Unless you have been living under a rock the past two weeks you already know UFC189 is set to be the promotions biggest event possibly in the history of Mixed Martial Arts. With a late injury and the much talked about ribs of Jose Aldo Jr, Torque sponsored athlete Chad Mendes steps in with a short camp to face the contender Conor McGregor for the interim Featherweight Championship Belt. The hype and promotion between Aldo and McGregor included a month long world tour and multiple TV specials and international marketing. Ticket sales since have sky rocketed and the UFC looks to break records this Saturday night in Las Vegas. Ticket sales are currently over 7.1 Million for over 16 thousand fans in MGM Grand Garden Arena and Pay Per view sales are already on pace to set UFC records.
Aldo has a history of pulling out of fights and Dana White decided that if the champion is not ready to go an Interim Belt would be granted to the winner of Mendes vs. McGregor. Until the champ is ready to defend the division will go on without him. Both fighters are treating this like a true championship fight and the winner will surely have to face Aldo in the future. For Chad this could mean his third meeting with Aldo.
Chad and McGregor have had each other in their sites early on. Despite not facing a top ten opponent in the featherweight division McGregor marketed and literally talked his way into a championship fight. With much of the division putting a target on McGregor’s back it was only a matter of time before the top five got their shot to put an end to the Irish hype train. As a clear #1 contender Mendes was the first to get the call to be a replacement at UFC189. Frankie Edgar coming off his win against Torque co-owner Urijah Faber was also at the top of that short list.
Chad now gets the chance of a lifetime and another shot at UFC Gold. By skipping the grueling world tour and months of verbal jabbing and mental games Chad has the luxury of doing what he likes to do best. Step into the cage and fight. By staying fight ready year round Chad put himself in great shape to take advantage of this opportunity.
A former NCAA Division I wrestling finalist, Chad wrestled at Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo where he became a 2x PAC 10 champ, 2x D1 NCAA All-American. As a senior, Mendes finished the year with a 30-1 record and was awarded the PAC-10 wrestler of the year. With a superior ground game and a highly developed stand up Mendes is as close to the complete fighter as possible. Mendes only has two blemishes on his record and they both came fro Aldo, however their last meeting was unanimously picked as the fight of the year in 2014 in a five round epic battle. After facing Aldo Menes then went back to work and faced a very tough Ricardo Lamas and ended the fight in one round by TKO. 5 of his last 6 wins came with a finish and it is clear that power and explosiveness has been key to Mende’s success.
McGregor comes into UFC189 with the confidence and bravado of Muhammad Ali, and an untarnished UFC record. This will be Conor’s 6th UFC fight and first test against an a ranked opponent. Conor had impressive wins and seems to be able to back up his talk by winning. Conor took out Dustin Porier in the first round and then faced Dennis Siver and ended that fight by punches in the second round. Many people view Conor’s rise to fame as merely a great showman with wins against a handful of lower level competition. This Saturday will be the true test of Conor’s skills not on the microphone but in the cage.
Vegas odds had a slight edge to McGregor as the favorite against the champion Aldo and the new opponent Mendes. Conor has a height and reach advantage that many people are looking at as a huge shift for Conor. Standing 2-3 inches taller and up to 8 inches in reach advantage can be deceiving. Mendes has been the smaller shorter guy in most of his UFC fights including against Aldo. McGregor has never been in a five round fight and this could be the difference should we get into the Champion rounds.
Mendes is surely ready for the challenge is feels fresher and stronger than ever. Today at he final Press Conference for UFC189 the two fighters shared the stage and cemented their general dislike for each other. The verbal jabbing definitely became the focus and proved why so many MMA fans around the world will be closely watching this fight.
“He’s a one-dimensional fighter,” Mendes said. “He’s a stand-up fighter. Bottom line. He doesn’t have anything else. I’m more well-rounded. I have power. I can put people to sleep on their feet, I can take you down and beat a hole in your face and I can submit you. What else can he do?”
Conor not backing down had an expected response…
“He’ll do absolutely none of those things,” McGregor said. “Not one little bit of a thing. He’s a rookie. He’s a novice in my eyes. He’s a white belt on the mat. In the grappling exchanges, he will know as well and then panic will set in and then he will cower like a little girl and begin his little run. But I will catch him.”
Mendes was clearly humored by McGregor’s words and often told Conor, “ I cant even understand what your saying”
“He’s a black belt in trash talking,” Mendes said. “It comes natural to the dude. This has been a fun ride going through all this with this dude. This is a fight that in my opinion, you throw all this hype, this trash talk away, this is an easy fight for me.”
With most of the promotional power going into the main event fans are also being treated with a stacked event from top to bottom. The Co main event also features Robbie Lawler’s first title defense in a rematch of a close fight against Rory MacDonald. The prelims also feature two of Torque’s longtime sponsors Cody “No Love” Grabrandt fighting out of Team Alpha Male, and John “Doomsday” Howard.
All the action starts Saturday with early Fight Pass prelims at 7 pm Est, Fox Prelims at 8pm Est, and Main Card starting at 10pm Est.