Chad Mendes: The UFC made it clear they didn’t want to lose me
Following his win over Ricardo Lamas in April, No. 1-ranked featherweight Chad Mendes was looking ahead towards a summer that might have seen him face free agency as he approached the end of his current UFC deal.
Mendes had one fight left on his contract and for the first time since joining the UFC, the former title challenger felt like he finally had some real leverage to negotiate into a much bigger deal, although that might also mean talking to a few other promotions about work as well.
Mendes says he was ready to test the waters of free agency until the UFC stepped in and made it clear that they didn’t want him fighting anywhere except the Octagon for the rest of his career, so they signed him to a new eight-fight deal with the promotion.
"I’m very excited about it," Mendes told FOX Sports. "I had one fight left on my contract and I was open to fighting it out and just kind of seeing what I was worth on the open market and the UFC made it pretty clear they did not want to lose me."
"It feels good to finally get up there in the contract where you’re making some money and it definitely helps when you’re spending a lot doing these training camps, bringing in partners to help with your training, bringing trainers in and all the stuff you have to do. I’m excited for it, I can’t wait my next one."
I had one fight left on my contract and I was open to fighting it out and just kind of seeing what I was worth on the open market and the UFC made it pretty clear they did not want to lose me
— Chad Mendes
Contract negotiations lasted several weeks, with Mendes’ managers Mike Roberts and Jeff Meyer from MMA Inc. talking to the UFC about a new deal, but the ink was put on paper once UFC owners Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White came out to Sacramento to ensure things got settled sooner rather than later.
"Dana and Lorenzo flew out on their private jet to Sacramento, I took them to Mikuni Sushi and we just sat down and went to work," Mendes said. "It was cool negotiating back and forth with them and we got what we wanted and they were definitely willing to pay. I’m very happy with my contract and I’m excited to get in there and perform and earn that money."
The recent negotiations also marked the first time Mendes personally sat down with the UFC to help hammer out a new deal while watching his management team go to work for him.
Mendes admits he’s always been happy with the work the people who represent him have done in the past, but seeing it firsthand as they battled to get him every dollar he believed he was worth justified every decision he’s made in choosing his managers.
"Any of my contracts prior to this one I never really got to sit down with Jeff and Mike and Lorenzo and Dana," Mendes said. "We’re finally getting into the bigger money and this was the first time we all sat down together and I saw Jeff and Mike go to work for me.
"They had my back and if something wasn’t right or they thought we could get more, they’d pull me aside and we’d talk about it and come back with a new game plan. It definitely helped in that situation having those two there."
Mendes sticking by his management team comes in the wake of two of his friends, Joseph Benavidez and bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw, opting to represent themselves after the new Reebok deal was put in place. Fighters are now given money directly from the shoe and apparel company, which cuts off many of the in-ring sponsors who paid to have their brands featured on the fighter’s shorts or banners in the Octagon.
Benavidez specifically pointed towards the Reebok deal as the reason why he left the same management company that represents Mendes because he believes he’ll now be able to handle everything on his own and save some money along the way.
While Mendes refused to take pot shots at his teammates for making the decision they felt was best for business, he believes his new contract with the UFC is the exact reason why he needed people on his side willing to go to battle to ensure he got every penny he was worth.
"It’s kind of a shame," Mendes said about Benavidez and Dillashaw. "Obviously T.J. and Joe they just left, I love Mike and Jeff and they do a lot for me but there are always guys out there who are going to try to look for more. For what I do, my place in the sport, they do plenty for me. I’m happy with it.
"I’m not bashing anybody, I love these guys they are my brothers and I love Jeff and Mike — they are like family."