The crowd of over 16,000 was roaring. UFC 189’s main event had just concluded, and the fervor was at an all-time high. The energy had been soaring all week. The weigh-ins were pushed to maximum capacity with a record-breaking 11,500 spectators in attendance. The media obligations for both combatants were numerous and unsurprisingly adversarial. Even the walkouts to the cage had been a spectacle, unlike any other UFC walkout to date. But all of that was over. Chad Mendes had just competed against Conor McGregor in the biggest fight of his career and had fallen short.
Chad Mendes: From Bright Lights to Dark Times
Despite the devastating loss, Chad spoke with Joe Rogan before leaving the octagon:
“You know this is just completely awesome for me. This is the biggest fight in UFC history. And I got to come in here, You know and be a part of it. so this is just something that uh, you know obviously I’m never gonna forget in my life.”
This was a big fight. It was bigger than any of Chad’s regional fights, bigger than his 2014 “Fight of the Year” battle with then champion, Jose Aldo–hell, it sold more PPV’s than both of Chad’s previous UFC title fights doubled and combined. Chad had received a rare opportunity to compete against the UFC’s budding superstar, but was unable to come out with a victory.
Up until that point, Chad had only lost twice in his career—both losses were to the greatest featherweight of all time, Jose Aldo. Each of those losses were title fights, and so was this one. The gravity of the situation could have only been magnified as the traveling Irish circus set its sights on a new town called “Aldo.” Unlikely to ever competitively cross paths with Conor McGregor again, Chad was left with the daunting task of rebuilding.
Life After Conor
Five months after losing to McGregor, Mendes was TKO’d by Frankie Edgar in the first round. Edgar, not known for particularly heavy hands, caused fans to speculate whether or not Chad was losing his ability to take a punch.
After all, it would make sense. In a span of 15 months, Mendes had a damaging five-round war with Jose Aldo, a knockout loss to Conor McGregor, and a TKO loss against Frankie Edgar. Prior to this span, Mendes had only been knocked out once in his entire career.
The bad news didn’t stop with the Edgar fight. Six months after failing to rebound, Chad Mendes tested positive for a banned substance. A two-year USADA suspension wrapped up the toughest chapter of his career with a sudden ‘To Be Continued’ page.
As of June 10th, 2018, Chad Mendes is now eligible to compete in the UFC again. He is scheduled to take on Myles Jury on July 14th at UFC Fight Night 133. The featherweight division has changed quite a bit since Chad last competed.
Jose Aldo lost the belt to Conor McGregor, Conor was stripped of the belt, Jose recaptured the vacant belt by defeating Frankie Edgar, and Max Holloway finished Jose Aldo twice to become and remain the new featherweight champion. Long gone is the featherweight love triangle between Jose, Chad, and Conor. Max Holloway and Brian Ortega have replaced Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes as the “king and prince” of the featherweight division.
Now begins the comeback. Chad will commence his lofty ascent to the top of the mountain, and it won’t be easy. We’ve all seen how this story ends in the past. History would indicate that the odds of a comeback aren’t exactly in Chad’s favor.
But maybe this suspension was exactly what Chad needed. Far too often, we see fighters get knocked out, only to be knocked out again when they compete again too early. Chad’s loss to Frankie Edgar was a perfect example of that.
Many have speculated that Robbie Lawler’s late-career resurgence was in part due to Robbie taking a few years off from sparring in the gym. We have no way of knowing for sure if this improves a fighters ability to take a shot, but avoiding head trauma for a few years certainly shouldn’t make matters worse. In actuality, Chad’s suspension could have been the best thing for this stage of his career all along. If that ends up being the case, the featherweight division will be in for a treat.
Chad Mendes has experienced the highest of highs and more recently, the lowest of lows. He begins his ascension out of the trenches, and back towards the spotlight on July 14th, 2018.
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