When Jose Aldo enters the Octagon on Sunday to face off against the talented all-rounder Rob Font, he does so a virtual lock for the UFC Hall of Fame.
The long-time UFC and WEC Featherweight Champion, few men have had a streak of dominance over a division as Jose Aldo did.
However, the winds of change aren’t far away from the UFC roster at any point in time, and in recent years, many new claimants to the throne have made their voices heard.
In honour of Jose Aldo, we thought we’d dive into the history books and try and decipher who is the Greatest Featherweight of All Time.
5. Urijah Faber
Key Achievements: WEC Featherweight Champion, most title defences in WEC History
Before the Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions transitioned from the WEC to the UFC, one man was the face of all the lower weight classes in the United States. ‘The California Kid’ Urijah Faber built a name for himself to a level that few of his size had done in any sport.
Over his time with the company, Faber made for must-watch television and helped grow the exposure and the appreciation of the lower weight classes, considered by some to be the most exciting in all of MMA.
While the entirety of Faber’s achievements in the Featherweight division had occurred before he ever set foot in the UFC’s cage, the impact and shadow he cast over the weight class would not be quickly forgotten.
4. Alexander Volkanovski
Key Achievements: (Current) UFC Featherweight Champion, 6th-longest active win streak in the UFC (10).
Alexander Volkanovski is the latest to lay claim to the Featherweight Championship mantle in the UFC, and he has done so on the back of an INSANE 20-fight win streak in MMA.
Without spoiling the list ahead, Volkanovski also holds the most victories over fellow members of this list with 3. So why is the current divisional kingpin so low on this list? Longevity.
Despite being champion for two years, Volkanovski has only defended his belt twice so far.
Through continually proving himself against the shark tank that is the UFC Featherweight Division, Volkanovski will be able to shed the ‘Most Underappreciated UFC Champion’ moniker he unhappily wears.
3. Conor McGregor
Key Achievements: UFC Featherweight Champion, UFC Lightweight Champion, headlined the Top 7 Highest Grossing UFC PPVs of All Time, First Two-Weight UFC Champion, Most Consecutive Post-Fight Bonuses in the UFC (8)
There’s little to be said about Conor McGregor that hasn’t been said before.
The most popular, polarising star the world of MMA has ever seen, McGregor has made a name for himself almost as much for his out-of-cage antics as for the work he showcases inside it.
But let’s make no mistake about it – when Conor McGregor steps into the cage, he is one of the most dangerous men alive.
Nowhere was this most evidence than when McGregor was at his hungriest – before the excess riches and after the brutal weight cuts, McGregor at Featherweight was – perhaps – an unstoppable force.
McGregor was able to rise rapidly through the Featherweight divisions with wins over Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier and Chad Mendes en route to his shot at the Undisputed King – Jose Aldo. McGregor did not disappoint, delivering the fastest finish in UFC Championship history against an opponent who had been undefeated (and invulnerable) throughout 10 years and 18 fights.
This victory set McGregor on a path to achieve Featherweight GOAT status…however, McGregor chose to leave that path and venture north in weight.
McGregor has won four undisputed championships in his MMA career and has so far failed to defend a single one, potentially causing his legacy to reach less than its potential.
2. Max Holloway
Key Achievements: UFC Featherweight Champion, Longest Win Streak in UFC Featherweight History (14), Most Stoppages in UFC Featherweight History (10), Most Significant Strikes Landed All Time (2848) / In Title Fights (1208) / In A Single Bout (445) / Most UFC Fights Without Being Knocked Down (25)
After dropping a decision to Conor McGregor (McGregor’s only Featherweight opponent he didn’t knock down or KO), Holloway reinvented himself as a pressure boxer, reliant on incredible pace, speed, accuracy and perhaps the best chins the sport has ever seen (https://www.neds.com.au/blog/2021/11/best-chins-in-mma-history/) to become the UFC Featherweight Champion and defend it multiple times against the best in the world.
Holloway ran into the surging Volkanovski and, after 10 hard fought rounds, found himself on the other side of a 0-2 campaign against the Aussie.
Since then, Holloway has proved himself to be the only logical choice for a challenger in 2022 after a career-defining victory over Calvin Kattar and a brutal war against Yair Rodriguez.
Few people have achieved as much as Max has in a single division in the sport.
Key Achievements: WEC Featherweight Champion, UFC Featherweight Champion, Youngest Champion in WEC / UFC History, Longest Win Streak in WEC History, Most Title Defences in UFC Featherweight History, Longest Reigning Champion in UFC Featherweight History
The King of Rio is also the King of the Featherweight. The GOAT Featherweight was the single most feared striker in the lower weight classes from his WEC debut until the fateful night he lost his title at UFC 194.
His legendary WEC run was 8 fights, 8 wins and 7 finishes (Urijah Faber managed to survive until the final bell but his legs probably wish he’d given up much much sooner).
Holding the belt when the WEC folded into the UFC, Aldo continued his reign of terror, running through the best of the division for another 4 years before running into the Irishman’s patented left.
Jose Aldo’s Featherweight dominance is hard to capture retrospectively; living in the Aldo Era – especially the brutality of his WEC run – was unlike anything else.
Whereas wrestlers were staking their claim to the heavier weight classes in the later parts of the 00’s, Jose Aldo was relentlessly violent with his strikes, nigh impossible to take down and – despite recording just one submission victory in 37 bouts – it is rumoured his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a formidable weapon in its own right.
With losses to 3 of the other 4 men on this list, perhaps the ranking of Jose Aldo as our Greatest Featherweight of All Time might be contentious. Let us know in the comments your order, or if you think we’ve missed anyone.