Alexander Volkanovski declares Jose Aldo the featherweight GOAT

Alexander Volkanovski isn’t placing himself atop the list of the greatest featherweights of all-time.

That honor is reserved for the legendary José Aldo, according to a recent interview Volkanovski did with mainevent. With Aldo set to return to action against Jonathan Martinez this Saturday at UFC 301, Volkanovski was asked where he ranks the former UFC champion among the best ever to compete at 145 pounds.

“That’s for other people to decide, but for me, if you’re going to ask me, I’m going to say Aldo because he was the champion for a very long time,” Volkanovski said. “Obviously, people are going to look at the competition and all that, but to be champion for that long, things go wrong. You fight injured, there’s so many things that can go wrong, and to be champion that long, it’s saying something. He was very dominant as a champion as well, so full respect to Aldo.”

Aldo’s reign as the undisputed No. 1 featherweight is revered among fans and peers, with the Brazilian claiming the World Extreme Cagefighting title in 2009 and then continuing to defend that belt when it was promoted to the UFC title in 2011. In total, Aldo collected nine straight title defenses before a loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 194.

At UFC 200 in July 2016, Aldo won an interim belt by defeating Frankie Edgar, then reclaimed undisputed status when McGregor vacated his share of the title. Aldo competed at featherweight until May 2019, when he was defeated by Volkanovski. The loss prompted Aldo to drop down to bantamweight.

Volkanovski remembers his duel with Aldo well.

“It was crazy,” Volkanovski said. “I obviously had a game plan, we knew what he was good at, because he is so good. He’s technically sound, he does everything right, so because I know how well-trained he is, I had to try and use that against him — which sounds so weird, using someone’s good technique against them. Everything is just, you make one movement, he knows exactly where he needs to be, so I had to use that against him.

“But he’s so fast-twitch and he still is — even now at the age he is and how long he’s been in the game, he is still so fast twitch. I remember those times when I was like, ‘Yep, this punch is landing.’ I was like halfway through my punch, I know when it’s going to land, and he would still get out of the way. I’m just like, ‘What the hell?’ It just shows you how crazy and explosive that bloke is.”

Aldo appears set to retire from MMA competition for good after this weekend. The Martinez bout marks the last fight of Aldo’s current UFC contract and he is expected to return to boxing regardless of Saturday’s result.

Should this be the last time Aldo makes that UFC walkout, he leaves with an unimpeachable legacy, one that inspired a generation of lighter-weight fighters. Including Volkanovski.

“Obviously, his technique, his skill is always going to be something that you’re going to appreciate,” Volkanovski said. “But him being such a respectful champion, that’s how I like to be. I think he’s morally correct, I think he’s just respectful. He’s how a champion should be, and that was something that I really did appreciate and it made me want to be a great champion too. I think I was always going to be respectful, that’s just who I am, but it’s so good to see someone like him being the champion because it’s something that you can respect and people do really appreciate.”

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