Chad Mendes: I’m going to whoop McGregor’s ass

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Last week, in the wake of reports that Jose Aldo had suffered a rib injury in training, Chad Mendes was contacted by the UFC and asked if he would step in as a replacement should Aldo pull out. ‏A week on, it’s official; Aldo is out, and Mendes will face McGregor for the interim title at UFC 189.

Damon Martin of FOX Sports caught up with Mendes to discuss the news.

“I just found out maybe two or three hours ago. I was actually training and my girlfriend was at the gym and I was hitting mitts and she interrupted the workout and goes ‘it’s official!’ and we all stopped and looked and she was holding up her phone and it was posted on Instagram. That’s basically how I found out,” Mendes told FOX Sports on Tuesday night after the news became official.

“Since I found out I was the back up, I knew I was fighting Conor. Nothing has changed in my mind except it’s gone public. I’m excited. This is a huge opportunity and something I’ve worked my entire life for. I’m not passing this up.”

Preparing for a title fight on such short notice is, of course, not ideal circumstances for Mendes, but the Team Alpha Male product maintains that he is always in shape and that he’ll be ready come fight night.

“I’ve got two weeks to get as sharp as I can,” Mendes said. “I live a healthy lifestyle so I’m in pretty decent shape year round so I’ve been hitting it hard as soon as I found out so I’m just kind of fine tuning it now, but I’ll stay injury free and get that weight down. You guys should see the original O.G. Chad Mendes get in there on July 11 and whoop some ass.”

Mendes (17-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) has just two blemishes on his impressive record; both title fights, both against Jose Aldo. Nonetheless, ‘Money’ believes that he presents a greater threat for McGregor than the champion. The former two-time NCAA All-American suspects that the Irishman will struggle with his wrestling-based style of fighting.

“I guarantee it,” Mendes answered when asked if he represents a more difficult fight for McGregor. “We all know Aldo’s a super athlete, very dangerous stand up, but those are the type of guys that Conor does the best with. We have not seen him with many fighters that have the wrestling, that have the explosiveness to get inside and close the distance on him. The fights that I’ve seen him lose, those guys were able to get him down on the ground.

“That right there I feel is a huge hole. I think my style with my wrestling, my athleticism, my speed, and the ability to knock somebody out, the power in my hands, I feel like that’s a shittier fight for him.”

McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, wrote last week that when he told Conor he could be facing Mendes instead of Aldo, he “opened one eye, said ‘They’re all the same’ and then went back to sleep”. Mendes, 30, disagrees and believes he has a variety of methods by which he can win the fight.

“I see myself beating this guy three ways,” Mendes explained. “I’m either going to knock him unconscious because he drops his hands a ton and gets lazy in there. I’m going to take him down and submit him because he gives up. Or I’m going to have him on his back crying for his mama for five, five-minute rounds, beating the crap out of him. I’m good with all three of them.”

Nobody can deny that McGregor’s run since joining the UFC in 2013 has been impressive. He is undefeated with the promotion, and – with the exception of the Max Holloway fight, in which he was injured – he has knocked out each of his opponents and picked up performance bonuses each step of the way. Mendes, though, feels that McGregor is yet to be tested against a high-calibre wrestler, and he points to the Dubliner’s two losses earlier in his career as signs of weakness.

“Those two fights were dead giveaways,” Mendes said of McGregor’s losses. “We haven’t seen him get tested at all in the UFC yet, but we haven’t seen him face somebody with the ability to push the pace, to wrestle, to grapple, to explode in and out. This is going to be a huge test for Conor.”

Mendes knows that he is likely to be subject to a barrage of verbal abuse from McGregor in the build-up to July 11, but he says he is prepared for it. He has been presented with an incredible and unexpected opportunity, and he intends to take full advantage.

“I feel like a kid who just walked downstairs on Christmas morning. This is something that is so awesome to me right now. So listening to a guy like Conor hype this fight up, he’s going to be running his mouth and talking all kinds of trash and that’s something I’m expecting, it’s no big surprise. It’s what got him here today. It’s what made him go from a no name to in a couple years being a superstar,” Mendes said.

“Let him say whatever the hell he wants. I’m going to sit there and smile because I know in my mind I’m going to get in there and whoop this dude’s ass. This is a huge payday for me and it’s all because of his mouth so let’s get after it.”