- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAS VEGAS -- The UFC is set to introduce a rankings system for the first time in its 20-year history. The inaugural rankings will debut after Saturday's UFC 156 pay-per-view event.
Limited to UFC-promoted fighters only, the rankings will encompass all eight weight divisions as well as pound-for-pound. Approximately 90 media members have been invited to the initial vote, according to UFC president Dana White.
“We thought as the sport continues to grow and reaches out more into the mainstream, mainstream people understand numbers,” White said. “Alabama plays Notre Dame -- No. 1 and No. 2.
“We think it would be a lot easier for casual fans just getting into the UFC to understand the sport a little better.”
White made it clear that while UFC-official rankings will be in place for the first time, they will have a limited effect on future matchmaking.
Many fans and media were critical of the promotion’s decision to elevate Chael Sonnen, a former middleweight with no UFC wins at 205 pounds, to an April title fight against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Similar fights might still be made in the future despite the rankings, White said.
“Here’s the thing, no matter what the rankings are, I’m going to put on the fights fans want to see,” White said. “Just so you know.”
Evans was as surprised as the rest of us at Belfort’s callout of Jones
Which title he set his sights on was the shocking part.
Instead of calling out 185-pound champion Anderson Silva, who is currently without an opponent and was sitting cageside that night, Belfort (22-10) demanded an immediate rematch against 205-pound champ Jones.
Jones defeated Belfort via submission at UFC 152 in September. He is already scheduled to defend his title against Sonnen in April.
“I had no idea [he was going to do that],” Evans told ESPN.com. “That took me by surprise. He was excited and just had a big fight. I guess when you lose you have that feeling that you want to come back stronger and beat the guy who beat you.
“Maybe he was feeling he lost to Jon, but he’s a better fighter and wants to prove he can beat him.”
Belfort came excruciatingly close to pulling off an upset when he caught Jones in an armbar attempt in the first round of their fight. Afterward, the Brazilian said he loosened his grip when Jones called out in pain.
Evans (17-2-1) said that decision might be what’s eating at Belfort, but in his mind Jones deserves credit for escaping the hold.
“I think Vitor did everything he could do in that moment to win the fight,” Evans said. “Credit goes to Jones, who didn’t panic. A lot of people might have tapped there, but he kept his composure.”
White skeptical of UFC return for Quinton Jackson
President White responded on Thursday to recent accusations by Quinton Jackson that the promotion lies about pay-per-view revenue in an attempt to underpay its fighters.
In an interview with MMA Heat, Jackson, who fulfilled his UFC contract in a unanimous decision loss to Glover Teixeira last week, said the promotion gives false PPV numbers to its fighters that are consistently lower than those provided to media.
White responded that any UFC fighter who profits from PPV revenue has the right to audit the promotion’s financial records.
“[Jackson] is going out saying stupid stuff,” White said. “Any fighter who has a PPV deal has audit rights.
“So, if you really thought you had been ripped off on your PPV deal, wouldn’t you be lawyering up right now and checking the books? Yeah, you would.”
White has said he is open to the idea of re-signing Jackson (32-11), but when asked on Thursday whether he was effectively closing the door on his return, White replied, “Yeah.”
“We’re not talking,” White said. “I talked to his manager a few days ago, he kind of told me what they’re looking at. Good luck to him.
“If you’re not happy here, go somewhere else and work. I’ve got no beef with him.”
Aldo’s sights still on lightweight, but coach says no
Aldo (21-1) looks to record perhaps the most impressive win of his career Saturday when he defends his belt for a fourth time against former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
It would stand to reason should he defeat Edgar (15-3-1), it would eliminate any reservations his coach might have of him competing at lightweight. Edgar, after all, held that belt from 2010 to 2012.
Sadly for the Brazilian, though, Aldo says that’s not the case.
“That’s my wish, but I don’t think he’ll let me go up even if I beat Frankie Edgar,” Aldo told ESPN.com.
Still? Well, how come?
“I ask that same question, ‘Why not?’ all the time,” Aldo said. “But if he believes I should stay in this weight class, I will stay. He’s my mentor, and whatever he decides is fine to me.”
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