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Chad Mendes on Conor McGregor: ‘I'm going to mess this dude up'

As Jose Aldo tried to battle through a rib injury ahead of his title defense against Conor McGregor at UFC 189, the contingency plan -- Chad Mendes -- began preparing himself as if Aldo were already out.

On Tuesday, as UFC president announced on SportsCenter, that became a reality. In what was one of the stranger situations heading into a big pay-per-view event, Mendes will now step in and fight McGregor for the interim featherweight title on July 11.

His leap of faith paid off.  

"As soon as I got this call and they said get ready I basically just shut out any possibility that Aldo was coming back," Mendes said during an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, a full day before he got the news. "I’m basically treating this like I’m fighting Conor for the title. I have to get my weight down. I’m coming up with a game plan and going over it, fine-tuning cardio. I’m pretending like I’m getting in there, and I’m fighting. That’s my mindset. I wake up every morning, I sit there and game plan stuff while I’m laying in bed before I get out."

"And I’m excited, man. I think this is a great match-up for me. Conor’s a tough guy, but Conor’s a guy I know I can beat. He better pray that Aldo can go in there and fight because I’m going to mess that dude up."

Mendes said that part of the reason he was confident about stepping in was that he keeps himself in fight shape year-round. As of Monday he was walking around 163 to 164 pounds -- close to the weight he’s usually at two weeks before a fight.

Even when he was still uncertain as to whether or not he'd be facing McGregor at UFC 189, Mendes said he felt fortunate for the opportunity. Mendes was deadlocked with fellow featherweight Frankie Edgar to get the next shot, and he wasn't promised the winner should Aldo have fought McGregor as planned. To get the opportunity ahead of Edgar did make him feel for the former lightweight champ.

"I feel for him," he said of Edgar, who is coming off a victory over Mendes’ teammate Urijah Faber. "I have nothing against Frankie. Me and Frankie are right there in the same spot. Ultimately that was up to the UFC. Obviously I feel very honored that they chose me, but yeah, I feel like Frankie could make a case just as much as I could."

Mendes, who is coming off a huge TKO victory of his own over Ricardo Lamas in April, said that he’s been watching McGregor going back to his UFC debut against Marcus Brimage in 2013. Though this was an opportunity he said he couldn’t refuse, Mendes was very surprised that McGregor agreed to fight him -- a 5-foot-6 wrestler -- when the UFC came to him with the alternative plan.

"[McGregor] just went through an entire training camp for a guy that’s a Muay Thai fighter, and now he’s facing a guy that’s going to put him on his back," Mendes said. "It definitely changes the whole game plan but, I just heard his coach [John Kavanagh] talking. This is a fight that a lot of people from Ireland are coming to see, taking out big loans and stuff. So it would be pretty messed up on his part to have to back out now with all his friends and family coming. There’s a lot of pressure on that, a lot riding on him to keep that fight going. So I don’t think he has a choice."

As one of McGregor’s frequent targets in the media, Mendes and McGregor have had a contentious history together. Yet asked if the fight was personal to him, Mendes said he would present a stoical face once he stepped inside the Octagon.

"He’s definitely said things to make this personal…the guy just loves talking crap, though, I mean, that’s Conor," he said. "He’s an actor, he’s a guy that’s selling fights. I’m not going to get in there and fight emotionally. I’m going to love to beat the crap out of this guy, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing that dude’s going to say to take me out of my game, push me too far or make me fight emotionally. I’m going to get in there and do what I do every single time. I’m going to put the pace on him, I’m going to put him on his back and I’m going to make him uncomfortable and I’m going to beat the crap out of him. Bottom line is this is what I was born to do, and it’s time."

As for how he foresees beating the Irish firebrand McGregor, Mendes said it could go a variety of ways.

"If I could go out there and knock this dude out, I definitely think that’s a possibility," he said. "He takes a lot of punches in fights and comes in with his hands down a lot and he gets cocky in there a little bit. I feel like I have the power and the speed to put this guy out. If not I can see myself taking this dude out by taking him down and submitting him. I’ve seen past fights where he’s lost, got submitted. The guy, he’ll tap. He’s got that give up, that quit in him. And I’m really going to test that in this fight. And if not either of those two [outcomes] I’d be more than happy to go five rounds of putting this dude on his back, beating a hole in his face the whole time. Any of the three sounds good to me."

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