RIO DE JANEIRO — On a rare cloudy day in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Jose Aldo arrives early to the Upper Gym in the city’s Flamengo neighborhood. A shy guy, he quietly changes into his training clothes and enters the Octagon for the first training session of the day — cardio and conditioning. After several rounds of shadow boxing, punching mitts and moving on the ground, it’s time to rest until the next session.
The featherweight champion goes upstairs to the mat area of the Nova União team, the famous “sauna,” and sits on the edge of the ring. There, he observes the other pros training jiu-jitsu while looking at his phone. The phone’s cover shows a picture of Aldo smiling, wearing a crown, a scepter and a red cloak. The scar on his cheek, the result of an accident with a hot grill in his childhood, shines. He talks, crack jokes, shows funny videos on the little screen and looks at his teammates all the time, checking on their techniques and correcting when necessary.
To see this aggressive fighter, one of the greatest champions in the history of the sport, in such a human capacity may raise eyebrows for those who are not used to it.
Quite simply, Aldo transforms himself. In the cage, he is the king. Out of it, he’s still the kid from Manaus.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Jose Aldo walks away from the octagon after beating Ricardo Lamas during UFC 169 at Prudential Center.