For several months, Team Alpha Male has been in the headlines for more than just fighting. The well-documented beef between Urijah Faber, T.J. Dillashaw and Duane Ludwig has drawn a lot of attention and given one of the main fighters at Team Alpha Male anxiety.
"It's something that's stressful and stresses me out," UFC featherweight Chad Mendes told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It's something that I don't like being a part of. I love doing this as a sport. I got into this because I want to compete, and when all this stuff gets thrown into it, it's not fun for me and it's something I just don't want to be a part of."
Mendes last fought on Dec. 15 at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale in Las Vegas, Nev. That night, the TAM member suffered a surprising first-round knockout loss to former UFC lightweight champion and top featherweight contender Frankie Edgar. Mendes can describe the outcome of that night in one sentence.
"I just got caught," Mendes said.
"I got connected on the nose. It was not like any crazy-solid punch," Mendes explained. "There was something that just wasn't right, you know. Whether that was the first fight I fought without using an I.V., you know, maybe the hydration process wasn't right. Maybe I took a little bit too much damage in that training camp than I should of or a little bit too much too late. I just felt like I've been hit way harder than that by so many other people and not been out. That was a flash that just graced my nose, really, and that's another thing that I felt was so frustrating for me. I know I'm better than that. Normally, that doesn't do that to me and it just sucks, but there is nothing you can do about it."
There are many factors and moving parts prior to a fight that can influence its outcome. The first time fighting under the I.V. ban and taking too much damage during the training camp are factors worth considering, but so is performing a training camp without a head coach.
"I mean obviously it's something that sucks to deal with," Mendes said. "This is an issue we've been dealing with for a little bit now. It's just tough being a part of it. It's just a lot to deal with as far as coaching goes. I mean, a lot of the coaches that are solid that have fought in the UFC or have a great system, already have a team. So it's tough for us in this division trying to find that perfect fit, someone that's done it, someone that's reputable, and someone that's not absolutely insane. There are a lot of factors that go into it.
"As of right now, we have Justin Buchholz who's always been an amazing coach and corner man... He's a brainiac in there so that's awesome, but we just lock that up. Going through this last fight camp, we didn't have a coach that was ours. We had a couple of people coming in, you know, just people in and out of the gym, all the time, trying to coach us. And it's like ‘I don't even know who you are, I have no respect as far as that goes as being my mentor,' so I mean it's just difficult. This is something we're going to work on and figure it out."
Although many Team Alpha Male members find themselves in Mendes' situation, others, like Joseph Benavidez, have decided to keep training with "Bang" Ludwig. But that's not something Mendes himself has thought about.
"I'm not considering it, but I don't have anything against these guys that want to go over there and train," he said. "I mean, there is a lot of negativity and stuff being said back and forth and people getting frustrated. And it's like, everyone is a grown-ass adult and people can make their own decisions and do what they want. I know what I need to do, I know what I'm going to do, and that's really all it matters in my life right now.
"I don't feel like it's a loyalty thing, I mean, that's them trying to better their lives. That's what they feel like they need, you know. It sucks just being in the middle of it but there is nothing I hold against those guys. I don't hold anything against 'Bang,' I am loyal to Faber, I love Faber like my brother, but I just basically want to stay away from that whole drama set."
When Ludwig was still part of Team Alpha Male, Mendes showed significant improvement in his striking in his fights with Nik Lentz and Jose Aldo. However, Mendes doesn't think is worth training under Ludwig if it amounts to distraction.
"I just feel like there is just too much drama between everything," he said. "I don't have anything against 'Bang.' There is nothing in my mind that makes me hate the guy or anything like that. I just feel like with him Faber and the whole drama thing is not worth me getting in the middle of it."
Mendes said he hopes one day the feud will end, and everyone will get on with their lives.
"It's like, ‘Dude, you guys are both doing this to each other. Just end it, it's fine, just go on with your lives. We don't have to hate each other — we can all still be friends,'" Mendes said.
Mendes is relieved that two of his close friends won't be asked to fight each other right now. Leading up to Boston's UFC Fight Night 81 on Jan. 17, it was believed that Faber was next in line for the winner between Dominick Cruz and Dillashaw. Now that Cruz defeated Dillashaw and is the new bantamweight champion, it's likely Faber draws Cruz next to complete the trilogy that started in 2007.
"I'm pretty glad [Dillashaw vs. Faber] is not going to happen," Mendes said. "I don't even know if I could watch the fight, honestly. It's not something I really want to see."