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Why Jose Aldo fighting out of his contract at UFC 301 is a best-case scenario for the Hall of Famer

Jose Aldo is setting himself up for big things in 2024. It’s not the UFC Hall of Famer’s first time around the block and he looks to make the most of a rare opportunity at UFC 301 on Saturday.

Aldo is arguably the greatest featherweight in mixed martial arts history. That’s quite a feat when his contemporaries in the debate are Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway. The “King of Rio” — who will end his 18-month MMA retirement against Jonathan Martinez this weekend — has always sought gold. The record-setting featherweight champ fought Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight title in 2020 and was on the cusp of another title shot before losing to Merab Dvalishvili in 2022. Aldo claims his goals haven’t changed but new factors are clearly at play.

“I think that’s every fighter’s goal, to fight for that championship,” Aldo told CBS Sports through an interpreter. “I needed my time off and had my time off. I recovered and now I’m back. Fighting for the belt and becoming the champion, becoming the best, that’s of course what my goal will be.”

UFC re-signing or releasing talent makes headlines regularly. It’s not often an athlete willingly fights out their UFC contract, but that is the fortuitous position Aldo finds himself in. Aldo met with UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Sean Shelby ahead of UFC 301. His return was a surprise but a necessary addition to a pay-per-view painfully lacking star power. After their meeting, Aldo opted not to re-sign with the premier mixed martial arts organization.

“Yes, this is the last fight on my contract,” Aldo said. “When I started talking to Sean and Dana in January, we talked about signing a new deal. But I decided against it because I want to go in there and I need to show them, myself and everyone where I’m at, what I can still do and how I can still perform.”

It’s an admirable stance but not the most responsible choice if he plans to stay put. Beating Martinez won’t give Aldo much negotiating leverage. The biggest benefit Aldo incurs by fighting out his contract is the legal flexibility to explore other combat sports opportunities.

“We have a lot of offers,” Aldo said. “We could have a boxing match lined up pretty quickly if we wanted to do that. I told them, ‘Let’s wait. Let me go in there and put on a performance. We’ll talk after that to see if we’ll renew a deal or not.'”

Retirement does not free a fighter from their UFC contract. Aldo sought clearance from the promotion before dabbling in boxing last year. Similarly, Jorge Masvidal struck a deal with the UFC before announcing a boxing match against Nate Diaz on June 1. Aldo fought three times in the ring in 2023, winning an exhibition and going 1-0-1 professionally. So what harm is there in re-signing with UFC if they permit him to box?

Check out the full interview with Jose Aldo below.

“There’s a big event on Netflix later this year and hopefully, I can get on that,” Aldo told MMA Junkie last week. “But we’ll have to see. There’s a lot of options floating.”

That big event is Jake Paul vs. Mike Tyson on July 20. It’s possible the UFC wouldn’t clear Aldo to compete on the Netflix card. Paul has repeatedly taken shots at the UFC’s treatment of fighters and is currently signed to a rival promotion, the Professional Fighters League. Fighting out his UFC contract would give Aldo breathing room to negotiate a Paul vs. Tyson undercard fight. While boxing is on the table for Aldo this year, he isn’t seriously considering signing with any other MMA promotions.

“We’ve been reached out to by other organizations and offered big million-dollar purses,” Aldo said. “But it’s really not a matter of financial decisions. I needed that break and I wanted to pursue my dream of boxing. Now I’m coming back. I never thought about fighting MMA other than UFC. So we have to see where I’m at right now with this fight and where I’m going to go from there.”

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