Every great superstar in MMA needs a rival. Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter of all time, but his star never really shined until he stepped in the cage with Chael Sonnen. Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz had each other. Cain Velasquez’s biggest fights have been against Junior dos Santos. Ronda Rousey has Miesha Tate. I guarantee you Renan Barao’s biggest pay-per-view buy rate will come in his rematch with T.J. Dillashaw, and Demetrious Johnson might finally garner the attention that he deserves whenever he finally goes head to head with John Dodson again.

One man who has been at or near the top of many pundits’ pound-for-pound ratings for a few years now is Jose Aldo. Aldo is young, has a flashy style, and is still the only featherweight champion in UFC history. However, Aldo hasn’t yet become that transcendent star that just fills fans with anticipation and gives them goosebumps every time he steps inside the cage.

Part of that might be due to the fact that he hasn’t been able to stay extremely active and has had numerous fights either canceled or rescheduled. An injury to Aldo just recently caused the UFC to cancel an event for only the second time in its 20-plus year history. That seems like it could be the final nail in the coffin for Aldo’s chances of ever becoming a star.

Yet, the exact opposite is the case. For once, an injured Aldo is a blessing in disguise. The next time Aldo steps in the Octagon, it will be the biggest bout of his career. This extra wait has only added to it.

Presumably in October, Aldo will defend his featherweight championship against Chad Mendes for the second time. Their first fight, which took place in January 2012 at UFC 142, is famous for two reasons.

Everyone remembers the pure emotion poured out by Aldo when, after finishing Mendes late in the first round, he ran out of the cage and into the crowd to celebrate with his countrymen in Brazil.

Probably even more known from that night is the most infamous cage grab in UFC history. Aldo scored the fight-ending knee with one second remaining in the first round. He landed the knee, though, after grabbing the fence to prevent a takedown where Mendes had hoisted the champion off of his feet. The outcome to that fight was definitive, but to this day, nearly 30 months later, the fence grab can still be seen as more of a deciding factor in the outcome than the knee.

After that fight, Aldo continued his dominance. Meanwhile, Mendes has been on an absolute tear. Before getting his first title shot, Mendes was criticized for relying too heavily on his wrestling and not finishing his fights. The Aldo loss is still Mendes’ only career loss. He has won five in a row since that loss. Under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig at Team Alpha Male, Mendes has transformed into a power striker and finished every one of his opponents, except for one, by knockout or TKO.

Mendes has been considered the No. 1 contender for a while now, but he has had to wait for his shot. With the news that the fight was being moved back even further, Mendes was obviously frustrated and took out those frustrations by questioning Aldo’s integrity in claiming he had an injury. Mendes also said Aldo couldn’t run from him forever. Aldo has never been one to talk trash, but this fired up the champion like never before.

Aldo penned an open letter where he openly flaunted his win over Mendes, referred to the champion by some very derogatory names, and claimed that the reason that he suffers more injuries is because he doesn’t have the advantage of using the “supplements” Mendes takes. Mendes was clearly taken aback by this, but fired back with one of the best tweets in MMA history. Mendes tweeted out multiple pictures of himself as a young man where he seemed to be sporting his trademark six-pack before he even reached a double-digit age.

This rematch was already one of the most anticipated fights of 2014, and all of this back and forth has only made it that much more interesting. The UFC must use all of this—the celebration in the crowd, Aldo’s open letter, Mendes’ comeback, the recent success of both men and, most importantly, the fence grab—in the promotion for the fight. We now have one of the greatest narratives we have ever seen leading up to a title fight. Can October just hurry up and get here already?

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.