No. 1 ranked featherweight contender Chad Mendes watched UFC 169 with a vested interest in how the co-main event turned out. The former All-American wrestler not only sits atop the division rankings, but he’s also universally recognized as the top contender for the belt currently held by Jose Aldo.
When Aldo finished his battle with Ricardo Lamas, there was no doubt that the champion was going to hold onto his title, but Mendes wasn’t all that impressed with how he chose to get the decision win. Aldo has fallen on criticism since coming to the UFC where he’s finished only two out of six opponents and one of them, Chan Sung Jung, suffered a separated shoulder, which precipitated the end of the bout. Prior to his move to the UFC while fighting in the WEC, Aldo fought eight times and finished seven opponents before the final bell.
"He does just enough to get in there and win that fight," Mendes told FOX Sports. "I mean he’s dangerous, he has so many tools, but yet I feel like he’s almost coasting in that fight. He knew Ricardo had nothing basically to beat him and so he was just going to do enough just to win this fight and keep it exactly where he wanted it to be."
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Mendes has felt what it’s like to face Aldo already because he’s the other person that’s been finished by the featherweight champion inside the Octagon, which is another reason why he’s itching so bad to get another shot at the belt and the only man to hand him a loss during his MMA career.
There’s been a lot of talk about Aldo going up to 55, but I highly doubt he’s going to go up and just vacate the belt.
There has been talk since the fight at UFC 169 that Aldo may move up to 155 pounds and challenge champion Anthony Pettis for his title. Then again, there have been plenty of rumors abounding that Aldo doesn’t have any interest in relinquishing his featherweight strap to go up to lightweight.
Mendes believes the Aldo vs. Pettis talk is premature because when the dust settles and decisions are made, he sees the UFC featherweight champion sticking to the only division he’s ever known.
"There’s been a lot of talk about Aldo going up to 55, but I highly doubt he’s going to go up and just vacate the belt. In my mind, they’re either going to try and go up and win the 55 belt too and I don’t think the UFC’s going to let him do that, but I just don’t think he’s going to do it. I think he’s going to end up staying at 45," Mendes said.
If Aldo does stick around at 145 pounds, Mendes is chomping at the bit to sign up to take the fight with him, but even that comes with conditions. Aldo has not been the most active champion during his tenure with the UFC, never fighting more than two times in a single year and due to injuries has actually sat out for 12 months between title defenses in 2012 and 2013.
Mendes wants Aldo and the title shot, but he’s not willing to sit on the sidelines until late in the year to get there. The Team Alpha Male featherweight wants to stay active, earn money and he’s confident he can beat any other contenders out there so if Aldo isn’t ready, line the rest of them up and he’ll knock them down.
Mendes’ last fight against Aldo didn’t go as planned but the rematch has been hotly anticipated.
"I heard someone tell me he doesn’t want to fight again until September/October and that is a long time for me to be off," Mendes said. "I don’t know why he would want to wait that long maybe it’s a Brazil card, but I’m not going to wait that long. I’ll fight someone else in the mean time. I just don’t think there’s anyone else in this division that can beat me, but if I have to do it, I’m going to do it."
In the scenario that Aldo does vacate the title, Mendes is happy to face another fighter like Cub Swanson for the belt instead. Swanson is also on a long winning streak in the division and while he does have a loss on his record to Mendes from their days fighting in the WEC, the top ranked featherweight contender is more than happy to give him a rematch with the belt on the line.
Mendes knows one day – sooner or later – he’ll run into Jose Aldo again. Until that time, the only thing that matters is getting the gold.
"Ultimately I honestly don’t care," Mendes said. "This is how I think it would happen – if he goes up and ends up vacating the belt and me and Cub Swanson fought for the belt, Aldo is not going to stay at 55 for the rest of his career. I guarantee whether he wins the belt or loses, he’ll come back down so he’ll be fighting for the belt again at 45. So if I beat Cub Swanson, I’d end up fighting Aldo again anyways down the road. If that was the case, he goes up and vacates the belt, I would love to fight Swanson for the belt.
He’s beaten me, he’s beaten (Urijah) Faber, so it would definitely mean a lot, but if he goes up I’m fine for that too. I don’t really care who it is as long as I win the belt.
- Mendes on Jose Aldo
"Ultimately I would love to be the guy to dethrone Aldo. He’s beaten me, he’s beaten (Urijah) Faber, so it would definitely mean a lot, but if he goes up I’m fine for that too. I don’t really care who it is as long as I win the belt."
The only guarantee Mendes can offer up right now while he awaits word from the UFC on his next fight is that by the end of this calendar year, he will have the featherweight gold around his waist. It doesn’t matter much to Mendes if it’s Aldo or Swanson that he has to go through, so long as there’s a title on the line, he’s ready to fight and win.
"No doubt in my mind (I will be champion this year)," Mendes said. "That is the plan and that is the goal and that’s what I want. I honestly think whether Aldo goes up or not I should be the next one in line for the title, I think I’m the true No. 1 contender and they just have to get me in there with him."