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Here's what you should know about Conor McGregor's new opponent

It’s McGregor versus Mendes on 11 July.

Updated on 1 July at 09.00

UFC on Fox Mixed Martial Arts Chad Mendes will face Conor McGregor in 10 days' time. Source: AP/Press Association Images

FOLLOWING THIS MORNING’S withdrawal of Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes has officially stepped in to face Conor McGregor for the interim UFC featherweight title in the main event at UFC 189 in Las Vegas on 11 July.

Who is Chad Mendes?

A 30-year-old American, Chad ‘Money’ Mendes is an elite wrestler who was a two-time NCAA Division One All-American… which means that when it comes to wrestling, he’s good. Really good. And if wrestling is one of your weaknesses, Mendes is likely to expose it.

A fight against Mendes represents the perfect opportunity for Conor McGregor to answer the long-standing ‘wrestler question’. McGregor has yet to fight an elite wrestler of the calibre of Mendes, which has been the primary verbal weapon of the Dubliner’s detractors. Overcoming Mendes would be an emphatic response.

“That wrestler question is definitely one I want to answer,” McGregor told reporters in Las Vegas last month. “It’s a question the fans want answered, it’s a question the media want answered. How will he react?

“A guy asked me the other day, is it personal? Do you really want to get in and show everyone what you can do? It’s never personal, it’s business. Business is business, they want to see me tested against a wrestler. They believe that’s a question that’s yet to be answered. So if it’s good business, I’m in it.”

Brazil UFC 142 Only Jose Aldo has defeated Chad Mendes in the latter's six-and-a-half year professional MMA career. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The foundation of Mendes’ game is wrestling but his boxing has shown significant improvement too — never more so than in his Fight of the Year against Jose Aldo last October. Aldo won it via the judges’ scorecards but he was battered and bruised by the time his hand was raised.

McGregor wasn’t impressed, however. He said recently: “I think Chad [Mendes] is more just a wrestler with an overhand right. He swings his overhand, looks at the floor, closes his eyes and hopes for it to land. To me that’s novice. That’s day-one beginner stuff where I come from.”

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Mendes, who’s the number one contender in the UFC’s featherweight rankings, has a professional record of 17 wins and two losses — both of which were handed out by Aldo.

When the pair first met in 2012, Aldo won by KO in the final second of the first round but it wasn’t without controversy, as the champion appeared to use the fence to defend a takedown before finishing Mendes with a knee.

Chad

Mendes has beaten five of the UFC’s top 15-ranked featherweights, the most recent of which saw him overcome Ricardo Lamas via first-round TKO in April. Cub Swanson, Nik Lentz, Clay Guida and Darren Elkins have also tasted defeat against the Team Alpha Male product.

They haven’t fought yet but there has already been plenty of verbal jousting between McGregor and Mendes, so there’ll be no love lost if the pair do square off at UFC 189.

Back in February, Mendes said: “It’s going to feel so good to beat the crap out of Conor. Because the guy’s just a big tool. I’m trying to be nice here. I could definitely say a lot meaner things.”

Aldo versus McGregor was the one everyone wanted to see, and while former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar was unfortunate to be overlooked, the UFC have devised a pretty attractive Plan B.

Following his two losses to Aldo, Mendes is no stranger to UFC title shots. Will it be third time lucky on 11 July?

– First published on 25 June at 18.30

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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