilet, my money down the toilet. I showed up and came through for everyone who put in so much. I could have walked and 100 percent of the roster would have walked."
If McGregor wins next week, discussions have taken place that would put his next fight in Croke Park, an 80,000-seat stadium in Dublin. UFC officials have spoken about the numerous potential hurdles preventing that event, however (weather, availability, city noise ordinances), and nothing has been officially announced.
McGregor didn't seem extremely confident in the likelihood of the stadium show, but did say he intends to move up in weight after UFC 194 and claim the 155-pound lightweight championship. Current lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos is scheduled to defend that title against Donald Cerrone on Dec. 19 in Orlando, Florida.
"I will knock out Jose and I will face the winner of the lightweight belt, which takes place a week after," McGregor said. "So, within the next two fights I will be a two-weight world champion.
"Let's see how this contest plays out. If [Aldo] can give me a war and he can earn a rematch, then we can do a rematch -- but I just don't see him answering the bell for the second round. I can't see his face or his body at the beginning of the second round. I see him KO'd inside one and when you KO a man inside one, there's no need for a rematch."