Jose Aldo retires from MMA, leaves UFC with one fight remaining on deal

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One of the top fighters of his generation has retired from mixed martial arts.

Jose Aldo has opted to call it a career following a recent loss to Merab Dvalishvili and leaves the UFC with one fight remaining on his deal.

Combate was the first to report the news of Aldo’s plan to retire with MMA Fighting confirming his exit from the UFC. The departure doesn’t mean it will be the end of Aldo’s combat sports career as he could pursue boxing or other combat sports.

Aldo made his debut at the age of seventeen in August 2004 and made a statement instantly with an eighteen-second head kick knockout to kick off his career.

He won the first seven fights of his career in Brazil and England before losing to Luciano Azevedo at Jungle Fight 5 in November 2005 where he moved up to lightweight and was submitted in the third round. Aldo wouldn’t lose another fight over the next decade.

His WEC debut occurred in June 2008 on one of the promotion’s biggest cards ever, which was headlined by Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver for the featherweight title.

Aldo scored stoppage victories against Alexandre Franca Nogueira, Jonathan Brookins, Rolando Perez, and Chris Mickle before fighting Cub Swanson to determine the next challenger for the 145-pound title. Aldo made it an easier choice by landing a flying knee and stopping Swanson in eight seconds.

It set the stage for Aldo’s championship fight against then-champion Mike Thomas Brown t WEC 44 in November 2009 where Aldo won by second-round TKO.

Aldo’s next fight was the biggest card in the promotion’s history as WEC 48 aired on pay-per-view in April 2010 and pitted the two top featherweights in the promotion’s history – champion Jose Aldo and poster boy Urijah Faber.

It was a demonstration of the impact leg kicks could have in a fight as Aldo tore up Faber’s leg throughout the five-round contest before the decision was rendered and Aldo retained the title. The bigger story was the success WEC had on pay-per-view doing in excess of 150,000 buys and jettisoning the promotion being folded into the UFC, which had purchased the company three years prior.

Aldo fought one more time in WEC before being absorbed by the UFC and thus, becoming the first UFC featherweight champion.

He defended his championship at UFC 129 in Toronto in front of 55,000 fans defeating Mark Hominick after five rounds. The fight is remembered for a massive hematoma that formed on Hominick’s forehead and gutted his way to the end and came on strong in the final two rounds. Aldo had a rough weight cut that weekend which was a signal of the difficulties he had getting down to featherweight with the thought that he would eventually move up to lightweight.

Aldo made successful title defenses against Kenny Florian, Chad Mendes twice, Frankie Edgar, Chan Sung Jung, and Ricardo Lamas before squaring off with his biggest drawing rival, Conor McGregor.

The two were set to meet at UFC 189 in July 2015 when Aldo sustained a rib injury and withdrew from the fight twelve days before. It set the event into chaos after the two conducted a press tour for the fight and it was Chad Mendes that stepped in to fight McGregor on short notice. McGregor prevailed and was named the interim champion, setting up a unification at the end of the year with Aldo.

UFC 194 will go down as the biggest fight in featherweight history as Aldo and McGregor pulled in more than one million buys and a $10 million gate at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It was a stunning outcome as Aldo charged at McGregor and was met with a left hook that put Aldo out in thirteen seconds and one of the most stunning ends to a championship fight in MMA history.

While Aldo pushed for a rematch, the two never met again nor would Aldo be part of a fight as big as UFC 194. However, it was not a loss that defined Aldo’s career as he rebounded with a win against former champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 and led to back-to-back fights with then-champion Max Holloway, who stopped Aldo twice and was considered the passing of the torch from the dominant featherweight of one generation to the next (McGregor never fought at featherweight after the win against Aldo).

After a loss to Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 237 in 2019, Aldo opted to change weight classes. But instead of moving up, he went down to bantamweight. At the time, it was thought nearly impossible given Aldo’s known struggles to make featherweight.

Aldo had six fights at bantamweight going 3-3 but never missed weight. He put together a string of wins against Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz, and Rob Font before the loss to Dvalishvili at UFC 278 in August. If Aldo had won, it likely would have gotten him close to a title fight, if not the next shot.

After just turning 36, Aldo could find an outlet in another sport and would serve as the latest reincarnation of a fighter who has changed with the times and adapted throughout his eighteen years as a fighter. He will assuredly be named to the UFC’s Hall of Fame and leaves the promotion among the greatest fighters of all time.


His many accomplishments in the sport speak for themselves, but what made Jose Aldo so special is tougher to put into words. He was a fighter who was constantly evolving, even fifteen years past the point where he cemented himself as the top featherweight in the world. When Aldo came into the sport, his background was largely based in jiu-jitsu, however he rarely used his grappling ability offensively, instead using it as his base to protect himself on the ground, something which coupled with his otherworldly takedown defence, largely kept him safe from the numerous high-level wrestlers he dismantled throughout his run. No, Aldo preferred to keep fights on the feet, where in his youth, his explosiveness and freakish athleticism was more than enough to allow him to blitz through his opponents, which is why you’ll see so many quick knockouts towards the beginning of his professional record. As Aldo’s career progressed however, his physical advantages alone would not be enough to overwhelm the level of competition he was facing, and we saw him incorporate numerous weapons into his gameplan.

Perhaps his most famous weapon was the leg kick, at least throughout his WEC/UFC title run. Aldo was hardly the first fighter to kick his opponent in the thigh, however he attacked the legs of his opponent with such viciousness, that on numerous occasions, he would practically be fighting a one-legged opponent by the time his fights reached the championship rounds. The most famous example of this is of course the Uriah Faber fight, where Uriah’s leg closely resembled a heavily bruised piece of steak by the next day. Even by 2022, whenever Jose Aldo fought, the commentary team would praise his leg kicking ability on the broadcast, and question why those kicks were so rare from him at this point in his career, when they used to be such a large part of his attack. The common rumour is that Aldo suffered a leg injury in the mid-2010’s that prompted him to remove them from his gameplan, however Jose Aldo was never a fighter content to rest on his laurels, and would phase techniques in and out of his game through the years.

Aldo was always known as a heavy hitter, which was hardly surprising considering the ferocity and speed in which he would throw heavy hooks at his opponents. While his leg kicks and intercepting knees got so much of the attention from fans and analysts, his punches were rarely recognized early in his run, partially because there wasn’t all that much to talk about. Yes, Aldo hit hard, and he was still certainly at a level above the majority of his opposition with his hands, however his pure-boxing ability was certainly not as refined as his Muay Thai styled striking. That being said, this was an area of Aldo’s game he focused on improving immensely throughout his UFC run. The first sign was the general incorporation of the jab into his game. Some analysts of mixed martial arts, who are far more knowledgeable than myself refer to the jab as the sports most underutilized techniques. Well, Aldo was someone who figured it out quickly, and it soon became one of his strongest weapons, constantly using it to dictate the range against high levels opponents, such as Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Lamas, and Chad Mendes.

As previously mentioned, Aldo was a very athletically gifted fighter in early in his career, and while he was still an impressive athlete in the later years of his career, he noticeably began to slow as all fighters do, and this coupled with the removal of leg kicks from his game, led to a slight reinvention of Aldo’s general approach. Aldo had become quite focused on his boxing throughout the years, and by time he finally lost his title in late 2015, he had developed into one of the more skillful boxers in the entire sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Aldo was always excellent at attacking the body, with one of his most well-known techniques being the intercepting knee to the sternum, a move that led to a number of finishes in his WEC run. As his boxing developed however, he started digging into the body more with his hands, and it quickly became his go-to attack. When Aldo crumbled Jeremey Stephens with a first-round body-shot in 2018, he seemed to fully realize the effectiveness of the tool, and throughout his run at bantamweight, he was as focused on attacking the body as he was the head, which led to great success against the likes of Marlon Moraes, Petr Yan, and Pedro Munhoz. Some fighters are hesitant to commit to attacking the body with punches, in fear of a heavy counter, however Aldo’s reaction time was always one of his greatest strengths, and he was never a fearful fighter, instead fighting like a man content to go-out on his sword so to speak.

While the Jose Aldo highlight-reel will be filled with his greatest knockouts, body shots, and leg kicks, Aldo was just as creative defensively as he was offensively. Some consider him to have the greatest takedown defence in the history of the sport, and his ability to pivot and counter directly led to so many of those highlight finishes that you’ll see on the reels. The technique that stands out the most to me however, was one that he added to his game in the final years of his career. Over the course of the last decade, the calf kick has become perhaps the most popular attack in the sport, and it’s one of the most frustrating techniques to deal with for fighters, as they aren’t necessarily as punishable as kicks to the thigh are. When you watch UFC events, listen to the former fighters on commentary, and they will go as far as to suggest that they should be banned, as they are practically undefendable. Well, Jose Aldo disagreed with that assessment, and when he fought Pedro Munhoz in 2021, he gave every fighter watching a masterclass in how to defend calf kicks. There are few fighters in the sport who throw as many calf kicks a fight as Pedro Munhoz, and it’s a strategy that has led to great success for him, but against Aldo, he found himself kicking at air more often than not, as Aldo modified the traditional check, raising his leg above each of Munhoz’s kicks without issue. Jack Slack has a fantastic video up on his YouTube page that explains Aldo’s technique, and its effectiveness (A Filthy Casual's Guide to Jose Aldo's Complete Disdain for Calf Kicks - YouTube). Even seventeen years into his career, Aldo remained experimental, and always had new techniques to showcase.

I don’t put much stock into fighter retirements. Most fighters seem to return to the sport before long, and Aldo is hardly a fighter past his expiration date. That being said, if this it for him, he deserves to be remembered as one of the all-time greats of the sport in every sense, and while there may be fighters with longer undefeated strikes, or less losses, I’m not sure there is a single fighter who represents what’s great about MMA better than Jose Aldo, and the sport lost perhaps its most interesting fighter this week.