by Samantha L. Johnson – MMAWeekly.com
Undefeated Chad Mendes will face the biggest challenge of his career on Wednesday night against veteran fighter Cub Swanson. Mendes (7-0) will be making his third appearance for Zuffa, LLC owned WEC. He sees one major distinction in this fight. This is his showcase fight, his opportunity to solidify his featherweight standing.
“This is my coming out fight,” said Mendes. ” Cub is a big name in the sport and beating a guy like Cub is going to be huge on my record. So I definitely look at it like this is my coming out fight. I’m going to open the eyes of all the people who don’t really know who I am yet and just get out there. Ultimately the goal is to get that title shot and that belt; this is just a step in that direction.”
Since teammate and former titleholder Urijah Faber has dropped to bantamweight, Mendes is currently the only featherweight fighter training full-time at Ultimate Fitness with Team Alpha Male. Fellow featherweight Bryan Caraway, also on Wednesday’s card, has been training with the team as well. While some would see this as competition, Mendes embraces new faces in the gym and takes every opportunity to learn something new.
“We don’t have the attitude where we think we’re better than everybody,” he explained. “Everybody that comes in and trains has something to offer us. I’m sure we have stuff to offer them as well; it’s like a trade-off. We welcome anybody and everybody; it’s all part of the sport.”
That “everybody helps everybody” mentality has helped Mendes keep his untarnished record by evolving his game from a college wrestler to a well-rounded mixed martial artist. Training with top talent such as Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez helps Mendes grow as a fighter, but also helps him know what to expect as his fame and popularity grows.
After fighting all of his bouts in the northern California based Palace Fighting Championships (now Tachi Palace Fights), Mendes had a lot of hype surrounding him as he made his debut for the WEC. Along with the pressure of possibly getting his fight on TV, he also had to worry about pre-fight interviews and other elements that come with fighting for a big organization that he had never dealt with before.
“Making that transition into the big show, I won the (first) fight,” said Mendes. “I definitely didn’t feel 100 percent, but getting that behind me now, I feel completely different. I went through it. I understand now what I need to do, going through all the different interviews (when) we get there like a week before the fights. There’s a bunch of processes and stuff you have to do before the fight that I was unaware of. It adds to the pressure. Now I know all that stuff and can basically set my mind right when it needs to be done.”
Now comfortable, Mendes is able to show up, finish his weight cut, and not have to worry about any feeling out process. He understands that with the opportunity of fighting for a big organization also comes the responsibility of doing additional interviews, open workouts, etc.
That level of comfort also seeps into his entire training camp. While preparing for Cub Swanson, Mendes only watches a little video of his veteran opponent and relies heavily on his coaches to develop the game plan they feel will best conquer the 14-3 fighter.
“I definitely focus on my training and obviously we go through the whole camp and train hard and do all the things necessary,” said Mendes. “When I look at an opponent like Cub, basically we watch film on him, figure out what all his tendencies are and figure what he likes to do, also some of his weaknesses. That way we can practice building a strength on what his weakness is.”
Working with Master Thong on striking, and fellow fighters Benavidez, Faber, Warren, and others with wrestling and jiu-jitsu, Mendes has developed a game plan that he hopes will be able to overpower and break down Swanson.
“Cub is definitely the toughest guy I’ve faced,” proclaimed Mendes. “He’s faced some of the toughest guys in the division. He’s scrappy, he’s long, and he’s good on the ground. He’s got great submissions. I’m expecting this to be a war. We’ve put together a great game plan and I’m really excited to get in there and use it.”
L. Johnson is a freelance writer originally from Southeast Idaho, currently living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit www.sxjohnson.net for her ramblings of on living in the MMA Mecca.