Jose Aldo knows what it’s like to think about life after the UFC.
As recently as last year, the former featherweight champion—who looks to add a second world title to his collection when he meets Petr Yan this Saturday at UFC 251 for a vacant bantamweight championship—had openly discussed making 2019 the final campaign of his storied career, though he eventually signed a new eight-fight deal in May 2019 to continue competing for the UFC.
Recently, stars like Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal suggested they might leave the UFC under more hostile conditions after voicing their displeasure over fighter compensation. That has led to a renewed conversation around whether UFC athletes are getting paid what they’re worth and if it’s finally time for the fighters to unionize to improve their power at the bargaining table.
Given the havoc that the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked on businesses across the globe, Aldo disagrees that the conditions are right to discuss unionization.
“I think this is a horrible time to do that,” Aldo said at a media scrum in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. “We see so many companies going bankrupt, people losing their longtime jobs, and here’s the UFC trying to make us work, trying to give us work. Look at all the money they’re spending. Look at everything they’re doing to get back and get us back into fighting.
“I do agree that there needs to be some type of union and fighter pay needs to be discussed, but right now just look at the families that don’t know what’s gonna be tomorrow, what’s gonna happen to them. Here we are, we have a chance to work. We’ve made it this far. It’s hard enough to get here, so this is not the right time to do that.”
Along with Jones and Masvidal, other champions have made headlines for career decisions related to money. Conor McGregor announced another retirement on social media, expressing his disappointment in some of the UFC’s matchmaking decisions, while Henry Cejudo followed his own retirement announcement by suggesting that he could be lured back into the octagon for the right price.
Regarding Cejudo, Aldo sounded surprised that the two-division champion decided to hang up the gloves.
“I think that it was really ill-advised,” Aldo said. “He’s a young guy, he’s totally capable of still fighting, he should still be fighting and you should stop fighting when you feel like you can’t really back up, so I think it was ill-advised to stop.”
Despite some up-and-downs during his time with the promotion that he’s called home since 2011, Aldo had nothing but praise for the way the UFC has handled its business in the face of COVID-19. For its July “Fight Island” shows, officials laid out a comprehensive plan for testing fighters to maximize safety and keep the show running as smoothly as possible.
Aldo is “amazed” by what he’s seen.
“I’m really happy, I’m really impressed with everything,” Aldo said. “The UFC’s making everyone feel really comfortable. The quarantine was fine, I didn’t have a problem with that. The whole process to come here, the whole infrastructure, everything that’s put in place,
“I’m pretty amazed and it’s kind of surreal to see all this happening. All this good happening in this bad time.”