After Henry Cejudo announced his retirement earlier in May, UFC president Dana White said Petr Yan would fight "somebody" to crown a new bantamweight titleholder.
Many thought his opponent would be Aljamain Sterling, the No. 2-ranked contender who has won four straight fights. After Sterling was booked against Cory Sandhagen, some expected a fight between Yan and former title challenger Marlon Moraes - originally slated for UFC Kazakhstan on June 13 before the coronavirus pandemic - to get rescheduled.
But instead, that "somebody" will likely be former featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who's lost two straight bouts and is 0-1 as a bantamweight, White announced Wednesday.
After falling short to Moraes in his bantamweight debut last December, Aldo was scheduled to fight Cejudo for the 135-pound title at UFC 250, originally slated for May 9 in Sao Paulo before the pandemic uprooted the event.
That clash didn't make sense to begin with, but Aldo facing Yan for the vacant belt takes things to a whole new level of absurdity. Here's why.
The idea behind Cejudo-Aldo was that "Triple C" wanted to fight a legend, not that Aldo actually deserved a title shot. After wins over Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw, and Moraes - three incredibly difficult fights - Cejudo felt he was in a position to call the shots and ask for a specific opponent. He didn't want to fight another top contender just yet, and the UFC granted him his wish.
But with Cejudo out of the picture, that storyline of the 33-year-old wanting a legend fight is completely irrelevant. It's too bad for Aldo, who was told he'd be getting a title shot, and it was taken away from him. But the UFC should've moved on, as Cejudo's retirement means there's no longer a legitimate reason to even think about the Brazilian fighting for the belt.
Brazil was the scheduled destination for the title fight with Cejudo, a venue that made abundant sense given the massive fan base Aldo attracts in the country. The UFC needed a sellable main event for its Sao Paulo card, and the Rio de Janeiro resident taking on Cejudo for the bantamweight crown was exactly that - even if the fight was illogical based on the rankings.
Fans would've swarmed to the arena to see their countryman try to become a two-division champion. But now Sao Paulo is out of the picture due to the pandemic. Yan-Aldo will almost certainly take place either in the United States or on Fight Island, with no fans in attendance. That means no big gate as a result of giving Aldo a title shot.
It's a little surprising that Yan has apparently agreed to the Aldo fight.
"No Mercy" repeatedly criticized Cejudo for wanting to defend his title against fighters coming off a loss - including Aldo, Dominick Cruz, and Frankie Edgar.
Yan shouldn't be blamed for taking the fight. He's simply going after the title and doesn't care who he needs to beat. Plus, the Russian could feel obliged to sign on for the bout. Turning it down may not be in his best interest, as he could potentially tarnish his relationship with the UFC, or lose the title shot altogether.
On top of that, Aldo is still a big name, and a win over the Brazilian would be a solid addition to Yan's resume.
However, everything Yan has stood for goes out the window the moment he fights Aldo. During Cejudo's bantamweight title reign, Yan said he believes champions must fight the deserving contenders, and the deserving contenders are the fighters who should be getting title shots. But now, that's all for naught.
This part of the argument is the same as when Cejudo was booked to fight Aldo: The top of the bantamweight division is loaded with contenders, and Aldo simply isn't one of them.
If the weight class was weak, and the majority of the top-10 fighters were coming off losses, then most could probably live with Aldo getting a title shot. But Sterling has done more than enough to earn a shot. You can argue Sandhagen also deserves a crack at the belt - certainly more so than Aldo. Hell, Moraes beat Aldo five months ago and should be further along in the title hunt, even if he did just fight Cejudo for the belt less than a year ago.
Most of all, Aldo fighting Yan for the vacant title doesn't sit well because multiple other fighters who deserve to be competing for UFC gold are losing an opportunity. Instead, they have to sit on the sidelines and wait, or take another fight and risk not getting their title shot, while a fighter who hasn't even recorded a victory in the division jumps to the front of the line.