It might be hard to believe, but UFC 179 headliner Chad Mendes actually agrees with something Conor McGregor said recently.
The brash, outspoken Irishman stated after his win in September that he felt featherweight king Jose Aldo had gotten complacent over the many years he’s spent as champion. He believes Aldo hasn’t evolved much lately and his performances have been full of malaise, not mayhem.
Mendes isn’t going to credit McGregor for the idea because he’s been saying a lot of the same things as he gears up for his rematch with Aldo next weekend in Brazil. After his loss to Aldo in 2012, Mendes allowed that fight to shape and mold him into a better competitor. He knocked out four of his next five opponents.
Meanwhile, Aldo has gone 3-0 with his only stoppage coming over Chan Sung Jung in 2013 after the Korean fighter separated his shoulder during the match. He looked disinterested during his title defense earlier this year against Ricardo Lamas — and Mendes was definitely paying attention.
"I’ve obviously watched all his fights since I fought him. I’ve studied film hardcore. For me watching that fight against Lamas, it’s a big confidence builder on my part, but I’ve been talking about it in past interviews and I’ve called him out on it," Mendes told FOX Sports.
I think I’ve caught up and passed him up. I truly believe this is my time. We’ve seen his reign for a while, but I’ve studied him, I’ve fought him. I truly believe it’s my turn
— Chad Mendes
Whatever Mendes has been saying, Aldo is listening.
At a news conference in Brazil a few months back to promote the upcoming card, Aldo’s animus boiled over when he shoved Mendes in a heated stare-down. Throughout his near five-year run as featherweight champion, Aldo has been as tactical as a surgeon both in and out of the Octagon.
This time he appeared emotional and upset. Mendes ate it up with a spoon.
"We’ve never seen Jose Aldo act like this before. He’s lashed out in the media. He lost his temper and pushed me. I’m in his head," Mendes said. "This is exactly where I wanted to be at this point."
Mendes isn’t trying to psychoanalyze Aldo, but he recognizes something has changed in the once-dominant finisher, who put away seven of eight fighters before coming to the UFC. He knows the champion recently started a family, and maybe that’s serving as some kind of distraction.
Maybe Aldo is more about being a husband and father these days than the UFC featherweight champion?
"I think lately he’s just got a lot on his plate. He just got married and had a baby recently. Those two things are very, very time consuming. Those extra days you’d be spending those extra hours in the gym, now he’s rushing home to be with his wife and baby. So those extra hours that he’s missing out on, those are the hours I’m putting in, in the gym," Mendes said.
"I think I’ve caught up and passed him up. I truly believe this is my time. We’ve seen his reign for a while, but I’ve studied him, I’ve fought him. I truly believe it’s my turn."
Mendes knows his maturity level has changed dramatically since first facing Aldo in 2012. He’s learned the art of the knockout. He found that if he hits somebody really, really hard, they go down and don’t get up again. He rediscovered his love of wrestling and embracing the grind.
Long story short, he found the way he will finish Jose Aldo on Oct. 25.
"I truly believe that I can (finish him)," Mendes said. "I know I hit hard. I’m fast and I’m powerful. If I can land one of those on anybody in the division, I can put them to sleep.
"I truly believe I can finish a guy like Jose Aldo."