Stop me if you've heard this one before.
A blonde-haired, American boy with a wrestling background and a glimmer in his eye, travels to the foreign country of Brazil, where he will take on a champion in front of his hometown friends and family. Our protagonist will be booed. He will be written off.
People will lose "sig bets" because of him.
If this sounds like the plot of the latest Disney sports-based movie, you're wrong.
No, it's not a movie. Not yet, anyway. It's the backstory behind the main event for Saturday night's (Jan. 14, 2012) UFC 142 pay-per-view (PPV) card, LIVE from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as the Brazilian-born, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo defends his belt against American standout Chad Mendes.
Earlier in the week, Mendes sat down with Pro MMA Radio's Larry Pepe to discuss his upcoming title bout, which will be fought in hostile territory:
"Honestly, it hasn't hit me yet. I have been just treating it like any other fight. I'm sure when I get there and I'm coming out in the tunnel, there's gonna be some kind of nerves. There always is. Honestly, I think a little bit of nerves is good. It kinda keeps you on point. As far as the fight being in Brazil, the only thing that I was kinda hoping it'd be in the States was because I wanted a lot of my friends and family to be able to see the biggest fight of my life, the biggest fight of my career. I wanted everyone to be able to make it out and support me. It's expensive to get there (Brazil) and a lot of them aren't gonna be able to make it. That's pretty much the only reason why I wanted it to be in the states. I don't mind fighting in Brazil and in front of his home crowd. Honestly, I can't understand what they're saying anyway. Obviously I know I'm gonna get booed. But that's just gonna feed me anyway. But overall, I believe it's the best way to prove that I'm the best 145 pound fighter out there, by going to his backyard and taking the belt from him there. I'm pretty pumped about it."
On April 24, 2010, Mendes' training partner and close personal friend, Urijah Faber, took on Jose Aldo at WEC 48 in Sacramento, California. The fight was fairly one-sided in favor of Aldo, due largely in part to a brutal bevy of legkicks that left "The California Kid" wobbling painfully out of the cage after the fight was over.
Mendes talked about what he's been able to learn from Faber through that experience, as well the added motivation that loss brings "Money" as he looks forward to tomorrow night's match-up:
"You know, it's helped me a lot. Urijah's gone in there and fought Aldo. He knows where he felt strong. The areas he felt not so strong. And we've kinda talked about it and gone over gameplans for this camp. We've figured out where he thinks I will do very well and areas I needed to work on. Overall, it was a huge advantage for me having Urijah, who's already fought him. And, you know, like I said, we have a great gameplan. I'm really excited to just get in there and do it.
He's (Faber) like a brother to me and I don't like seeing my brother, or close friends, lose at anything, especially a fight against another guy. When I get in there and get that win, it'll feel awesome to get some revenge for Urijah."
Many feel (and have voiced the opinion that) Mendes' wrestling will not be a factor, citing the fact that superior wrestling didn't help Faber, nor did it help Mike Brown when he received a vicious beatdown from Aldo at WEC 44 on Nov. 18, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mendes believes he's a different style wrestler than either of those two fighters. He's more explosive, and he believes it will be what makes the difference against Aldo:
"Those two fighters are completely different style wrestlers than I am. Brown is the type of guy, he's big and strong. He basically likes to just bully guys into the cage and work for takedowns from there. Just like a slower pace takedown. Urijah doesn't really have an explosive double-leg (takedown) or anything like that. He'll just set up like a single-leg with his stand up. My style of wrestling is very explosive and powerful, to where I just blast guys off their feet. But I also have great stuff off the cage. That could be another area of this fight that I'm gonna do well in. Aldo doesn't like getting his back get put up against the cage, because he's so comfortable there, but if I'm doing damage, he's losing the fight."
Are you Maniacs buying the hype behind this fight? Will it be able to deliver on the promise of being a classic match-up between a grappler and a striker? Or will Mendes fall by the way side, in much the same manner as those gone before him?