Championship gold is the desired destination for every fighter. Where most are eager to get their opportunity in the quickest fashion possible, Chad Mendes has learned to take a measured approach. It is a position he’s stood in before and the former number one contender is intent to make sure the next time he steps into the Octagon with a title on the line that the results are going to be different.
It wasn’t all too long ago when the Team Alpha Male fighter took his shot at current champion Jose Aldo’s crown at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mendes ultimately came out on the business end of that affair, but after suffering the first loss of his career, the 27-year-old returned to the gym determined to get back on track.
In his next bout against TUF alum Cody McKenzie at UFC 148, “Money” wasted no time getting down to business. Mendes needed only 31 seconds to claim the victory as he folded McKenzie with a brutal body shot to end the fight. It was the type of performance Mendes needed to get under his belt and he was pleased with his work inside the Octagon.
“It’s always a great thing when you can get a quick finish,” Mendes said. “You go through a hard camp over eight weeks, grinding, and killing yourself to get ready. Then you go in there, beat the guy up, and get the quick finish. It’s a great feeling. I like Cody. He’s come in and trained with us in the past, and after the fight I invited him to come back out to train again. Getting the finish was an awesome feeling and it was a great fight for me.”
The victory over McKenzie kept Mendes hovering in the title picture, but with Aldo already committed to a scheduled bout, moving on to the next step made the most sense. That opportunity will come at UFC on FX 6 in Australia against highly-touted Brazilian prospect Hacran Dias. While the Nova Uniao product is yet to establish a name in the UFC, his past accomplishments and the stable of fighters he comes from are certainly factors on Mendes’s radar.
“I’m definitely not taking this guy lightly at all,” Mendes said. “He’s only had one fight in the UFC, and might not have a name here just yet, but I believe he’s tougher than some of the other guys I’ve faced. He is coming out of a great camp at Nova Uniao and our team (Alpha Male) hasn’t done too well against them. I think this is an opportunity for me to get in there and get a notch up on the scoreboard for us.
“I’m excited for it. I’ve been training hard and I feel great. Stylistically, he’s mostly a ground guy. He likes to take guys down using upper-body techniques and trips. Growing up I did a lot of Greco-Roman wrestling so I’m pretty comfortable with the upper-body stuff. I’m just excited to get in there.
On paper, the matchup between Mendes and Dias reads like a classic “wrestling vs. jiu-jitsu” matchup, but the California native is expecting much more when the action gets underway. While he doesn’t discount the fact his wrestling pedigree will come into play during the fight, Mendes wants to use every trip into the Octagon as an opportunity to broaden his skill set.
“I expect wrestling to be a key factor in this fight,” Mendes said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was five years old and I’m sure he’s been doing jiu-jitsu for just as long. It is completely different though. You get guys who are black belts in BJJ coming into the gym and they aren’t used to the grind American wrestling puts on them. The high pace, banging on the head, and having the weight on top of them - it really wears them down. It’s just something they are not used to. I’m looking to use my style, keep the pace high, and push the pressure. I’m going to be looking to break him.
“For me, the standup aspect of the fight game is something I’ve been working hard at. It is not just the technique, but getting comfortable using it inside the Octagon. With wrestling you are constantly bent forward in a wrestling stance and your body adapts to it in order to be strong in that position. Coming into MMA you are upright in boxing or Muay Thai stances and it is completely different. My biggest progression has been getting used to that and being comfortable letting my hands go inside the Octagon.”
“It’s just a natural instinct when you are a wrestler to take the guy down. Some times when the pace starts getting high it’s a natural instinct to shoot a blast double and put your opponent on his back. It’s definitely something you have to fight from time to time.”
The bout with Dias comes at a crucial time when all of the major players in the featherweight division are preparing for upcoming fights. In addition to the batch of contenders holding ground in the weight class’s upper tier, big name entries such as former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and longtime contender Clay Guida are certain to shake things up.
“Edgar and Guida are big names and before I ever started fighting, I watched both of those guys,” Mendes said. “It’s cool that some of the fighters are cutting down but I’m interested to see how both of them do. It’s kind of a big weight cut for both of them and that can affect your performance quite a bit. I’m going to be interested to see how they look at 145 pounds.”
While Mendes will be watching to see how the other contenders fare, his primary focus is the one directly in front of him. It is a step-by-step approach and Mendes is excited to mix it up with Dias.
“It’s going to be a high paced fight and I’m going to be looking to finish him,” Mendes said. “He’s a grappler. I’m a grappler. I’m sure there are going to be some sick scrambles, and it should be fun for the fans to watch. A win should put me in the mix for a title shot but I’m taking things one fight at a time right now.”
Chad Mendes Taking the Step-By-Step Approach
"I’m looking to use my style, keep the pace high, and push the pressure. I’m going to be looking to break him." - Chad Mendes