WEC 52: Chad Mendes Sharpens His Hands, But Maintains The Foundation

November 5, 2010

WEC fighter Chad Mendes

WEC fighter Chad Mendes

WEC 52 is going to be stacked with teammates from Team Alpha Male competing on the card. One of those teammates, Chad Mendes, will put his undefeated record on the line against jiu-jitsu expert Javier Vazquez.

At 8-0, Chad “Money” Mendes is on a freight train up the featherweight ladder of the WEC. Since making his debut for the Zuffa owned organization in March of this year, Mendes has already compiled three wins over the likes of Erik Koch, Anthony Morrison, and, most recently, Cub Swanson.

Mendes sees the pending bout with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Vazquez, as a paring best suited for him. The clashing styles might be an issue in some fights, but for Menedes, the ground aspect isn’t what he’s looking to emphasize on in his next outing.

Like many of his wrestling colleagues, Mendes is looking to throw bombs on the feet.

“We’re training in here every single day to fight the best fighters,” he told MMAWeekly Radio. “I think this is a great match-up for me. Javi is really, really good at jiu-jitsu, but… I’m really good at wrestling. A lot of the time, those things clash, but I’m really looking to showcase more of my stand-up. Each fight I’m getting more and more comfortable using it and throwing my hands. So, I’m just really excited to get in there (to show) what I got!”

The path of destruction left by Mendes has caused people to take notice. Talk of him being a few fights away from a title shot have already been echoed through the MMA community.

For all the talk of titles and opportunities to fight featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Mendes takes everything in stride and keeps his cross-hairs locked on his next bout.

“I definitely take it as a compliment, man. That’s cool,” said Mendes. “I only have eight fights, and I’ve only been doing this for about two years. People are already looking at me like I’m ready for a title shot. It definitely is a compliment. But I am taking it one fight at a time and I’m not looking past anybody. Javier is a tough opponent.”

But if he beats Vazquez, what then?

“If I beat every opponent in front of me and it’s my time to fight for the title, then there we go!” exclaimed Mendes.

In his last fighting affair, Mendes took on MMA veteran and two-time WEC “Fight of the Night” winner Cub Swanson. The fight saw Mendes taking the unanimous decision and collecting the biggest win in his two-year-old career.

With each fight he has had, “Money” feels he has gained more and more knowledge about competition and the sport of MMA. His last win was a big jump for his self-confidence.

“I learned something (in) each fight,” Mendes said. “Even if it doesn’t show in the fight… I learn a lot stuff from each fight. Coming into this fight, I’m more confident than the last one. Beating a guy like Cub was great for my ego and my confidence in my game.”

Being a wrestler, it was an easy decision for Mendes when figuring out what gym he wanted to make his home. At Team Alpha Male, he is surrounded by the likes of Joseph Benavidez and former featherweight champion Urijah Faber.

With a camp like that, it’s no wonder Mendes is getting more comfortable. Benavidez and Faber provide the team chemistry and push Mendes needs to compete against the world’s toughest and most talented 145-pound fighters.

“That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to come up to Team Alpha Male,” he said. “The style, just watching Urijah, his wrestling background. A lot of the guys here have wrestling backgrounds. I knew that I fit in well. Just watching Urijah’s stand-up progress, I knew they were doing something right over there.”

Mendes openly admits that his stand-up is the weakest link in his skill set chain. With it needing so much attention, he has focused a lot on developing his strikes, but hasn’t walked away from what has kept him so successful up to this point in his career.

Wrestling still remains the focal point in combination with the rest of the ground work.

“I think wrestling is always going to be a key for me and my fighting style,” said Mendes. “I’m short, compact, and explosive. I like to get in and get out. But I think you definitely have to balance it. I’ve been working a lot of stand-up just because that’s my weakest spot, but I still train wrestling, I still do grappling with jiu-jitsu.

Many wrestlers have chosen to step away from their wrestling foundation and focus more on other aspects of mixed martial arts. Some have paid the price dearly. Whether it be a sense of comfort or just a plain stubborn attitude, a great many wrestlers are sticking to the stand-up approach of the sport.

“A lot of guys just feel comfortable, I think,” Mendes said of some of the wrestlers that abandon their foundation. “They’ve been doing it for so long, they just think that they’re always going to have it in their back pocket. Most cases, a lot of stuff you won’t lose, but not doing it for a long time or not training as hard as you usually do, you’re going to lose some stuff. A lot of times the body doesn’t react as quick or as well as it would if you were training that certain area all the time.”