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Uniao’s Jose Aldo is a top featherweight today, but he has had to fight his way up the ranks.

Beginning as a lightweight in the Brazilian promotions of IVC and Shooto, Aldo would have a successful run there, going 5-0 with all finishes before being called to the biggest stage possible – the UFC. However, he’d be forced to debut as a lightweight as well, as his first opponent was on an even bigger contract than his own.

“My manager called me saying I’ll be debuting against ‘Korean Zombie’ (Chan Sung Jung), so I said to myself ‘that’s great, let’s do it,'” recalls Aldo to TATAME about his 2011 bout with the popular Korean. “I was going to debut against someone easier, with a smaller name, but he had a bigger contract than me.”

Aldo only fought once as a lightweight in the UFC before his eventual drop down to featherweight. There, Aldo would have an even more dominant career with title wins over everyone from Chad Mendes and Urijah Faber to Frankie Edgar and Ricardo Lamas. For Aldo, his success as a 145-pounder has been all about timing.

“The way it’s going now is that I’m at the right time for this division,” says Aldo of being champion since 2009. “There were others who came before me and couldn pull it off because they weren’t at the right time. Now, I’m at the right time for this division.”

While Aldo was mostly dominant in his featherweight title reign, he did have one blemish on his record – a UFC 149 decision loss suffered to Canadian rival and current 145-pound champion Max Holloway. That loss would serve as motivation for both men, with Holloway going on an impressive 13-fight unbeaten streak and Aldo returning with a vengeance last June against Frankie Edgar. The difference between those two fights? Experience says it all.

“I think that my first fight (against Holloway) wasn’t like now,” says Aldo of their first matchup. “He fought more than me but after every fight you experience something and learn from mistakes. I think that now, against him, it’ll be a different fight.”

With Aldo’s evolution over the last few years due to his training with coach Andre Pederneiras at Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, there’s one thing he wants critics to know about his time there.

“Nova Uniao fighters are always ready,” says Aldo of their reputation for being in top condition when they step into the cage. “We give our best whether we’ve got 15 days or four months [to prepare]. We’re always ready.”

After suffering three straight title defeats to Holloway, Edgar looks to become just the third man ever to hold UFC gold in two divisions by taking Aldo’s featherweight title. And while the Brazilian is aware of Edgar’s past accomplishments, he has no plans to pull off a repeat of their UFC 200 fight when he stepped in on short notice against Holloway for an interim belt.

“Frankie is coming off three straight losses and I’m sure he wants this one really bad,” states Aldo. “I’ve said it before – if you lose three times in this division, there are other guys who are hungry looking to take your place.”

The champion thinks that his performance against Edgar at UFC 200 was enough for him to get another shot at gold, but he knows how much focus is on him with just one more win. Fighting Edgar again will require Aldo to be at his technical best, as the long-time ruler of 145 pounds has no intention of underestimating his opponent one bit.

“I know that Frankie is good everywhere,” says Aldo. “He has a lot of experience and he’s coming off three losses, so we’ll see what happens.”

As for what will happen when they meet in the center of the Octagon on July 29 in Rio de Janeiro? You’ll have to watch UFC 200: CORMIER vs. JONES 2 to find out.