Long seen as the division’s top contender, Mendes has had to wait over two years to get his chance to erase the lone loss on his record. If Chad could have gotten his way, the wait would have been much shorter.
“We’ve actually known it was going to be him (Aldo) for two months now. We just didn’t know the date or the location,” said Mendes in an interview with Bleacher Report.
The fight is finally set for August 2 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles after Aldo turned down the chance to fight on two earlier cards—UFC 173 and UFC 175—according to Mendes.
It’s clear that the Team Alpha Male standout is champing at the bit to get back into the cage with a fighter many consider top three on the pound-for-pound list.
“All I can say is payback is a b---h!” Mendes exclaimed.
Seen as one of Aldo’s more dangerous challenges heading into that fight (due to his wrestling pedigree), Mendes held his own against the champ in Round 1. He was able to secure a takedown and was primed to land another one before Aldo grabbed the cage, allowing him to regain his balance and stay on his feet. After some grinding against the cage, Chad was hit with a quick knee that left him out on the canvas and searching for answers.
While many will look to the first fight between the two as a forecast to what lays ahead, Mendes insists that a “different Chad” will be across the cage from Aldo come August.
“I’ve changed completely,” said the diminutive but powerful Mendes. “I was basically a baby in the first fight (Mendes had only fought in the UFC twice and sported an overall record of 11-0), and looking back, it might have been too early to take the fight. My game was 90-95 percent wrestling.”
That has since changed with the introduction of Duane “Bang” Ludwig as head coach at Team Alpha Male. Under Ludwig’s tutelage, Mendes has reeled off five straight wins, four of which came by way of KO or TKO.
No fight was more impressive than his destruction of savvy veteran Clay Guida at UFC 164. Not only did Mendes run through one of the toughest fighters in the UFC; he also became the first man to finish Guida inside the Octagon.
“The Guida KO showed that my striking has come a long way,” explained Mendes. “The striking mixing with my wrestling will be so much harder for Aldo to deal with come August 2nd.”
While Mendes’ evolution as a mixed martial artist has shown exponentially in every single one of his fights, the same can’t be said for the champion. Once renowned for his striking ability, Aldo has struggled to finish opponents since arriving in the UFC. His lone finish other than Mendes came against Chan Sung Jung, but only after Jung suffered a serious shoulder injury.
Mendes says that he’s “seen a plateau” in Aldo’s game since their first encounter.
"The fight where he’s made the most improvement was the Edgar fight, but it was just a couple small things,” said Mendes. ‘”He jabbed backwards and even jabbed forward, which he never really did. His techniques seemed to all be the same.
“He’s still very dangerous, but it’s a lot easier for me to look at the last fights on him and see that there’s not a whole bunch there that has changed and set up my game plan off of that.”
This fight offers a unique challenge to Mendes, as Ludwig’s time as head coach at Team Alpha Male is coming to a close. In turn, the 29-year-old will be forced to split time between the Sacramento-based gym and Ludwig’s new academy in Colorado. Mendes will also be bringing in Martin Kampmann—perennial UFC welterweight contender and rumored new head coach of Team Alpha Male—to help with the camp.
Heading into what could well be the defining fight of his career, Mendes is relaxed and confident. The comfort of knowing the fight will be in the U.S. instead of Brazil has the native Californian anxious to take it to the longtime Brazilian champ.
“Home-field is huge—we were pushing for the fight to take place in the States,” said Mendes, who explained that between the roughly 17-hour flight, the time difference, the food (which he said was extra salty, making it tougher to cut weight) and the raucous Brazilian crowd (which is known to chant “you’re going to die” to opposing fighters), he’s ecstatic to be fighting in his backyard.
Mendes is a man hellbent on revenge, and on Aug. 2 he plans on getting it the most brutal fashion possible.
“I’m going in there looking to knock his head off,” proclaims Mendes, who seems a bit perturbed by Aldo’s prediction that he will be able knock him out for the second time.
“If he thinks this is going to be an easy fight, he’s in for a rude awakening. This is going to be the best Chad Mendes anyone has seen.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise
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