Team Alpha Male boasts a bevy of the world’s best mixed martial artists who compete in weight classes from flyweight to lightweight. Having so many talented, versatile fighters in one gym has always been a recipe for success, but never has one group concentrated on the lower weight classes the way Alpha Male has. Urijah Faber is the most experienced of the group, but you also have current UFC Flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez and the man who last challenged UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes.
The former collegiate wrestler starred at the same college as UFC Hall of Famer and light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Mendes had an outstanding 64-14 record while wrestling for Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. His senior year was his best as he placed 2nd in the NCAA Championships and finished with a 30-1 record. He was named the PAC-10 wrestler of the year in 2008. He has used his wrestling to amass an 11-1 professional MMA record, with the lone loss coming just six months ago in his quest for UFC gold.
Although things didn’t go well for Mendes at UFC 142 he knows that there will be other opportunities. At 27 years old Mendes is just entering his physical prime and will continue to reap the benefits of training with such a talented, dedicated team where everyone looks out for their teammates best interests. There aren’t any other fighters in MMA who have gone their career undefeated and some say you learn more from your losses than you do from your victories. With an outstanding work ethic it’s only a matter of time before we see Mendes back in title contention, but he’s focusing on Cody McKenzie who he will meet next Saturday at UFC 148 in Las Vegas.
“Everything is going good, I just got back from being in Vegas the last three months helping Faber coach on The Ultimate Fighter,” Mendes told Fightline.com. “I enjoyed working with the team and coaching some of these guys, but I also was able to benefit from it as well. I took advantage of having Phil Nurse and Mark DellaGrotte come in and help us out. I learned a lot of good stuff while I was out there. It’s always good to train with new people because when you train with the same people you get used to each other’s routines. I’m sore as hell because we are really pushing each other in the gym every day, but I’m ready to go.”
For some fighters it takes a long time to get over their first loss and for others they don’t want to waste any time and look to get back in the gym as soon as possible. Mendes suffered a tough loss and then was left in the cage while Aldo ran out into the crowd to celebrate with his Brazilian countrymen. Being on the wrong end of a highlight reel is not something any fighter wants to be part of.
“It was tough and losing sucks, but I’ve only lost twice in the past five years between MMA and college wrestling,” said Mendes. “It sucks, it’s something I hate, but I am training hard and pushing myself every day to my limit just because I know that I can be the best and I want to win. When you’re in a fight and get caught like that it bums you out. I trained so hard for that fight and I was ready to go five rounds and make it a war. If it would’ve happened later on in the fight it wouldn’t have felt so bad, but when it happens with 2 or 3 seconds left in the round it feels worse.”
“If anything I think it will help me out in the long run with my confidence. Jose Aldo is one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world and honestly I felt like I was handling him in that first round and holding my own. I learn from my mistakes and if we fight again I won’t make the same mistakes. A second fight would be totally different. I went back and watched it and saw what I did wrong; now it’s time to move forward. Losing is part of the sport and everyone goes through it, but it still sucks. I felt like I proved I’m one of the best if not the best fighters in the 145lb. division. The whole trip is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I only saw some of his leap into the crowd while I was in the cage and saw the whole thing later on, it wasn’t easy to watch.”
Aldo was scheduled to defend his title against Erik Koch at UFC 149, but was forced to pull out due to an injury. The two are still going to fight once Aldo is healed up and as one of the top contenders in the featherweight division Mendes has his opinion on how he sees that fight going down.
“That could be an exciting fight,” Mendes offered. “Koch has good stand-up, but it’s really awkward as he is a southpaw. He’s very big for the weight class and Aldo has a little bit of trouble against southpaws in the past. It could be an interesting fight and I don’t see Aldo taking Koch down so it should pretty much be a stand-up war. Erik has to be worried about Aldo’s wide stance, but all in all it should be a great fight.”
Catch Mendes mixing it up with McKenzie this Saturday night at UFC 148 on the preliminary portion of the card on FX starting at 7:00 PM EST.