Chad Mendes may be the biggest name on Conor McGregor’s record, but it seems that a victory over the Californian has not garnered “The Notorious” the respect he deserves.
In recent days, PunditArena have, on several occasions, reported the trash-talking that Mendes has aimed toward his UFC 189 conqueror. The Team Alpha Male product has spent an inordinate amount of interview time excusing his Las Vegas defeat. Instead of focusing on his upcoming task, a deadly dangerous challenge against Frankie Edgar, Mendes has ranted about what he would have done to Conor had he been given enough time to bust out an extra push-up in camp, as well as what he will do when he catches up to him again.
What Mendes is forgetting, or perhaps doesn’t realise, is that along with being landed with a tough task two weeks out from UFC 189, he was also presented a golden opportunity.
Essentially he had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Taking the fight meant that he became the subject of massive media exposure, above and beyond anything he had previously garnered. He earned his biggest payday to date, and he was given the opportunity to knock off the emerging superstar of the sport, which would have in the process launched him right back into title contention. On top of all of this, he courted the favour of the UFC brass.
Not a bad package deal. So what was the downside?
Well, his current situation represents the downside. He ended up experiencing the worse case scenario – being knocked out by the heavy hands of McGregor. Yet, he is right back in a position where one win will earn him another shot at the belt, as his December 11th bout with Edgar appears to be a title eliminator in all but name. His reputation hasn’t taken a major hit, because everyone is willing to cut him slack due to his ill preparation. Admittedly, that would be much easier to do if he would quit whining about it.
The second round defeat has done little harm to Chad’s career.
In a brief rendezvous with class, immediately following the fight, Mendes gave props to McGregor. “I want to thank Conor for accepting this fight on two weeks, he was training for Aldo the entire time, that’s a completely different match-up”, said Mendes, still standing in a blood soaked octagon.
Those sentiments seem to have dissipated in the weeks and months since that interview. Not only has Mendes ceased giving credit to Conor, but the MMA community in general seem to have forgotten what Conor did.
The circumstances that McGregor confronted, when his erstwhile opponent Jose Aldo withdrew two weeks before fight night, were entirely different to the set that Chad faced.
Conor was presented with a no win situation.
Placed in front of him was the worst possible style match-up. Mendes was the archetypal nightmare opponent for McGregor in the eyes of most observers, and the was a challenge made even more daunting by the fact that he had so little time to prepare for it.
Yet, even if he did manage to overcome this major obstacle, Conor was never going to get full credit for the victory. Mendes, and McGregor’s haters, would always have an easy excuse.
And so it has transpired.
While the true spoils of victory weren’t attainable, though, he would have experienced the full brunt of a defeat. All of the doubters would have been delighted to brand him as a MMA mirage, an illusion built on a foundation of UFC propaganda. The loss would have also scuppered his chances of a rescheduled championship bout. Instead the opportunity would likely have gone to “Money” Mendes.
His victory allowed him to sidestep that fate, but it has done little else for Ireland’s favourite MMA son. Before Aldo was injured, he was in line for a title fight. Following the win, he is in the exact same position.
While a victory for Mendes meant progression, Conor had to win just to maintain his spot.
Sure, he has picked up a gold belt, but it is little more than a prop. Aldo is the real champ, and most feel the introduction of an interim championship was unwarranted in this situation. On a recent podcast Joe Rogan referred to Conor’s title as “illegitimate” and “made-up”.
So why take all that risk for such little reward?
Perhaps the Dubliner was left with little choice. Dana White and the Fertitas were scrambling to save a show in which they had invested big bucks. Had he declined to fight a replacement, the event would have been doomed. His hopes of another date with Aldo may have been assigned to the scrap heap.
His own version of the story is one of pride, patriotism and a devotion to his fan base. Standing in the cage, with the cheers of his countrymen ringing throughout a still packed MGM Grand Garden Arena, Conor told Joe Rogan “I can’t put into words how grateful I am for everyone to support me and follow me, it’s why I still showed up here”.
In a moment of unbridled emotion he added “The Irish people who supported me, I swear to God I done this for us”.
Whether you choose to believe the romantic tale or the more cynical theory, Conor McGregor proved himself to be a true fighter with an indomitable warrior’s spirit. He was confronted with the most difficult scenario imaginable and, with an air of defiance, he marched straight through it.
That is an achievement that does not deserve to be belittled.