For a certain subset of the UFC audience — those who discovered mixed martial arts during the Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey-fueled gold rush of 2015-16 — Jose Aldo is best known for “13 seconds.”
That, of course, was the amount of time it took for an ascendent McGregor to knock out Aldo with a wicked counter left hand and take his featherweight title at UFC 194, the culmination of a year’s worth of drama in front of what was at the time the second-largest pay-per-view audience in UFC history.
If you were just coming along in December 2015, you may have wondered what all the fuss over Aldo was about. And seeing Aldo’s two subsequent stoppage losses to current featherweight titleholder Max Holloway would seem to confirm those preconceived notions.
While the idea Aldo wasn’t all he was cracked up to be has taken hold among a larger-than-you’d-think portion of the fan base, it’s also terribly unfair.
Those who were here before the Rousey/McGregor bandwagon arrived en masse have long known that the man who ruled as lineal world featherweight champion for six years is a legend of the sport and one of the true trailblazers for the lighter-weight classes.
And that’s why there was open celebration among even the most jaded of longtime MMA observers on Saturday night over Aldo’s joyous second-round TKO stoppage of Renato Moicano at UFC Fortaleza.
Aldo put on a vintage display of the sort of striking that propelled his nine-year, 17-fight win streak as he rose to the top of the sport. After using his trademarked leg kicks, Aldo began landing punches to Moicano’s head and body at will, then attacked like a shark smelling blood, with a big right uppercut to the jaw the telling blow in a final flurry that got the bout waved off before Moicano, who entered the fight winner of five out of his past six, knew what hit him.
And before the officials knew what was going on, Aldo, of Manaus, Brazil, had scaled the cage and jumped into the crowd to celebrate the victory with his delirious countrymen, who mobbed their hero.
This — on the heels of an exciting comeback victory over Jeremy Stephens in July — was the Aldo people those who aren’t new to the scene remember. The guy who put a dent in Cub Swanson’s skull with a knockout knee in just eight seconds in a 2009 WEC bout. The guy who steamrolled a red-hot Mike Brown — now one of the sport’s premier trainers at the American Top Team — to take the WEC belt later that year. The guy who brutally battered a super-tough Urijah Faber’s legs with kicks for 25 minutes in Faber’s hometown of Sacramento to solidify his hold on the championship with a win over the division’s biggest star.
Those are just the highlights of his WEC days. The WEC belt was the de facto world title at 145 pounds in Aldo’s day, as the lowest UFC weight class at the time was 155, and Japanese promotions which had featured lighter classes had begun to falter. When the WEC was absorbed into the UFC, Aldo’s belt became the UFC belt.
Aldo wasted no time adding to his highlight reel in the UFC. His beatdown of Mark Hominick in front of 55,724 fans in Toronto was so thorough that a massive hematoma on Hominick’s skull in the late rounds remains one of UFC 129’s most memorable images. Then there was the out-of-nowhere knockout knee of Chad Mendes with one second left in the first round at UFC 142, kicking off another of Aldo’s crowd celebrations, this time in Rio de Janeiro.
On and on it went, a six-year joyride of skill and flair and emotion like few the sport has ever seen. That is why longtime fans bristled whenever a Twitter troll screamed, “13 seconds!”
And that’s why the prospects of Aldo finishing on a high note, one which restores his image as one of the sport’s all-time excitement creators, is such a tantalizing prospect.
Aldo’s age is listed as 32. There have long been whispers about the accuracy of that number. But even if we take it at face value, fighter age is as much about the miles on the tires as it is the vehicle’s model year. Aldo’s Nova Uniao gym, which was also the home of former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao, was legendary for throwing down in practice, even by MMA’s lofty standard. That adds up to a lot of battles that don’t go on your official record.
He knows he doesn’t have much tread left, so Aldo has put a timer on his career, saying 2019 is it.
If he lives up to his word, win or lose, he’s going to go out relevant. Want proof? The best of the best in his division paid their own form of tribute on Saturday night: by going into Twitter and hinting they’d like to scrap.
Here’s Alexander Volkanovski, the hottest up-and-coming contender at 145:
— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) February 3, 2019
Here’s recent feeatherweight title challenger Brian Ortega:
Well let’s start negotiating.
— Brian Ortega (@BrianTcity) February 3, 2019
And, oh yeah, here’s that guy who knocked Aldo out a few years back:
What an amazing atmosphere at UFC Brazil tonight.
I would LOVE to compete there for all the passionate Brazilian fans at some stage of my career.
I was so close to securing a bout in Rio last year. It was essentially a done deal.
Maybe next time.
Ui Vai Morrer!!!! I’m still here.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) February 3, 2019
McGregor, who can pick his spot, sending out a tweet right after Aldo won in Brazil saying he wants to fight in Brazil? Safe to say at this point that “13 seconds” won’t be Jose Aldo’s defining moment after all.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Watch Super Bowl LIII pregame and then Patriots-Rams on Yahoo Sports app
• Gonzalez, Reed, Bailey headline 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class
• Report: Lakers players confronted Walton after loss to Warriors
• Get ready for your draft with our Fantasy Baseball top 300 rankings