Main, co-main event fighters speak out
We're just a few hours away from the moments of truth between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes, who headline tonight's UFC 142 pay-per-view in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and co-main event fighters Vitor Belfort and Anthony Johnson.
Aldo (20-1, 2-0 UFC), the UFC featherweight champion, puts his title on the line for the fifth time. The Brazilian champ took the belt from Mike Brown in the WEC and defended it twice there against Manny Gamburyan and Urijah Faber. In the UFC, he has defended it against Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian. Mendes (11-0, 2-0 UFC) went 4-0 in the WEC before the merger with the UFC and has decision wins over Rani Yahya and Michihiro Omigawa to earn his shot at Aldo's title.
Belfort (20-9, 9-5 UFC) is fighting in his native Brazil for the first time since 1998. And he'll have a little extra incentive against Johnson (10-3, 7-3 UFC), who on Friday failed to make the middleweight limit of 186 pounds in his first fight in the weight class since moving up from welterweight, where he twice failed to make 170 pounds. Johnson weighed in at 197 pounds, and as a stipulation for taking the fight, Belfort insisted Johnson weigh no more than 205 pounds today at a second weigh-in. Belfort will also get 20 percent of Johnson's fight purse.
The time for talking may be over soon, but before the pay-per-view starts at 10 p.m. Eastern, let's have one last look at what the four fighters have to say about their bouts:
Jose Aldo, UFC featherweight champion
"This will be my first time headlining at UFC. I’m very happy to be a part of this event. I’m anxious to hear the crowd screaming as I walk inside. I just can’t wait to feel that energy."
"About his speed, it won’t be a problem. He’s always been an explosive fighter, but I’m an explosive fighter, as well. I’ve been training jiu-jitsu since I was a kid, so if we both hit the ground, I will be the one with the advantage."
"Chad’s style of fighting is very similar to Urijah Faber’s. The height, the wrestling, the way they move ... they are very similar. Mendes is younger than Faber, but it’s basically the same type of fight for me."
"Mendes has got a disadvantage fighting me on his feet. He’s not as good a boxer as the other guys I have faced, and I don’t think he can do well standing up in this fight. I will be looking for a knockout or a submission."
"I will defeat Chad Mendes.”
Chad Mendes, No. 1 featherweight contender
"I believe in my skills and knew that if I trained hard and fought right, things would work out for me – and they did."
"These guys that have black belts in jiu-jitsu, I’ve pretty much just shut them down basically because of my athleticism and my strength. I think it’s going to be tough for him to throw any kind of submission when I’m on top punching him in the face. I don’t think he’s got this big advantage on the ground."
"Jose Aldo is a great champion, but I don’t think he’s fought anybody with the athleticism, the strength and the wrestling background that I have. I don’t shoot – I blast people off their feet with my takedowns."
"I’m going to go to Brazil and I’m going to take that belt from Aldo. I’m the next featherweight champion of the world. It happens for me this Saturday, and it's time to prove myself.”
Vitor Belfort, UFC middleweight
"I’m going to test his heart and I’m going to be 100 percent for him – and he’s going to face a hungry, hungry lion. I have faith in my ability. No man can stand against me when I am in this frame of mind. I am very happy to represent Brazil and am looking forward to this week and enjoying the UFC being here. But once I am in the Octagon, and the door slams shut, it is all business."
"Anthony Johnson will be defeated in my homeland.”
Anthony "Rumble” Johnson
"Moving up to face Vitor was a new chapter in my life, a new challenge. I’m going to stay here and I’m going to take over this weight class."
"I’m going to use everything in my power to dominate Vitor in every way possible."
"He’s fast, he’s powerful, he has a lot of experience – but my right hand is his Kryptonite."
"I will dominate Vitor Belfort. Chael Sonnen is seen as the top threat to Anderson Silva’s title. Well, I am at 185 pounds and everyone at middleweight has to worry about me now. I’m in this division to go to the top. You will see a whole different animal now I am at this weight class.”