UFC featherweight contender Chad Mendes has looked nearly invincible against practically every 145-pound fighter in the world.
He just can’t get over the huge obstacle at the top of the division, longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
Mendes lost to Aldo for the second time Saturday night in the main event of UFC 179 in Rio de Janeiro.
After suffering a first-round knockout to Aldo in 2012, Mendes ran off five straight wins, including four by knockout, to earn another shot.
Their match Saturday was more competitive, but Mendes lost four of the five rounds to once again fall short of winning the belt in what UFC president Dana White called “the greatest featherweight title fight in history.”
“I put my heart and soul into this fight. I fought tooth and nail,” Mendes said. “Obviously, I came up a bit short, but I feel the same as Jose. I think everyone wins with a fight like that. I feel honored for anyone to consider me to have been in a fight that people are saying might go down in history. I put a lot into it, so it means a lot.”
The two defeats against Aldo represent the only losses of Mendes’ career. He said afterward he was content in having put up a strong effort.
“I feel it was my everything, but I’ll have to go back and look. I know I made some mistakes. I definitely got caught with a few hooks. I feel like that’s probably what cost me the fight,” he said. “This was a dream come true for me. It was a fight I wanted more than anything and I wanted to put on a good show for the fans. I feel like I trained harder than I ever have for a fight and I felt so ready. I went out there and laid everything on the line. I just hope everyone enjoyed it.
“I came up short, but I’m going to go back and watch the tape to see the positives and learn from them. Look at the mistakes and learn from them. Then get back in the gym and keep doing it.”
Aldo, who hasn’t lost since 2005 and has successfully defended the UFC title seven straight times, credited Mendes for putting up a competitive fight.
He also didn’t discount the possibility of a third meeting down the road. In fact, the champion said the excitement and competitiveness of Saturday’s bout makes both fighters more marketable.
“We’ve seen Frankie (Edgar) fighting Gray Maynard a third time, so I think it happens,” Aldo said. “I believe Chad won a lot with this fight. If there’s a third one, we’ll win a lot together. He’s a great athlete and will always be fighting at the highest level. Him losing again doesn’t mean he doesn’t work anymore. He has a huge potential and we might meet again in the future. If we keep fighting, our pockets will be full.”
That would be fine with Mendes, who didn’t appear discouraged by the defeat.
“I just love doing this. This is my job that I’ve been doing a little over six years. Competing is what I love to do and who I am,” he said. “Whether it’s the next title shot or the fight to get me to that next shot, I’m just going to keep training hard and doing what I do and just enjoy the ride.
“I’m loving every second of this.”
■ NEXT UP — Now that Aldo has defended the title against the top contender for the second time, the clamoring has begun for him to take on the most popular challenger in the 145-pound class.
The UFC appears to have other plans for breakout star Conor McGregor.
UFC officials announced McGregor would fight Dennis Siver on Jan. 18 in Boston. The fight is expected to headline a card on Fox Sports 1.
White said McGregor may earn a shot with a victory in that bout.
“Conor McGregor’s got to fight Dennis Siver in Boston, first of all,” White said during the UFC 179 post-fight news conference. “A lot of people are dismissing Siver and saying the fight’s ridiculous. Siver knows exactly what happens for his career if he comes in and beats Conor McGregor. It would be a huge win for him, so you know he’s going to come in and do everything he can to win.”
White had flown McGregor in to Brazil to sit cageside for the title fight, fueling speculation he would be announced as the next challenger for the winner.
The Irish kickboxer has made waves with his flashy fighting style and even flashier verbal skills.
Aldo dismissed him as a true contender in the featherweight division.
“The kingdom is full now,” Aldo said. “I’m the king, Chad is the prince, and there’s a joker in the court. All he does is talk. He hasn’t fought anyone as tough as us.”
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.