You know you’re in for a tough fight when Dana White, the president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, likely is pulling for your opponent.
Those are the odds facing Chad Mendes in Las Vegas, where he’ll fight Conor McGregor of Ireland on Saturday night for the interim featherweight championship belt in UFC 189.
Initially, Saturday’s card was supposed to feature a long-awaited matchup of champion Jose Aldo and No. 3-ranked McGregor. But as McGregor predicted, Aldo backed out of the fight June 30 because of an injury.
But for White and UFC, McGregor-Mendes could be an even better show. They don’t like each other, with McGregor loudly predicting he will knock out “Minnie Mendes” and make him sorry he answered the phone when White called offering him the fight – now for an interim title belt.
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While he’s smart enough to stay unbiased in public, White would no doubt love to see a great performance by McGregor. A victory will make McGregor’s star rise higher in the eyes of UFC fans, and another scheduled bout against Aldo down the road would make for an even bigger pay-per-view payday.
But there’s a problem: Mendes might win this fight. Mendes plans to bring the title back to Sacramento’s Ultimate Fitness Gym, where he trains with Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male.
This is Mendes’ third shot at the featherweight title after losing twice to Aldo. He has the experience of big fights. McGregor doesn’t.
Mendes has beaten and faced tougher opponents than McGregor, who reportedly will have had to lose 25 pounds to get down to the 145-pound weight limit by Thursday’s weigh-in.
The odds are long against Mendes in Las Vegas, but don’t bet against him.
Victor Contreras, (916) 326-5527, @sacbeevictor
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