On October 8th in Houston, Texas, two of the UFC’s lighter-weight champions will put their titles up for grabs against two of their fiercest rivals. In the co-main event at UFC 136, the featherweight king, Jose Aldo, is set on a collision course with the division’s newest star and, at the same time, a longtime UFC stalwart in Kenny “Ken-Flo” Florian. In the card’s main event, UFC lightweight champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar will face Gray “The Bully” Maynard to complete the trilogy between these evenly matched elite fighters in another battle for the belt.
But before any of these fighters can take to the cage, all four, plus UFC President Dana White, had to face the MMA media at the pre-fight press conference in Houston Tuesday. On one side of the podium sat two champions with their UFC gold gleaming in front of them. On the other side sat their envious and hungry challengers. The answers were short and direct; no surprise, as there’s no room to joke when there’s a championship on the line.
For “The Bully”, the question isn’t ‘is there motivation going into this rematch’, but can the undefeated TUF alum ever illustrate the enormity of it in finite words for us to understand?
“Since January 1st, it’s been on my mind every day and every night,” says the Xtreme Couture prospect who challenged Edgar for the belt on New Year’s Day in a five round slobberknocker, which started out with Maynard almost winning by KO in the first and, eventually, ended indecisively in a draw. “It's up to [Edgar] if he wants this to end in the first round or if he wants a full fight. But I'm walking away with the belt.”
The lightweight champion has a similar motivation as his adversary to bring closure to this rivalry and to move on to defending his belt against new competition.
“We've fought a couple times already and there really aren't any secrets,” explains Edgar, who originally won the title off BJ Penn at UFC 112 and then ran the tables on the veteran in the rematch at UFC 118. The pride of New Jersey is planning on bringing that UFC gold back to the Garden State at least one more time. “It's everything to me. For me to bring the title home would mean everything. I get such great support at home, I feel like they're in the cage with me.”
At 145 pounds, Florian made a statement in June in his first fight at the weight with a unanimous decision win over Diego “The Gun” Nunes at UFC 131.
“I felt I performed really well and could have done another five rounds that night,” asserts Florian, who simply overpowered Aldo’s Nova Uniao teammate in a fight where the critics questioned whether Florian could even make the weight. “I was coming off an injury and with my foot up for two months, I gained weight. Now, I’m already down closer to the weight, so the weight cut won’t be as difficult.”
Lastly, the first ever UFC featherweight champion, Aldo, is singularly focused to remain the only UFC featherweight champion ever.
“All I can do is train hard and go in there and win my fights,” said the Brazilian phenom, who made a near mythical tear through the WEC ranks, winning all eight of his fights and seven by KO/TKO. The Brazilian successfully defended the UFC belt via five round decision against Mark Hominick at UFC 129, displaying his stellar striking, including his much feared leg kicks. “I learned those kicks from Pedro Rizzo, from watching him for years and then later training under him.”
At the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, two young champions will look to continue cementing their legacy against challengers eager to feel the weight of UFC gold around their own waist. In the featherweight division, Florian and Aldo clash in a matchup of BJJ aces with punishing Muay Thai. In the lightweight division, Maynard and Edgar will look to settle this rivalry once and for all with the winner wearing UFC championship gold.
First Blood - Champions and Challengers Meet in Houston
UFC 136 headliners Edgar, Maynard, Aldo, and Florian meet in Houston...