If one were to create a list of the best featherweight prospects in the world today, it would be hard pressed not to find the name Chad Mendes on it. As one of the many fighters who will debut in the Octagon due to the WEC merger, Mendes prepares for the next chapter of his young career. The decorated collegiate wrestler will take on surging Top 10 ranked featherweight Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 126.
“Everything is great, this camp is going really smooth. I’m feeling better than ever,” said Mendes. “Being able to train with all the guys; everyone is healthy. Just getting in there and working on my stand up a lot; working with Master Tong.”
In just two years time, Mendes made his way through regional shows and into the WEC, while maintaining an undefeated record. The 25-year-old fighter continues to improve with every fight. Mendes is coming off impressive wins over Cub Swanson and Javier Vazquez.
“It’s just nuts; coming straight out of college and getting into the fight game. I expected to do well, but I never thought I would in this short amount of time I’d be fighting in the UFC. The whole experience has been awesome. I definitely didn’t expect to be where I am right now, but I’m thankful for everything,” humbled the Team Alpha Male fighter.
“I feel like I’m progressing perfectly for me. We did take it kind of slow in the beginning. It’s awesome to just get in there and I’m still undefeated. Everything is going as planned.”
Considered as one of the best featherweights in the world, Michihiro Omigawa will be a big step up in competition for Mendes. This will not be the first time Omigawa has fought in the Octagon though. The Judo black belt made two previous appearances in the UFC lightweight division, losing decisions to Matt Wiman and Thiago Tavares. Omigawa returned to Japan only to suffer a third consecutive defeat to the “Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung. His career was on a downward slope until he moved down a weight class and signed with Sengoku. Omigawa resurrected himself by winning eight of his next nine fights that included notable wins over Nam Phan, Marlon Sandro, Hatsu Hioki, and Hiroyuki Takaya.
“Stepping up in competition and facing Omigawa, for me it’s the perfect match-up. His style, my style; I think it’s going to be great for me. His stand-up to me doesn’t seem like the best stand-up and he’s not super fast. He’s kind of awkward with it and somewhat effective,” commented Mendes. “I’m looking for his tendencies. We’re just setting up our game plan around that stuff.”
Mark Hominick is expected to face 145-pound UFC kingpin Jose Aldo at UFC 129. Should Hominick be unsuccessful at lifting the belt from Aldo, there could title implications coming from Mendes’ upcoming showdown with Omigawa.
“I’m definitely not looking past Omigawa; he’s a tough opponent. I would love to get in there and fight (Aldo). I’m at the point in my career where I feel confident. I’m training the way I should be. Basically, it’s wherever the UFC wants to put me, but I personally feel that I’m ready for it.
“I want my shot, but I’m not getting greedy. My time will come; when it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”
The featherweight fight between Mendes and Omigawa is scheduled to air free on SpikeTV leading into the UFC 126 pay-per-view.
“So many people are going to see that obviously because it’s free. There are two good match-ups. For me it’s just awesome,” said Mendes elatedly. “I never expected to be where I’m at right now this fast. I’m just soaking all of this up; this is just a great experience and I’ll look back on this later in life and just love it.”
Competing in the UFC is a dream for many fighters. Chad Mendes takes the pressure in stride and plans on propelling himself to the next level. A win over Michihiro Omigawa could place him in the forefront of the UFC’s featherweight division.
“I’m really excited. There are some nerves, but I think that’s good; that’s healthy for someone that’s competing. Those nerves keep you alert and focused. This is a great opportunity for me so I’m not taking him lightly and I’m training my butt off. I’m expecting to see the best Omigawa there ever has been and he better expect to see the best Mendes there ever has been.
“It’s been a short road, but I have put in so much work. All the hard work is starting to pay off in my life. I want to thank all my fans and everybody giving me support. A lot of this is for you guys.”