Chad “Money” Mendes is well aware that his two favorite pastimes, hunting and fighting, have many things in common. He’s done both nearly his entire life. The bow hunting and fishing as a kid, the wrestling and mixed martial arts, and now a foray into the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship at Knucklemania 2.
“The patience, the dedication, practicing with your weapon,” Mendes explains. “It’s a lot of time busting my *ss in the gym. I’ll come home and do family stuff, and if there are 15 minutes of daylight outside, I don’t care if my arms are like noodles, I’ll go out and fling a couple rounds of arrows to keep everything sharp. When hunting season comes around, I’ll be ready. Making the shots count is important in both fighting and hunting. There are a lot of similarities, that’s probably why I love both so much.”
Mendes is 36, married, has a few kids and retired from the UFC a few years ago, so the fighting has taken a backseat to other things recently. Most fighters maintain a very flexible idea of retirement; it’s usually temporary for a host of reasons. Hunting smoothed the transition from fighting to retirement, Mendes says, noting that doesn’t mean he didn’t carry a hankering to fight again.
“I never lost the itch to compete,” Mendes predictably says. “But the reason why I retired is because [continuing to fight] just didn’t make sense for me. What I was getting paid, what I was putting my body through for that amount of money, to me, wasn’t worth it.”
By the time Mendes retired in 2019, he had already started his guide service company Finz and Featherz and was in the process of learning how to make money as an influencer. That is, Mendes was paid to use companies’ products, and he was making as much money for endorsements as he was fighting. Sometimes he made more.
One visit to his social media pages, like a carefully-curated Instagram page, reveals a forward-thinking businessman. Mendes might have the physical look of a fighter, but he says his social media maneuvering is simply him providing for his family, the same as when pummeling opponents in a ring or cage, or tracking a deer in a Northern California forest.
“[My social media presence] is something I take a lot of pride in. I’ve worked really hard at growing my following and letting the fans know what I’m doing in my life without sharing too much.”
There are posts about his signature meat rubs and marinades, videos of him grilling meat, photos from hunting trips, and of course some training clips. There’s also promotion for a new book he co-wrote, “The Provider Cookbook,” which features a mixture of recipes and diet and training tips. That relationship with food constantly influences his life.
“I’ve always loved the connection to my food,” Mendes says, in reference to his interest in hunting and fishing. “Food has always been something I’m very drawn to. My wife says that’s my love language: cooking food, eating food and preparing food for other people. Being able to go out and harvest your own food and come home to share it with family, friends and know that it’s free range, organic, wholesome food… To me that’s something that’s always interested me.”
Mendes could converse for a while without even bringing up fighting. He’s an entrepreneur with a family and productive hobbies. Yet his path brings him to fighting once more.
When BKFC signed Mendes in summer of 2021, despite his contentment in outside interests and business savvy, Mendes knew it was time to return. It wasn’t just the money or the hunger to compete again, he says, but another chance to provide for his family.
“Thank god the UFC is being super cool about [allowing me to fight] and this opportunity arose,” Mendes says. “My fighting style is going to fit perfectly for [BKFC]. There are two-minute rounds and I’m an explosive athlete. I use speed, power and precision in my fighting, whether it’s wrestling, kicking or punching.”
Still, Mendes says he won’t know exactly what to expect until an ungloved fist catches him in the face. To be fair, nobody does prior to their bare knuckle debut. Though Mendes found success fighting at the world class level in mixed martial arts, he’s at an experience disadvantage against Famez, aka Joshua Álvarez, who sports a 2-1 record in bare knuckle.
The word “prepared” would describe Mendes in several aspects of his life, and this is no different. He’s seen the bare knuckle tape on Famez and remains unmoved, unimpressed. For starters, Mendes says, Famez’ first BKFC opponent, Paul Teague, was a lower-level fighter.
“The second fight he lost to a guy who was a grappler with some striking, basically just on pressure, which is perfect for me,” Mendes continues. “He’s obviously never wrestled, he’s never felt that type of pressure and conditioning and it broke him in that last fight. Every fighter has a puncher’s chance and I respect that in every fight. Ultimately I know if I stick to my game plan, there’s no way Famez beats me.”
More than 15 years of competitive wrestling and pioneering lower weight divisions in mixed martial arts in the U.S. for a decade add up to more than a quarter-century of fighting know-how. That’s what Mendes brings to Knucklemania 2.
Though he may look like he has life figured out, Mendes insists it’s not the case. Situations change and there are always tough decisions to make. He can always fall back on fighting or hunting, though.
Mendes knows how to pursue, be patient and act at the proper moment. He knows how to use his gifts to provide. For him, Knucklemania 2 is just another hunt.
Follow Patrick Connor on Twitter: @PatrickMConnor
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