"I just have to be light on my feet, pick and choose my shots, and when he rushes in I think I’ll be able to blast him whenever I want.”
When Chad Mendes makes his way towards the UFC Octagon for the first time it will be just as his last for the WEC; smooth and happy, gliding to the melodies of the O’Jays’ classic single “For The Love of Money.” The song, an ode and warning to the power of the greenback, is a salve to Mendes before he does battle, and a tribute to an oft misunderstand sobriquet.
“It actually used to be Money Shot,” said Mendes of his nickname. “I’m a big hunter and I like to fish a little bit; I’m a big outdoorsman. When I first got to Sacramento out of college, the day after graduation I loaded all my stuff into a U-Haul and just came up here. I had no stand up at all so basically I was super raw and all I had was my wrestling, so when we would come to the gym when we would do MMA sparring I was just taking down everyone, so they just started calling me ‘Money Shot’ because of my takedowns and also because I like to hunt and stuff so that’s what it was. Then I got into the WEC and I got sponsored through Pepsi and stuff and because it’s a derogatory term I had to drop the “shot” so now it’s just “money.” The song is something that relaxes me, gets me in a good mood and it helps me stay calm and have fun with whatever I’m doing.”
Coming into the WEC, Mendes received plenty of hype, yet he is one of the few athletes to live up to the build-up. Having only been in MMA for two years as a pro, Mendes has compiled an undefeated record after nine contests and has managed to even mix up the ways in which he wins despite his stellar wrestling pedigree. As part of the great migration of WEC fighters moving over to the bright lights of the UFC, Mendes is elated his next appearance will be under the banner of his dream place of employment.
“I’m super excited about this,” said Mendes. “I remember watching the UFC when I was a little kid with my Dad, renting some of the DVD’s and stuff of some of the beginning UFC fights and just loving it back then. It’s just incredible to think that right now in my life I’m going to be fighting in that organization, something that I used to respect and love at a younger age and now I’m finally doing it. I’ve never dreamed that I would be doing it this fast. It was a goldmine once I started fighting, but all this has come so fast it’s awesome, and I feel blessed and I’m just super pumped to get in there and fight in front of the world.”
After his last fight yielded a unanimous decision win over Javier Vasquez at WEC 52, Mendes’ next opponent comes in the form of veteran Japanese judoka, Michihiro Omigawa. Omigawa has appeared in the UFC twice and lost both bouts to Matt Wiman and Thiago Tavares via unanimous decision. But Omigawa is currently on a five fight win streak and back in the UFC, and Mendes is ready for the step up in international competition.
“I honestly think this is a great fight for me. Stylistically we match up great. He’s a judo black belt and his fighting style is that he’s one of those types of guys that likes to get his hands on you. He likes to rush guys in the corner and body lock them and take them down, so that’s a perfect matchup for me with my wrestling background. I did a lot of Greco-Roman wrestling growing up and a lot of that is pretty similar to his judo stuff. I don’t think his standup is that great, he’s pretty flat-footed, so I just have to be light on my feet, pick and choose my shots, and when he rushes in I think I’ll be able to blast him whenever I want.”
Camp for Mendes consisted of the regular cast of characters at the Sacramento-based Alpha Male Gym: Master Thong, Justin Buchholz, Danny Castillo, Fabio Prado, Joseph Benavidez and their leader, Urijah Faber. However, Mendes, who usually trains uber hard, made some slight changes to overall his fight night outcome.
“I get to work with all these great athletes and guys that have been doing it for a lot longer than I have, so everyday is a learning experience and I get to pick these guys’ brains. Every fight, every day I feel like I’m getting better, so this is all fun for me. I was doing three-a-days for a long time and I just felt like when fight time came around I was over trained going through a nine week camp, so I cut back to two-a-days. Usually if it is a three-a-day it’s just a run, not another hard, grinding, grueling workout.”
Fighting for the UFC is a huge pressure cooker that slowly simmers to a raging boil until the athlete gets within the confines of the Octagon. Yet for Chad Mendes, for whom fun and living out dreams is tantamount, Mendes is just happy to be here and he yearns to showcase his growing skill set.
“For me both the WEC and the UFC have just been a dream come true. Coming in here right out of college and just training for about two years and then getting to fight in such a big organization like the WEC was sweet. I’m doing big things and I’m in this gym training my butt off everyday to get big things. Expect for me to get better and better every fight. I’m putting in my time, putting in my work, and hopefully I’ll have some more sneaky tricks up my sleeve and maybe some more flips or something.”