Chad Mendes: A Heavy Loss
By Ben Jessop
UFC veteran featherweight Chad Mendes officially announced his retirement from MMA yesterday, prompting both fans and fighters to remember the career of one of the most high profile featherweight fighters the UFC has ever known.
Mendes was a formidable college wrestler for Cal Poly, California and ultimately ended with an overall record of 64-24 having twice earned NCAA All-American honours.
Mendes continued to compete and improve and soon became a force to be reckoned with and as a senior finished his year with a 30-1 record and placed second in the NCAA championships in 2008 and ultimately won Pac-10 wrestler of the year – it was obvious at this stage that Mendes had a talent for combat and the seed was sown and Mendes was on his path to becoming one of the best featherweight combat artists of all time.
He began training with Team Alpha Male to hone his skills and ability in other areas of combat sports – he had his first MMA debut for the Palace Fighting Championship and went undefeated in the promotion.
Before long, he was picked up by World Extreme Cagefighting but only for four fights until WEC merged with the UFC in 2010, transferring all fighters on the WEC roster to the UFC roster.
Mendes made his UFC debut off the back of an undefeated MMA record and win streak of ten, he faced down Michihiro Omigawa on February 5th 2011 and continued his win steak via a unanimous decision, and the same outcome came against Rani Yahya in August of 2011. Dana White provided Mendes with the opportunity to fight for the title, against one of the most dominant champions MMA has ever seen and arguably the greatest featherweight of all time, Jose Aldo.
This was the moment Mendes had been working for, the chance to have the belt and be world champion – but it wasn’t to be and Mendes had his first taste of defeat, at the very pinnacle of his career and in the form of a KO by brutal knee at 04:59 in the first round. It was a hard pill to swallow for Mendes, he was so close to the title but it was guarded by the seemingly undefeatable Aldo.
Mendes went back, knowing he had to climb his way back to that opportunity once more and returned to camp with a fire in his belly to get that strap wrapped around his waist. Knockout power became Mendes’ tool of choice, and in his rabid chase for the title shot he KO’d his next three opponents all in the first round.
Clay Guida offered Mendes his first struggle but he still managed to find that KO once more, thirty seconds into the third round. He had one more fight before Dana White offered him his second title shot and he was to face Nik Lentz. Although Lentz managed to avoid being KO’d like the four before him and take it to the scorecards, Mendes still got the win via a unanimous decision.
It was now October 2014, Mendes was walking towards to octagon to fight for the title, for the second time. Once again, against Jose Aldo who was by now on a seventeen fight win streak across a couple of the promotion and he showed no signs of slowing up. Nearly three years of sickening effort, intense training and an immaculate record since their first meeting, Chad Mendes had quite possibly the best chance he was ever going to get to get his hands on this title.
Aldo and Mendes traded shots in an intense five round war, but Aldo was used to these battles having gone the distance in championship fights for years – by the end of the twenty-five minutes Aldo’s hand was raised in victory via unanimous decision.
Chad had faced his second ever loss, to the same man who handed him his first, two years prior. Suddenly his dream of having that belt became less and less likely, no-one seemed able to dethrone Aldo. Not that this disheartened Mendes, which is why fight fans love him, he’s has an ironclad mind-set and nothing takes him off course.
Five months later, Mendes was back in the octagon, once again displaying his knockout power by finishing Ricardo Lamas in the very first round.
Then, the whirlwind of Conor McGregor exploded in Mendes’ face. On a five fight UFC win streak McGregor was finishing people left, right and centre and that streak didn’t end at Mendes – who lost via a second round TKO.
2015 seemed to be a pinnacle year in Mendes’ career, having lost to McGregor in July a defeat to Frankie Edgar followed in December. Mendes then spent two years away after falling foul of USADA.
Mendes did make his return in July of 2018 and in typical Mendes fashion, he KO’d Myles Jury in the first round.
He fought once again in December of 2018 in what turned out to be his last fight in professional MMA, against Alexander Volkanovski who finished him via TKO in the second round.
Mendes had a decision to make, with a girlfriend who was pregnant with his first child and in reality, a small chance of being able to fight back and win the title, could he really afford to continue to take these KO losses or losses in general? It turns out, after seven months of deliberation and with his first child born in April, the answer is no.
Chad Mendes has been a staple name in the UFC since 2011 and contributed more to the sport than most can ever dream of. A fan favourite and a fighting man through and through, it’s time for the MMA community to bid farewell to a featherweight legend.