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Mendes, Vazquez Looking Forward to Tangle After 'Spoon-Fed' Comments

WEC fighters have always had to scrap and claw for attention that is usually directed towards the athletes of the UFC. With the recent merger news, that's changing in a hurry. Several of the WEC's fights over its final two events have implications that will affect the division when it is rechristened with three familiar letters.

One of those bouts is WEC 52's featherweight matchup pitting unbeaten Chad Mendes against veteran Javier Vazquez. Both men are trying to work their way to the front of the line for consideration at a title shot. But to hear Vazquez tell it, Mendes hasn't exactly earned his keep. In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Vazquez said that while Mendes is a good athlete, "he's been kind of spoon-fed in a lot of ways," and "the second he runs into somebody he can't just bully around, he's going to break."

On Monday evening, Mendes responded.

"I think that's BS," Mendes told MMA Fighting during a conference call. "I don't think I've been spoon-feed at all. I've been wrestling since I was five years old. I've gone through the grind, probably harder than anything he's ever done his entire life. So getting into that, coming over into the MMA world, I feel I've trained hard so I don't really know what he's talking about."

A two-time All-American wrestler at Cal-Poly, Mendes made a quick transition into MMA and is currently 8-0 after three straight wins in the WEC.

He says he's unbothered by Vazquez's words, but admitted they can be used for motivation in camp.

"I never really let emotions get too high in a fight," he said. "I get in here and train every day and bust my butt. I go into the ring confident that I tried my hardest and did everything possible, but hearing stuff like that from an opponent definitely feeds the fire and helps me train even harder to push myself through each and every workout."

Vazquez (15-4) has had a much rockier path until recently. At onetime a promising lightweight, he put the sport aside for over three years before returning in 2007. He did well outside of the WEC, but when he finally signed with the promotion in 2009, he lost each of his first two fights, causing many to wonder if the sport had passed him by.

"Certainly I had doubts," WEC general manager Reed Harris said. "When a guy comes in and gets losses like that, we're concerned. But we knew Javy had that pedigree, that jiu-jitsu pedigree. The time off hurt. Ring rust effects guys."

Of course, Vazquez never lacked the belief in himself that he'd return to the top of his chosen weight class

"I felt I was fighting well," he said. "I thought I was fighting as well I could fight given the current circumstances of where I was at. I've made some changes over the past couple fights and sought other training and feel that every camp I've made significant improvements. I never doubted myself. I always knew I could compete at the highest level, and I always knew I could win at the highest level."

Given his struggles and the redemption tale he's working on, it's not too surprising that Vazquez feels Mendes isn't quite as battle hardened as he is. But ask Vazquez if he has a chip on his shoulder and he denies it.

"Not at all," he said. "I worked hard for a very long time as well. I don't have a chip at all. I go in every time, I go in humble and work really hard. The last couple fights I had are done and over with, and I'm focused on my current challenge and that's it."

Strategically, the strengths of both men play into each other. Mendes is an excellent wrestler who's had little problem taking down anyone he's been in the cage with, while Vazquez is a jiu-jitsu whiz who has submitted each of his last two opponents and has 10 tapout wins in his 15 victories.

During the conference call, Harris let slip that Mendes told him jiu-jitsu black belts are "no problem" for him, giving Vazquez one last piece of food for thought.

"Black belt jiu-jitsu guys in a gi and black-belt jiu-jitsu guys in no gi who can fight are different things, so thanks for that, I appreciate it," Vazquez said, perhaps filing away some extra motivation of his own.

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