Seamus Raftery profiles Conor McGregor’s new UFC 189 opponent, Chad Mendes.
The UFC 189 main event had captured the imagination of the general public like few MMA fights ever have. The extensive build up gave us great insight into the mind’s and personalities of the combatants, Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor.
The news that Aldo has been forced to pull out of the fight through injury is therefore, hugely disappointing. Make no mistake however, there is still a very intriguing bout topping the bill on July 11th, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Chad Mendes has come to the rescue.
Many millions of casual observers have been caught up in the hurricane of hype surrounding this event. Some of these people are likely asking “Who is Chad Mendes?”. Having been just inserted into this complex equation, Mendes has not benefited from the same level of publicity as Aldo and McGregor. He will not be as familiar to many of the people who have become invested in this drama.
To those of you who are not die hard MMA enthusiasts but want to know more: this is Chad Mendes…….
Mendes is 30 years old and hails from Hanford, California. He represents the highly regarded Team Alpha Male, a professional MMA gym based in Sacramento. Mendes is currently ranked number 2 in the world at featherweight by MMA website sherdog.com. It is a position he also holds in the official UFC rankings. In both compilations he is rated higher than his opponent, Conor McGregor.
Mendes turned professional as a mixed martial artist in the aftermath of a successful collegiate wrestling career. He made his debut in 2008, for Palace Fighting Championships, defeating Giovanni Encarnacion.
By early 2010 he had moved on to World Extreme Cagefighting. The WEC was, by this time owned by UFC parent company, Zuffa. There he scored some big wins, most notably defeating Cub Swanson, who is currently a top ten ranked featherweight contender in the UFC.
Later that year the WEC was merged with the UFC and Mendes moved on to the big time.
Mendes made his UFC debut in February 2011, with a win against Michihiro Omigawa. One win later and the man who has borrowed Floyd Mayweather’s “Money” moniker, found himself lined up for a title shot against Jose Aldo.
Mendes’ first crack at the Brazilian ended in sudden and violent defeat when, in the dying seconds of the opening round, his head met with the knee of the champion.
The Californian rebounded fantastically from his first defeat however, rattling off five wins in a row. The run included impressive showings against quality operators, Nick Lentz and Clay Guida. This rampage through the rankings occurred over an 18 month period and set Mendes back on a collision course with the still rampant champion.
Mendes’ second date with Aldo was a different story from their first. Contested over five grueling rounds, Aldo vs Mendes 2 was arguably the fight of 2014. Still, the long time belt holder managed to continue his winning ways, picking up a the unanimous decision.
Showing tremendous resiliency, Mendes once again bounced back in the aftermath of a loss. In April of this year, he hammered Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas to a first round defeat. It was a particularly impressive comeback win, coming as it did against a former world title challenger.
Early in his career, Mendes was an out and out wrestler. The majority of his wins came via one sided decision or ground and pound induced TKO. This continued right up until his first title bout with Aldo. In a promo video for his rematch with the Brazilian “Scarface”, Mendes himself claimed “back then my game was 90-95% wrestling”.
Today, the American is a far more rounded fighter. In recent times he has shown himself to be a formidable striker with world class power. In his five win run, following the first Aldo loss, Mendes stopped four of his opponents. This included a TKO over the iron chinned war horse Clay Guida. Guida had never previously been stopped.
His improvement as a stand up fighter was also evident in the second Aldo bout. Despite the loss, Mendes looked a near match for the legendary Muay Thai skills of the champion.
Mendes started his career as a wrestler competing in MMA but now he is a true mixed martial artist.
The world title bout may have become an interim title fight. The true champion may no longer be involved. To the remaining combatants however, this fight means just much as the one originally scheduled. McGregor’s undefeated record in the UFC, is still on the line. Mendes’ status as a top contender, is still on the line. A belt, is still on the line. More than anything though, fighting pride is still on the line.
And just in case your worried that this match-up lacks the sense of bitter rivalry that Aldo vs McGregor exuded, check this out….
These are just some of the heated words these two have exchanged since Conor’s arrival in the UFC. As the old cliche goes “there is no love lost here”.
For those of you who were asking “who is Chad Mendes?”, now you know.
Come the 11th of July he will be aiming to make sure you never forget.