Reports began circulating today that newly crowned UFC Featherweight Champion “Junior” Jose Aldo (17-1) may be forced to pull out of his first UFC title defense with number-one contender “The Fluke” Josh Grispi (14-1) at UFC 125 on New Year’s Day. Aldo reportedly sustained a compacted vertebrae which resulted in tingling in both of his arms. ESPN.com’s Josh Gross learned from Aldo’s management that the injury will sideline Aldo for “at least a month for therapy.”
During training it became clear that Aldo was operating at less than full strength, and at the request of his trainer “Dede” Andre Pederneiras, Aldo underwent an MRI. The results yielded doctors’ recommendations for “Junior” to cease training for a full month and focus fully on physical therapy.
MMA Gospel consulted Neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Downs (who is not affiliated with the UFC champion) about the type of injury afflicting Aldo and was told the following: “This injury is not to be considered one that requires surgery as long as his therapy goes as scheduled. [Aldo] will first have to undergo at least a month of physical therapy to see if swelling can be relieved and surgery prevented. Symptoms can subside during therapy, as the fluid is replaced to said vertebral sacks. After at least one month Aldo will have a second MRI to see progress of this injury. If all is well he could be released to train or have continuing therapy.” Downs further likened the injury to a sprained ankle or knee.
What does this mean for Grispi and the yet to be defended featherweight title? The UFC is unlikely to make an interim belt, due to the facts that Aldo should be out only a couple of months at the longest barring any complications, and that UFC President Dana White previously expressed refusal to have more interim belts in the UFC.
Now Josh Grispi has a tough decision on his hands. Should he still fight on the card, but against a substitute fighter? A potential replacement fight for Grispi that would make sense respective to the featherweight division is “Money” Chad Mendes (9-0) because of his nine-fight winning streak and undefeated status. Also, Mendes currently does not have any fights scheduled for the near future. Taking an alternate match will prevent Grispi from forming ring rust, but if he loses it may potentially affect the draw of a future title shot against Aldo. Most likely the best option for “The Fluke” would be to drop from the card and wait for a healthy Aldo to make his first UFC title defense. This all, of course, is assuming Grispi is given a choice regarding his fate with the UFC 125 card.
Pederneiras told Gross, “[Jose Aldo is] heartbroken. But he said he doesn’t care about the injury and he’ll fight.” Whether or not Aldo will be cleared to defend his belt at UFC 125 is presently unknown. As the weeks progress and Aldo completes his physical therapy, more details will be available.
*Update: Aldo’s injury forced him to drop from the UFC 125 card. Opponent Josh Grispi remains on the card, and is slated to face Dustin Poirier (8-1) instead.