Chad Mendes is confident he’ll have plenty of fans on his side at UFC 189. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
It’s probably safe to wager that perennial top-five featherweight Chad Mendes isn’t exactly best friends with rival Jose Aldo.
The only losses he’s suffered as a pro came courtesy of “Scarface” and both of those defeats came in Brazil. But while he might not be Aldo’s biggest fan, he also seems to despise the man he’s slated to fight next: Conor McGregor.
Mendes was announced earlier this week as a late replacement for the injured Aldo, who was set to defend his featherweight title against McGregor at UFC 189 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Aldo reportedly injured a rib in training and after a few days of speculation, the Brazilian pulled out of the fight. Scrambling to keep McGregor -- the promotion’s most popular fighter this side of Ronda Rousey -- on the bill, the UFC decided to bring in Mendes to lock horns with the Irishman for the interim 145-pound title in the event’s new headliner.
Mendes said the chance to get his hands on the reigning king of trash talk was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“Within 24 hours of the news breaking I was in Vegas talking to Dana,” Mendes said during a conference call. “Right away I knew it was me and Frankie [Edgar] right there at the top, and I knew there was a possibility of this fight happening, but this shot is mine. I talked to Dana, and we made it happen. I told him to give me that contract, let’s sign this baby right now, and we did.
“Frankie is a tough guy and has beaten some great, tough guys in his last few fights and he’s right there in the mix,” he continued. “But I just knocked out a guy in the first round who took Aldo five rounds. I had the fight of the year with [Aldo] last year and I feel like I deserve it. If that fight was in the States, I possibly win that fight.”
Mendes is fresh off a first-round destruction of Ricardo Lamas on April 4, the same Lamas who went the distance in losing to Aldo at UFC 169. Mendes took the fight with McGregor on only two weeks’ notice, but “Money” said he isn’t worried about jumping at a fight with such a short turnaround.
“I live a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “I stay in great shape year-round. I never let my weight get too far out of control and for me to take something on three weeks’ [notice] is perfect for me. Fighting a guy like Conor, he’s a guy I know I can beat, and I’m going to get in there and do that.”
Taking a fight on short notice for an interim title is one thing, but being able to lock himself in the Octagon with McGregor was like being handed the keys to a brand-new Ferrari. Though McGregor has been lambasting Aldo for months, Mendes spoke openly about his disdain for the Dublin-based fighter.
“I’ve been preparing for Conor McGregor ever since the first time I’ve seen this dude fight in the UFC,” he revealed. “I knew he was going to talk his way to the top. He’s beaten everybody they’ve put in front of him and it’s time to do what I’ve trained for my entire life, and that’s to become a champion.”
But Mendes said the chance to win a version of the featherweight title is just the icing on a cake he hopes to devour come fight time. Mendes admitted that he’s taken things personally with McGregor and that he’s been waiting for more than a year to shut his mouth. It was one remark in particular that really drew Mendes’ ire.
“The short s--t, I don’t really give a s--t about that,” Mendes said, in reference to the trash talk from McGregor about his height. “I’ve been short my whole life. For me, it was right before the [last] Aldo fight, and he was talking about putting balls on my head and being very unprofessional. That was something that made it personal. For me, you don’t f---ing do that. This is the fight game and it’s something where somebody can get seriously injured, and that’s what I’m looking to do when I get in there against Conor McGregor.”
The Team Alpha Male fighter promised to take McGregor out within three minutes as the rivals traded verbal barbs during the conference call. Mendes feels he has the advantage in speed, power, athleticism and strength, and that he’ll put McGregor on his back and finish him. And, he said, he’ll make quite a few people happy in doing so.
“I think a lot of the Americans and a lot of the Brazilian fans will be backing me up,” he said. “I have a lot of fans, a lot of family, a lot of friends who are rooting for me. A lot of people want to see me destroy Conor McGregor.”
If Mendes delivers the goods and becomes the first person in the UFC to hand McGregor a loss, he said he’s likely to make his first title defense against Frankie Edgar. He also sternly warned that whenever Aldo returns and looks to unify the title, he’ll have to fight “Money” in the U.S.
“I fought that guy twice in Brazil,” he declared. “If I get that belt, I’m fighting that dude in the States.”