The date was March 22, 2008.
Chad Mendes walked into the arena in St. Louis with a perfect 30-0 undefeated record in his senior year at Cal Poly as the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country at 141 pounds.
He was facing unlikely foe J. Jaggers from The Ohio State University, who made it all the way to the finals as a No. 6 seed. The fact that Jaggers made it this far at all was an accomplishment in and of itself, but what transpired over the next few minutes is something that stuck with Chad Mendes forever.
Jaggers got the best of Mendes that day, winning the match by points 5-2 and winning the 2008 NCAA championship.
Chad Mendes would not taste defeat again until he faced UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo earlier this year at UFC 142 . If there's a recurring theme to look for here it's the fact that Mendes hates losing so he doesn’t do it often.
What Mendes does do, however, is learn from those experiences to make him a better wrestler or in this case a better fighter.
“I went undefeated that whole year, that was my senior year, went undefeated that whole year, lost that match, and I haven't lost anything since that match. That's two times I've lost at anything that I've done competitively as a sport in four years. It's been a while, but it's those things that kind of keep you grounded. Keeps your toes on the ground, keeps you sharp,” Mendes told MMAWeekly Radio.
“It's a tough situation, I hate losing anything. I'm super competitive. A lot of the guys on our team, T.J. Dillashaw is one of these types too, but it's something that I absolutely hate. It kind of eats me up inside knowing that I made a mistake and just being that close to that belt.”
In his fight with Aldo back in January, Mendes was holding his own in the first round, but after catching a vicious knee strike from the Brazilian he was soon looking up at the lights watching his dreams of becoming a UFC champion float away.
“I've looked back on that fight with Aldo and looked at the mistake I made, and it's on my mind and hopefully it doesn't happen again,” said Mendes.
While the loss is definitely motivation for Mendes. What he doesn't want is for that one fight, that one loss to define him.
In the NFL there's something called the Super Bowl curse for teams that come up short in the biggest game of the year, and the following season they can't even come close to duplicating that level of success.
The 2001 St. Louis Rams finished 14-2, but couldn't put the finishing touches on the season in the Super Bowl and then went 7-9 the following year. The 1998 Atlanta Falcons finished with the same regular season record, lost the Super Bowl and then went an unimpressive 5-11 the next year.
Chad Mendes does not want to be a victim of that, so he won't dwell on the loss. He'll learn from it and move on because that's what winners do.
“I try to look at the positives. I mean I got in there and fought one of the best pound-for-pound fighters and truthfully I feel like I was winning that round, so I felt like my cardio was good, it was the best I'd ever felt for a fight, both mentally and physically, and I'm taking that kind of training the stuff I learned in that camp, the mind preparation, and studying my opponents and transferring that now to all my fights,” Mendes stated.
“It sucks that I lost, but I performed to where I needed to be and where I wanted to be, but I just got caught.”
Now just because Mendes isn't dwelling on the past doesn't mean he isn't out to prove a point with his UFC 148 fight against Cody McKenzie.
Mendes knows that a loss to McKenzie would be unbelievably devastating to his long term goals of getting back to a title shot, so he needs to make an example out of this opponent and show that he's ready to once again tackle the best of the best at 145 pounds.
“I've just got to go out there and beat the crap out of him, hands down,” said Mendes. “I've got to finish this fight. It's something that I want to do; it's something that I'm training really hard to do.”