One month into 2014, the biggest story in the mixed martial arts world continues to be the development of the next star that will come out of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. On the heels of UFC 169, Jose Aldo’s victory has given the UFC the perfect opportunity to take steps to build another star for their organization. This is why it's imperative that the superfight between Aldo and Anthony Pettis be booked now, and scheduled for some time in 2014. Although the fight would put both the lightweight and featherweight divisions on hold, the UFC needs to draw the proverbial line in the sand and get this deal done.
Georges St. Pierre is gone. Anderson Silva is recovering from a serious injury. Jon Jones still hasn't hit major crossover appeal. Ronda Rousey experienced serious character damage on this past season of The Ultimate Fighter that may hurt her overall appeal. With all those factors in mind, there is a dire need for the UFC to present fans with a new face, a fighter to watch for this year and beyond, and creating a super fight can help establish the winner as that face. The fight itself would be one of the main stories of the year, and the man who gets his hand lifted will have the potential to garner mainstream coverage.
It's true that Aldo isn't the mainstream draw that the UFC hoped he would be at this point in his run. His situation is very similar to that of Anderson Silva, who was also dominant but not widely followed. That was until he ran into the character that is Chael Sonnen. Pettis could be the Chael to Aldo's Silva. While “Showtime” isn't one to make pro wrestling-like promos and go on ridiculous tirades, he isn't afraid to say what's on his mind when talking about the opponents who are in front of him. He can carry the promotional effort that would be needed to create the big fight atmosphere that the UFC needs at some point in 2014. Anthony Pettis is currently recovering from injury, but he can still give interviews, and if the UFC could get this fight made, the organization would have more than enough time to properly build this into the biggest fight of 2014.
Another reason this fight needs to be created is because it can spark renewed interest in both the featherweight and lightweight divisions.
At 145, Aldo has nearly cleaned out the entire weight class. Looking at the MMA Ratings rankings, he's already defeated every other competitor listed in the top five. While some see Chad Mendes as the top potential foil to Aldo, even that rematch should take a back seat to this superfight. If Aldo were to defeat Pettis, then the featherweight title could be vacated to allow competitors such as Mendes, Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, Dustin Poirier, and others to contend for it throughout the rest of the year. If Aldo is defeated, then he will either go back to fighting at featherweight or stay a lightweight, and vacate his title then. Either way, the division wouldn’t be caught up in a crazy logjam that would slow down action for the rest of the year.
The lightweight division is going through a similar situation. Josh Thomson had created some interest in seeing him face Pettis, but Pettis's injury allowed Benson Henderson to step in and blow that plan up at UFC on Fox 10. Now the weight class is truly devoid of a true number one contender. It's too early for Henderson to have a rematch. Thomson lost. T.J. Grant is still sidelined. Gilbert Melendez comes to mind, but with only one Octagon win, those with the decisionmaking power may want to see him win a few more contests before they place him in another title fight.
Contendership concerns aside, from a stylistic perspective, this fight would entice both mainstream fans and hardcore fans alike. Aldo and Pettis are both very sound in every area of mixed martial arts, and both have substantial highlight reels, so there isn't any question as to the excitement level that this bout would create. Just look back to 2013 when a fight between the two was announced for Aldo’s featherweight title. The immediate buzz that the announcement created was only matched by the overall letdown when fans realized that injuries would keep the fight from occurring.
Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo is a fight that must happen in 2014. UFC President Dana White must throw all of his strength behind getting these two individuals to agree to meet each other in the most well-developed and promoted card the UFC has had to offer to date. A mid-summer matchup between the two could immediately swing a year that hasn't gotten off to the greatest of starts for the organization, and give the promotion a bigger star to boot.