The multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion agreed to replace John Lineker on six days’ notice, and said he tried to convince the UFC to match him up with Garbrandt in a different weight class.
"We tried to make this fight at 145 pounds, I suggested a 140-pound catchweight, but they wanted it at 135," Mendes told MMAFighting.com on Thursday. "I told them I will be at 136. I think I will, but you always have doubts because I never had to cut that much in a short period of time for a fight before, so it’s something new for me. I hope it doesn’t affect my performance."
A UFC official told MMA Fighting that Mendes' camp did not inform the promotion about what weight he was at when he accepted the fight, only that he would be able to make 136 pounds. The official said that Mendes' camp told the UFC that Mendes would be available for fights on short notice at either 145 or 135 pounds and offered to fight Garbrandt. There was no pressure for Mendes to take the Garbrandt fight, the official added.
(UPDATE: The bout between Mendes and Garbrandt was made at a catchweight of 142 on Saturday. Mendes made the weight after stripping down naked with a towel in front of him.)
"Tanquinho" said he was 26 pounds over the bantamweight limit when he asked for the fight and decided to hire nutritionist George Lockhart this week.
"That’s my biggest concern," Mendes said with a laugh. "I don’t even know if I’m going to make weight. I hope I do. It’s complicated. I hired a nutritionist to help me this week, and I’m following everything he says. It looks a bit hard, it’s on short notice, but we’ll see. I’m doing something different that I usually do. I normally have a six-week camp and I’m fine, but it’s different now."
Mendes says he was 21 pounds over on Thursday afternoon. Normally, Mendes said, he has nine pounds to cut a couple days before a MMA fight.
"I told them I would make the weight," said Mendes.
Leaving the weight issues aside, Mendes is happy to be facing an undefeated prospect in his Octagon debut. The Brazilian grappler, who accepted to fight Charles Rosa on short notice in January but pulled out with a rib injury, sees Garbrandt as a better opportunity.
"Cody is better ranked than Charles Rosa," he said. "I believe that a win over him in my UFC debut, on six days' notice, would be a great way to show myself to the world."
Garbrandt brings an undefeated 7-0 record to the Octagon Sunday, with only one victory by decision after six straight knockouts. Mendes, who holds a 5-0 record with five stoppages, will be comfortable is the fight stays standing.
"I’m always training everything, working on my ground game and sharpening my hands and my wrestling," said the jiu-jitsu ace. "My game plan is always the same: go to the ground when the opportunity is there, but never run away from a stand-up fight. That’s my strategy in every fight. I will feel the fight. If I have a chance to go to the ground, I will, and I’m ready to fight him standing as well.
"I see myself winning wherever the fight goes. I just want my hand raised in the end. I have an open mind for any opportunity. I just want my hand raised."