When the UFC hit Brazil in August for UFC 134, the crowd was raucous, to say the least. They were so excited to see their fighters, they cheered, chanted, and threw beer through the duration of the card. This time around, that environment might be intimidating for an American fighter facing one of a beloved Brazilian fighter.
Chad Mendes has not faced any hostility since arriving in Rio de Janeiro earlier this week to fight Jose Aldo Jr. In fact, he's found a warm reception.
"I was surprised by how supportive the fans were. I didn't expect to receive the cheers and I appreciated it," Mendes said at today's press conference in Rio.
"I think the fans realize how important this fight is for the featherweight division, for the UFC and for the sport. I'm ready to go and I know Jose is. I can't wait to do this."
Their fight for the UFC's featherweight belt is a match-up between two young guns who are known for very different skills. Champion Aldo has snapping kicks and speed in his striking. Mendes was a NCAA Division I finalist in wrestling and uses those skills in his fights.
Mendes says that he has prepared for Aldo's advantages.
"We've worked on that in camp, particularly in getting ready for his striking. Without giving away too much strategy, I am really confident in my ability to take this fight where I want it. This is the moment I've been waiting for since I was a kid. A few years ago, I'd never fought outside of California. Saturday, I'm walking into the Octagon in Rio and I'm planning on leaving with the UFC featherweight title."
So who will walk away with the UFC featherweight belt? Will Aldo defend the belt for the fifth straight time, or will Mendes keep his record unblemished? Tell us in the comments or on Facebook.
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