Two of the greatest champions the UFC has ever had are both entangled in negotiations.
After Jose Aldo spoke to numerous outlets saying he wanted to be released from his contract, he finally decided this needed to be done in person. No third parties. Nothing left to interpretation.
On Wednesday, Aldo arrived in Vegas from Brazil, and met with the UFC and Dana White to have a "face-to-face conversation, man to man." All of this comes on the heels of Georges St-Pierre appearing on the MMA Hour to air his grievances publicly, and to announce he is a free agent. The UFC has since responded, saying that he is still under contract. For now, it seems Aldo is, as well.
Both fighters have their own strategies, reasons and endgame.
Stepping out of his meeting with the UFC, ESPN's Brett Okamoto was there to report on Aldo's reaction, outside headquarters.
"What the future will hold?" Aldo said through an interpreter. "Nobody knows, we'll have to wait and see."
The fumes seem to have abated slightly from Aldo's original claim that he was walking away from the sport of MMA for good. Even though he still says he'll no longer fight, Aldo leaves the door open.
"At this moment, nobody knows. I don't know, I came here from Brazil, already with my ideas firmly fixed in my head, and my current intention is to no longer fight. That hasn't changed. That's how I felt when I left Brazil, that's how I feel still today, but as for the future, nobody knows. We'll see," Aldo said. "Today was a first conversation. We might be headed down a better path, but there's a lot of transitions happening in the UFC."
Since suffering his first loss in over a decade at #UFC194, the former UFC featherweight champion has wanted nothing more than a rematch with Conor McGregor. The final straw of Aldo's patience with the UFC seemed to be granting McGregor a fight with Eddie Alvarez at #UFC205, once again allowing him to delay his first title featherweight title defense.
"I can’t trust any word from president Dana White, and who’s in charge of the promotion now is Conor McGregor. Since I’m not here to be an employee of McGregor, today I ask to cancel my contract with the UFC," Aldo said to Combate. "When they offered me a fight with Frankie Edgar, Dana said that the winner would challenge McGregor or win the linear title, that [McGregor] would lose his belt if he didn’t return to the featherweight division after his rematch with Nate Diaz. After being fooled so many times, I don’t feel motivated to fight in the UFC anymore."
While Aldo spoke out about the UFC, and then met with them in private, it looks like St-Pierre tried to get the deal done behind closed doors, then aired all the dirty laundry after negotiations fell through. After not being able to make his return at #UFC206, St-Pierre announced he is now a free agent with the help of his legal team.
"I truly believe it would have been a win-win scenario if I would have fought in Toronto. They would have made a lot of money, I would make good money, it would have been win-win," St-Pierre said on the last MMA Hour. "But unfortunately, since it is not happening, I'm losing, I believe UFC is losing, but the biggest loser in all that are the fans."
Never shy to stand up for something be believes in, much like the drug testing measures he was vocal about, #GSP went on about why he's not staying quiet. The answer was simple; it's because he believes he is one of the few in a position that can speak up without fear of retaliation.
"Most fighters in the UFC are starving. For UFC it's very easy when you keep a lot of your staff starving, they are easier to control," St-Pierre said. "It's unfortunate for us, for fighters, because a lot of the fighters don't have the options that I have."
As Aldo spoke of the uncertainty surrounding new management today, St-Pierre also voiced a more ominous forecast based off of his short interaction with them.
"I believe if Lorenzo [Fertitta] was still there, it would have been maybe different. We were making a lot of progress ... when we talked to Lorenzo, it was more of a cooperation," St-Pierre said. "When we talked to the new owner, it was like a total different story. Everything was off the table."
All of this started as soon as St-Pierre first started talking about a return to the UFC. Time and time again—just like Aldo being told he'd get the fight with McGregor—White blasted St-Pierre telling him that he didn't believe he actually wanted to fight. Both statements seem to be completely untrue, most likely "games" (perhaps played by all sides) to come to a business agreement.
“It's like a game. [Dana White's] doing his game, I'm doing mine. We work for the best of our interests. Let me fight once and you'll see. You'll see after the first minute. He'll be like 'oh yeah, he's serious," St-Pierre said on UFC Tonight. "I'm not the kind of guy you're going to say that [about] and OK I'm going to sign, I'm going to fight for peanuts? No, I'm a smart person, it doesn't work on me these things."
Despite their differences as fighters and the dichotomy of their negotiations, at the very core of these personal disagreements with the UFC, are underlying issues beyond just themselves. St-Pierre and his lawyer seem to be declaring war on contracts and the sponsorship model, Aldo wants what he believes is best for all fighters, which is something neither would dispute.
"I don't think just of myself, I don't think of just Jose Aldo the fighter, I think of the whole category of fighters," Aldo said. "With the new ownership and all the transitions they're taking, I can only hope that we can come in with new ideas to benefit all the fighters, for things to improve that for everybody, not just for me."