Our guest for today’s podcast is Chad Edward Mendes. He is a professional bare-knuckle boxer from the United States of America and was previously a mixed martial artist and collegiate wrestler signed under the Bare-Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC). Chad rose to prominence in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) featherweight division and was a three-time UFC championship challenger. While competing as a Cal Poly Mustang, he was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American and Pac-10 Conference champion in folk style wrestling.
Chad bravely shares his struggles, his inspiration to be a professional wrestler, and what prompted him to build his own business entirely different from his chosen career.
[02:55] Why should I listen to you?
I’m simply going to tell you a bit of myself and hope that something I say motivates you or inspires you to push yourself to the next level in your life and generally make progress anywhere. I’ve had some odd things happen in my life from a young age to now, and some people enjoy listening while others don’t. However, I hope something motivates you. That is most likely what I would say.
[03:53] How did you get to this point where this is what you do? What was the upbringing that created this individual with such raw drive like you do positively?
I believe my father had a significant influence on my sports career and helped me get to where I am now. I was raised in a large family, yet legally it was only my mother and father. I was the sole child, and they divorced and remarried. I began wrestling when I was five, and he was a coach.
[04:41] I wrestled every year until I graduated from high school and was offered a recruiting chance at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I wrestled there and graduated the next day after moving all my belongings in the U haul. I moved up to Sacramento, and your beloved allowed me to move into his spare room and house at the time. I immediately plunged into pro-fighting, so my father greatly influenced me to where I am now.
[05:25] Did you have a love and hate relationship with your dad?
My father was a bully. There were several points in my life when I was thoroughly burned out on wrestling – I was sick of it and didn’t want to do it anymore. He expressly stated that baseball is for cowards, and because we both enjoy wrestling, there were moments when we bumped heads, and he said, “You know, I want to go do some other things,” which I did.
[05:57] As a small child, he required me to participate in gymnastics or body awareness between wrestling seasons. Water Polo was tough for four years, but I did the preseason wrestling to be in shape, but I never played. I always wanted to play baseball and football, but I was a tiny man, weighing only 80 pounds my freshman year of high school. As a result, I was ruled out of doing things like football and other sports and thus didn’t have a lot of options.
[06:37] Wrestling is what I ended up sticking with, and I’m grateful for it. After all, if I had quit and my father had allowed me to stop, I would not be sitting here with all I have now because I would not have been a fighter, and everything happens for a reason.
[09:14] What was UFC journey like for you?
It was reasonably swift. It was, which is rather remarkable. I came from a wrestling background where I finished as the NCAA runner-up my senior year, and I possessed a wrestling pedigree that translated nicely into MMA. I trained for around three months and created my first profile before venturing out. It was one of those things. I told myself that if I’m good at it, I will do this until I’m approximately 35. If I survive this first fight and its chaos, I will get a real job and earn a degree. I will go without fear of being punched; I went out there, submitted in the first round, and made roughly three grand. I said to myself, “This is the finest thing ever.” I’m going to continue doing this indefinitely. As you are aware, that was the initial altercation. I believe I was involved in five fistfights in the intelligent manner of a modest show.
[10:07] For whatever reason, the world of extreme cutting was divided into lighter and heavier weight divisions. The world of extreme cutting was owned by Zuffa, which also owned the UFC. They signed me, joined the WEC, fought for a few, and merged, bringing us to the UFC. Then I spent the remainder of my career there. I remained undefeated. I believe it was my first nine or ten fights that secured me a crack at the belt versus Josie Aldo.
[10:40] Coming into the sport and joining the UFC, I was a baby who was barely out of college and facing a guy like him who is a complete juggernaut, explosive, swift, and technical. I was unprepared for that. When you’re coming off a lengthy winning streak, they toss you in there, and it was an eye-opener. It was my first defeat, and I returned and developed tremendously as a result of that fight. To experience what it’s like at the top, you ascend to the top and beat everyone, but you’ve never felt what the top fighter feels like. You enter and have your buttocks whooped in that manner. You’re thinking, “All right, now I know what I need to do.”
[11:58] At what point did you choose to leave?
I resigned from the UFC in 2018 because my initial aim was to fight until I reached the age of 35 and then examine my life and decide whether to continue or hang it up. I’m an idiot, and when I signed my last UFC contract, it was an eight-fight deal. I’m not sure why we would have signed the mini-fight agreement in the first place, but, as time passes, that deal was decent at the time, but it’s no longer suitable; it’s as if it was passed up a long time ago.
[12:41] If you show up and fight, you receive a specific portion of your money. The way the UFC works is that they split your money in half. If you win in the other half, you accept the remaining amount of your money. If you lose, you only receive half. Thus, it’s as if you receive your Payday after deducting 10% for managers, personal trainers, and camp-related expenses. Essentially, the last bout I’m sitting on was a loss against the current champion. You walk away with about $30,000 – $40,000, and I was like, “I just got my butt thrashed for $30,000. What am I doing?” As a result, my wife and I discussed it before the fight.
[13:29] I still have four fights remaining on my contract, so if I had fought another two years of fighting, I was thinking, I’m not sure whether this is still worth it for me. I could go out and earn more money with the other enterprises that I’ve started. I no longer need to be on the daily grind to be punched in the head. I believe the time has come, and the fact that we are about to embark on our first break has altered the course of my life. As a result, I’ve decided to suspend it from the UFC.
[16:44] How do these kinds of businesses come to fruition?
My good friend and I had discussed this concept for maybe two years before that, but what truly sparked my interest was my knockout loss to Frankie. There was a fight, one that I worked so hard for and knew I could win. And I went out there and got caught within the first round. Within a couple of minutes of the first round, and the fight was over in a flash. It’s one of those things that serve as a wake-up call that I can’t keep doing this thing forever.
[17:40] What type of business could we establish that eventually incorporates my enthusiasm for the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and being able to teach it. Thus, our thinking was fins and feathers. We formed partnerships with hunting and fishing outfitters worldwide and created a year-long timetable, which we then used to book clients for all these hunting and fishing trips. However, what differentiates us from other hunting and fishing outfitters is that we bring different athletes or celebrities on trips with clients.
[18:35] And now they get to go not only stock their freezers with all kinds of wild, organic, free-range meat but also learn how to live off of it for a year. The first year we launched, we began in 2015, and we sold out everything. Since then, we’ve added trips and have sold out everything from 2016 on. That is our primary business—hunting and fishing. We educate you on how to do it, how to go out, and provide for yourself.
[19:24] American almond beef sparked an idea for us when there was a movement to understand the health benefits and adverse effects of everything that comes with slaughtering these animals while knowing where they came from and what they were intaking. Remember that you are now feeding to your friends and families and subsisting on it.
[20:57] These cows are never given any hormones, antibiotics, corn, or soy for the last 100 to 150 days of their lives. We feed them a proprietary blend of almonds, sunflower seeds, prune pits, and brand off of rice, with great proteins and nutrients. Appropriately providing them with these foods gives their meat a perfect buttery flavor, tenderness, and marbling. People can buy this meat, which is not a wild game, but the next best thing on the market, knowing they have no “chemicals” ingested.
[25:19] We wanted to create the provider because the next generation is dying out with their love for outdoor activities—why we hunt and why we are providers in the first place. Bad things are commonly associated with “hunting,” and we want to change that narrative. It’s to preserve that mentality and to teach the next generation something good. Something has to die, and understanding that is the first step towards becoming a genuine provider.
[28:42] What promise did God make to the world when He created you?
I’m hoping God did something right in allowing me to motivate people and do good in life. There are many misconceptions, and if there’s anything I can do in my life that keeps people on track and helps them move in the right direction, I believe I did my job.
[03:54 – 03:59] “I think my dad was a huge influence as far as athletics and getting me to where I am now.”
[09:35 -09:46] “If I go out through this first fight and it sucks, then I’m going to go get a real job, have a degree, and not worry about getting punched.”
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