Chad Mendes wasted no time ratcheting up the pre-fight rhetoric for UFC 189, vowing that he would finish Conor McGregor in three minutes when they meet for the interim UFC featherweight title July 11.
Mendes’ prediction during a media conference call on Wednesday came in response to a McGregor boast this week that he would end the scheduled five-round fight in four minutes – the same time he said it would take to beat injured champion Jose Aldo.
McGregor also called Mendes a “B-level guy,” leading to a heated exchange between the two.
“People are going to want to tune into this fight because they’re going to want to watch me destroy Conor,” Mendes said.
“They ain’t tuning in for you, Chad,” McGregor said. “Let’s call a spade a spade here.”
“They want to see me crush your face,” Mendes responded. “People hate your mouth.”
“I’m going to butcher you,” McGregor said, using an expletive. “You should’ve stayed home.”
Mendes, whose only losses in a 17-2 MMA record are to Aldo, said he had no concerns taking the interim title bout on short notice after Aldo declared himself unable to fight because of a rib injury.
He said he doesn’t get more than 15-20 pounds over the 145-pound featherweight limit and trains virtually year-round.
“I never let my weight get too far out of control,” Mendes said. “For me, taking (the fight) on three weeks (notice) is perfect, especially fighting a guy like Conor. This is a guy I know I can beat, and I’m going to get in there and do that.”
Mendes, 30, fought three months ago, scoring a first-round knockout of Ricardo Lamas at UFC Fight Night in Fairfax, Va. Before that, he lost a five-round unanimous decision to Aldo at UFC 179. In his first fight with Aldo, in January 2012, he was KO’d in the first round.
But he said he’s been pointing for a showdown with McGregor for a long time.
“I’ve been preparing for Conor McGregor since the first time I saw this dude fight in the UFC,” he said. “I knew he was going to talk his way to the top. He beat every person they put in front of him. It’s time for me to get in there and do what I’ve trained for my entire life, and that’s become the champion.”
Mendes admitted he’s been carrying a grudge for McGregor since the Irish challenger made disparaging comments in an interview last year. He said it had nothing to do with the fact McGregor made light of his short stature (he’s listed at 5 feet, six inches).
“I’ve been short my whole life,” Mendes said. “For me, it was when we had to do an interview before my Aldo fight and he’s talking about putting b*lls on my head and being very unprofessional. I made it personal.
“For me, you don’t do that. This is the fight game. This is something where someone could seriously get injured, and that’s what I’m looking to do when I get in there against Conor McGregor.”
Mendes, a former All-America wrestler at Cal Poly, insisted his skills are superior to McGregor in almost every respect.
“Conor has never faced anyone like me before,” he said. “I have the athleticism, the strength, the power, the speed, and I have the wrestling to put him on his back and finish this fight. This fight is mine.”
Michael Martinez is a longtime sports journalist and former staff writer at The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News and FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMMartinez