With Anderson Silva currently in his doghouse, UFC president Dana White is happy to talk up Jose Aldo these days.
White has spent much of the week singing the praises of Aldo, the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion, as well as former title-holder Urijah (The California Kid) Faber.
The two marquee 145-pounders meet Saturday in Sacramento, Calif., as the WEC -- which is owned by the UFC -- makes the jump from live television to pay-per-view.
The WEC heads to Canada next, for a televised June 20 card in Edmonton.
Like Silva, the UFC's mercurial middleweight champion considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Aldo wants to dominate several weight classes.
White says the Brazilian looks to defend his title against Faber, then move down to 135 pounds to win the WEC bantamweight crown before heading over to the UFC to take a run at the lightweight (155-pound) championship.
"This kid is talented enough to do it," White told The Canadian Press. "The reality is Jose Aldo looks like he has all the tools to become this amazing fighter, maybe the first guy ever to win titles in three weight classes in mixed martial arts.
"But Saturday's the test. We've got to see how he does against Urijah Faber."
Randy (The Natural) Couture, B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn and Dan Henderson have held titles in two different weight classes. Silva, the current UFC middleweight champion, has been winning as a light-heavyweight although he is somewhat under a cloud these days after some uninspired performances in his normal weight class.
Aldo (16-1) stands five foot seven and usually walks around at 163 pounds. He has won all six of his WEC fights by knockout, dethroning Mike Brown in a dominant performance last time out in November. Prior to that he stopped Cub Swanson in just eight seconds, using a deadly flying double knee to leave him a bloody mess on the canvas.
Aldo's lone loss was by submission in November 2005.
Brown took the WEC title away from Faber, long considered the poster boy of the WEC, and beat him in a rematch. In the first fight, in November 2008, Faber tried a flashy elbow coming off the fence and was dropped by Brown when it missed. Faber broke both his hands in the second, last June, but still went five rounds with Brown.
"One mistake and some bad luck," is how Faber views the two outings.
Faber, a native of Sacramento who is coming off a January win over Raphael Assuncao, has retained his rock star status in the sport despite losing his title.
"I figured this out a long time ago . . . People like exciting fighters, man," said White. "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you fight. That's what people care about."
The five-foot-six Faber (23-3 including 8-2 in the WEC) is a bundle of energy in the cage, a skilful wrestler who has developed into a dangerous standup fighter. The 30-year-old with surfer dude looks is also a savvy businessman, running his own gym and fight team (Team Alpha Male) while ensuring the Faber brand prospers.
Aldo also delivers excitement, usually in short, brutal doses. An elegant five foot seven, the 23-year-old from Rio de Janeiro has lightning-fast kicks and strikes. He is also strong, fending off Brown -- a five-foot-six slab of muscle -- with relative ease.
Aldo, who likes to be known as Junior, comes from modest beginnings in Manaus in northern Brazil, almost 2,000 kilometres away from the capital of Brasilia.
The scar on the left side of his face dates back to a childhood accident when he fell into a barbecue. Aldo says he was happy growing up, helping his father from the age of six with his construction job.
He had always wanted to be a soccer player -- he supports the Flamengo team -- until fighting became his focus. He started training at 14 in capoeira, which combines martial arts and music, before switching to jiu-jitsu and then mixed martial arts.
He showed enough talent that his first instructor took him to Rio when he was 16 to pursue his training. When he first got there, he slept in the gym and relied on his coach and training partners for food.
He still trains in Rio, living his dream as a champion although he's not letting it get to his head.
"I'm going out there like this is a brand new fight, like I'm going to win a brand new belt," he said through his manager. "It's like I have a whole new dream."
Both main event fighters exude charisma, even if Aldo is hampered by lack of English. A megawatt smile helps cut through the language barrier, as do his enthusiastic post-win dances in the cage.
In the co-main event, Ben (Smooth) Henderson makes the first defence of his WEC lightweight title against Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone. Henderson (11-1) won a five-round decision over Cerrone (11-2 with one no contest) for the interim crown last October, then defeated Jamie Varner for the real title in January.
The UFC is looking to grow the WEC, which focuses on lighter weight classes, and White has thrown the parent organization's weight behind this pay-per-view. There will be a distinct UFC feel to Saturday's show, which White expects to be a sellout at the Arco Arena, with UFC broadcasters and ring announcer featured.
White says that's because the UFC is the one with a pay-per-view track record.
"Pay-per-view's a very, very tough business," White said. "And I think the timing and the (main event) fight is right for pay-per-view for the WEC right now."
"There's so many things to watch," he continued. "There's so much other stuff that people can watch for free or for subscription. It's a big job to get people to put their hand in their pocket and go buy something on pay-per-view and it's not as easy as it looks."