A little north of three years after making his professional debut, Chad Mendes will challenge for the UFC featherweight championship opposite the ultra dangerous Jose Aldo (20-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC).
Mendes (11-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) brings a skill set that the champion has yet to face during his tenure at the top of division.
Mendes, the Team Alpha Male trained featherweight, was a top collegiate wrestler at Cal Poly University, where he earned the 2008 Cal Poly Athlete of the Year, 2008 NCAA Finalist, two-time All-American, and two-time Pac 10 Champion.
Now, Mendes is traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in hopes of becoming the sport’s premier 145-pound fighter and he’s enjoying each moment of the ride to the top of division.
“I think this is definitely the biggest fight and it’s going to be the biggest night of my career,” Mendes today said on the UFC 142 media call. “But I’m super excited and I had like a surreal moment the other night on New Year’s. On New Year’s I was in my living room watching Times Square, watching the ball drop and behind one the guy’s performing on stage there was a big poster of me and Jose in the background in Times Square. It’s just crazy to think that a little under three and a half years ago, I was still in college and this trip in MMA has been a very fast ride."
“It’s been an awesome, awesome experience for me but just sitting there and realizing that was really, really awesome. I knew that I would be good at the sport, but to be fighting in the main event and for the title with 11 fights under my belt, it’s just awesome and I’ve been living the dream. I’m out here in Sacramento just getting to train with my buddies everyday and getting to travel all over the world and it’s just something that I’m definitely soaking up. I know I only have a short window in my life to do this kind of stuff and this is that time and I realize that. So, I’m taking every day one at a time and loving life.”
In preparation for Aldo, Mendes is in California and has enlisted teammates Joseph Benavidez, Urijah Faber, Danny Castillo, and a host of others.
While the challenger realizes the task at hand will not be easy, he’s confident that his coaches have put together “a great gameplan” heading into next Saturday’s championship headliner against Aldo.
“I don’t think Jose has any holes or cracks in his game,” Mendes said. “I think if anything he has some areas that aren’t quite as strong as others but I don’t definitely see any holes. I feel the same way about my game, I don’t feel like I have any holes, I’m young in the sport but I’m learning fast and I feel great about every part of my game. Those last two fights are definitely fights I’ve watched a lot and I’ve sat down and picked apart. It’s something that’s helped us put together a great gameplan for this fight.
I’ve sat down with Urijah and we have good coaches, I don’t know if you guys know Justin Buchholz, (but) he’s one of my main gameplanners and coaches for this fight and we sat down and put together a great plan. I’m feeling confident coming into this fight that I’m going to be able to do it. I’m excited.”
Mendes brings his unblemished record, amateur wrestling credentials, 11 fights worth of experience to the HSBC Arena and according to the challenger he couldn’t be more excited.
“Going to Brazil, it’s the birthplace of MMA and going over there and beating the champion in his backyard to me there’s no better way to prove that I’m the best 145 pound champion,” Mendes said. “Overall, I’m feeling great and camp has gone very, very smooth. This is the best shape I’ve ever been in and I’m excited to get in there and showcase it.”
For additional information on Mendes' upcoming championship fight, follow him on Twitter.