BOISE, Idaho – A two-year suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is certainly not the way a fighter would choose to get some time off – as needed as that time may be.
Yet, that’s the hand that Chad Mendes (17-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) was dealt. And as he prepares to return on Saturday, in a UFC Fight Night 133 meeting against Myles Jury (17-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC), the perennial featherweight contender said he was able to make the most of it.
“I’m feeling great, and I’m feeling excited,” Mendes told MMAjunkie ahead of the FS1-televised main-card bout, which takes place at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. “I’ve got that hunger back. I feel almost rejuvenated. My body feels good – the bumps and bruises.
“Probably about the past four years, getting up in the morning, my feet were just so bruised and beat up from kicking and getting stepped on and stubbing your toes during practice. It’s just nice. Everything feels back to normal, I’m ready to go.”
Mendes was flagged by USADA on June 10, 2016, after an out-of-competition urine sample tested positive for GHRP-6, or growth hormone-releasing Hexapeptide. Mendes later claimed the substance came from a cream he used to treat psoriasis, but took owned up to the bust and chose not to fight the two-year term.
Does he regret not contesting the suspension? Well, “Yes and no.”
“It was my own damn fault,” Mendes said. “I should have paid attention. I did the time. I’m not going to sit there and make up a bunch of excuses and try to get out of it. …”
“When they told me two years, at that time, honestly I was frustrated. I was embarrassed. I was just like, ‘Screw it. I’ll do my time. I just want to step away from all this.’ About halfway through it, I was like, ‘I wish I would have tried to fight it a little bit.’”
As for his feelings on USADA now, Mendes seems to be on a similar page as fellow UFC Boise fighter. Junior Dos Santos, who seemed to prove that he’d been the victim of tainted supplements and took a six-month suspension, isn’t withdrawing his support to USADA – but he does think adjustments need to be made.
Mendes, on his end, doesn’t think he’s the one to tell what is the right answer here. But while he does believe there needs to be “something” in place to address cheating in the sport, he has both “positive and negative” feelings about USADA.
“I think it’s great, just keeping blatant cheating stuff out of the sport,” Mendes said. “A lot of that stuff was getting overlooked and getting through. I think there are some petty stuff that we can probably fine-tuned. In my opinion, the tainted supplements even. There’s no way for us to know that. If I go to the store and buy amino acids, I’m planning on taking amino acids, which are 100 percent legal.
“There’s no way for me to know there’s something illegal in there, and if there’s something the company tries to sneak in there to make their product sell better, by people saying, ‘I feel great when I take this, and I’m looking good,’ how is that our fault?”
A three-time featherweight title challenger, Mendes hasn’t fought since December 2015, when a knockout loss to Frankie Edgar, following a setback in a short-notice meting with Conor McGregor, made for his first career skid. While the layoff ended up being longer than he’d like, Mendes was already looking for some time off.
The 33-year-old was able to make his new business a priority for a year. While he did stay in shape, he said that he was able to tune out UFC-related things entirely for about four or five months. For someone who’d been competing since age 4, going from swimming, to wrestling, to MMA without a single year off, the time spent working on himself and on his family proved fruitful.
This camp, Mendes said, has been a different, but ultimately great one. Instead of just going full force every day, he’s planned his entire preparation ahead and introduced new tools. He’s trained hard, but also smart. Mendes went into it heavy, but has been happy with his diet and how the weight has been coming off.
More importantly, though, he’s had time to miss being in the cage.
“For me, I think having that is one of my best tools,” Mendes said. “It definitely makes me the most dangerous, when I’m wanting to get in here and compete, push myself, and not just going through the motions. Having that drive to get in there to whoop someone up. It’s back, man. I’m excited. I can’t wait.”
“Money” is not getting a warm welcome upon his return. Jury has long been regarded as a big threat in the UFC’s 155-pound and 145-pound divisions, and after a small lump in 2015, he’s rebounded solidly with back-to-back wins over Mike De La Torre and Rick Glenn.
What might seem like a tall order for a returning fighter, Mendes sees as “the perfect fight” to get back to. Sure, Jury is tough – but then again, Mendes reasons, who isn’t tough in the current landscape of the UFC’s busy 145-pound division?
“For me to get back there and fight a guy like Myles, who is a guy that is all right going into my world,” Mendes said. “He’s OK wrestling. He trains with (Dominick) Cruz and those guys, so I’m sure they wrestle a lot. He’s OK being on his back.
“He’s solid with (Brazilian jiu-jitsu), but he’s a counter-striker. He likes keeping the pace low, which is perfect. I’m going to try to keep that pace as high as I can. I’m going to put the pressure on him. When I throw something, I’m going to throw it to make it hurt. Hopefully that translates into something positive and we get the W.”
Although Mendes is ultimately just happy that he gets a chance to go back to doing what he loves, he enters Saturday’s bout with a few things to prove – both to himself and to the world.
“I’m treating this like it’s the biggest fight of my life – and it is,” Mendes said. “This is a fight that I need to go out there and prove to people (that) I’m back. I didn’t leave. I took a little bit of time off, but I’m still an animal. I’m still going to go out there and try to knock your head off. I can take you down when I want and put that pressure on you.
“That’s the type of Chad that I want people to remember and see back in the octagon now and be like, ‘(Expletive), this guy never left.’ That’s the plan. I’m going to go out there and try to do that and if I get that win, which hopefully I do, I would like to fight someone in the top five right off the bat.”
- Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Paulo Costa, Drakkar Klose, Bristol Marunde, Aubrey Marunde, Khamzat Dalgiev
- Daily Debate results: As the two major promotions go head to head, fans favor UFC bout
- Claudia Gadelha on track for return after knee surgery, open to Carla Esparza rematch
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Back from two-year suspension, Chad Mendes just wants to 'whoop someone up'