There was an upside and a downside to Chad Mendes’ mandatory two-year time-out.
Mendes is six weeks from becoming eligible to return following a two-year USADA suspension after he tested for the banned GHRP-6, also known as growth-hormone releasing hexapeptide, which led to a suspension that ends on June 10.
The downside, of course, is that a large portion of the MMA fan base considers the elite featherweight a cheater.
“It sucked,” Mendes said. “I don’t ever want to be remembered as someone who was trying to cheat or use steroids or anything.”
On the flip side, Mendes says the suspension came at a time he was thinking about taking a break anyway, having lost back-to-back fights via finish to Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. And now that he’s had a chance to clear his head and recharge his batteries, he’s ready to make his return and make another run up the 145-pound ladder.
“I was getting a little burned out with just a lot of the things in the fight game,” Mendes said. “Just the politics, doing all the media, the weight-cutting, getting punched in the face. You know? There was a lot of it, that, it was just kind of, I don’t know. I felt myself getting burned out. So I feel this time off has been really, really good for me.”
Mendes explained that he tested positive do to negligence and ignorance on his part, not due to a willful attempt to cheat, as the GHRP-6, which he didn’t know offhand was a banned substance, turned up in a psoriasis medication.
“It was my mistake,” Mendes said. “I got a product that was used for my my psoriasis, I didn’t pay attention there was a peptide in it that was on USADA’s banned list. I’ve been drug tested, randomly drug tested a bunch of times before my fights and I’ve never had any issues and I’ve been drug tested randomly a bunch of time since then and never had any issues. It was never a question of me trying to cheat or anything, It was just a mistake, I messed up, obviously I’m being tested by USADA and boom. I used it, I didn’t pay attention, and that’s basically the bottom line.”
This also explain way Mendes didn’t try too hard to fight USADA’s sentence. The way he saw it, he was ready for a break anyway, and he did take a substance that was on the banned list regardless of his intent. So he chose to accept the consequences of his actions and move on, rather than waste time and mental energy trying to fight it.
“I probably could have gotten less time off if I had fought it,” he said. “But like I said, I was just at a time in my life where I was really burned out with the sport, and I’m thinking, is this time I need to just step back and chill out on getting punched in head for awhile. I just listened to it and I didn’t try to fight it or do anything. And I think that right there kind of pissed a lot of people off: ‘if you’re innocent, why don’t you fight it?’ but it wasn’t about being innocent or not. I was taking the stuff and the stuff was in what i was taking. If you look at the ingredients, yes, it’s right there. So, I’m not going to say I wasn’t, because I was taking it. But it wasn’t something that I knew was on the banned list or obviously I wouldn’t have done it, because I’m being randomly drug tested all the time now.”
Mendes, who turned 32 on Tuesday, does not yet have his return fight lined up. But he’s back in the gym and he’s eager to put this episode behind him and move on to his next career chapter.
“There’s a new desire,” Mendes said. “The fire is lit again and I’m feeling great, I’m nerding out in my training camp and getting really specific on things. It just feels good just to have that fire again. It makes me want to get in there and want to train and and push myself to the limit and do everything you need to do. It’s been great man, I’m excited.”