–Kenny Rice

Imagine a Madison Avenue executive hurriedly getting off the phone, one of his biggest clients has just told him he wants to delve into the hot commodity that is MMA. Find him a fighter to pitch his product, find him fast. The executive calls in a half dozen of your advertising specialists to gather around the shiny meeting table in the corner office with the ceiling to floor windows offering a spectacular view of midtown to toss around ideas. The conversation goes like this:

“What does this guy need to sell something, anything?”

“Gotta be handsome”

“Must be intelligent, articulate, can talk to the media.”

“Agree, good looking and all, but more All American type, maybe surfer boy that plays to the Midwest also, am I right?”

“Definitely, a guy who can play to corporations and the average Joe. Matthew McConaughey like. Can sell jeans, can sell cologne, dress up, dress down.”

“We’re forgetting one thing, the guy also has to be a great fighter, a champ preferably, but at least a true rising star.”

“Got it, just watched Inside MMA, the man you’re looking for was on the show. California boy, charisma, number one contender. Marketing dream…. Chad Mendes.”

While this hasn’t happened it certainly could in the near future as the 10-0 Mendes continues his comet type ascension in the UFC Featherweight ranks, a win away from the likely shot at champion Jose Aldo’s belt. All this from an MMA career than only began in September 2008 after an All American wrestling career at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

“Since I was five I was doing something like this, I started wrestling then, ” Mendes shrugs, not overly impressed with his achievements so far.  And while he was supposed to fight Aldo before the title holder was sidelined with injury, Mendes didn’t hesitate to do what he does, fight. Even if a loss would throw him of course for that championship shot. At UFC 133 next month, Mendes puts his unbeaten record up against Rani Yahya.

“I don’t look at the risk only the reward of competing. I’ve always considered competition a reward in getting better.”

He trains with Urijah Faber and the strong Team Alpha Male, where he has gotten better so fast he might have surprised himself except that the amazingly collected and cool 26 year old who won his UFC debut in February against Michihiro Omigawa, doesn’t dwell on what he’s done. “I like to look ahead. Appreciate things as they come.”

Yahya, strong in the submission game, comes next. No risk as Mendes sees it, not arrogantly it’s not in him. But another reward for being challenged by a solid fighter. “I haven’t been doing this not even three years, I want to have challenges.” And if there is an upset, he’s dropped in the contender list? “It’s meant to be or it wasn’t,” he matter of fact sums it up.

But if as expected wins and as expected afterwards gets to Aldo, he has all the things it takes to make that Madison Avenue scenario not unrealistic.

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