Chad Mendes has not entered an Octagon since December 2015. The former UFC featherweight title challenger was suspended by the USADA for two years after testing positive for a growth hormone releaser.
Now, just two days before fighting Myles Jury at UFC Fight Night in Boise, Idaho, he explains his emotions of finally being able to do what he loves after a long time of inactivity.
"It actually went by pretty damn quick," Mendes says. "I'm excited to get back in there and compete. The time away has been awesome for me. My body has healed up. Camp has been on point.
"I switched up some of the training styles I've done in the past and implemented a little more science and going off heart rate. We did some testing and figured out strengths and weaknesses. This is definitely the best I've ever felt during fight week."
Mendes says his old camps were the "typical wrestling mindset, where it was basically just balls to the wall, all the time." This go-around he "got to nerd out" and focus on the most efficient ways to prepare his body for battle. But it wasn't only new technology that has him feeling confident for Saturday night.
He worked tirelessly over the past few months with UFC featherweight Rick Glenn, a fellow Team Alpha Male fighter who faced Jury last December. Glenn lost that matchup by unanimous decision, but his extensive knowledge of Jury -- his particular style and tendencies -- should benefit Mendes this weekend.
"I'm treating it like it's the biggest fight of my life. It's a comeback fight. I've been out for a while. This is a fight that I feel I need to win to prove that I belong back at the top of the division." Chad Mendes
Jury (17-2) has momentum entering the fight, having won his last two bouts against Glenn and a first-round TKO finish against Mike de la Torre in April 2017. Mendes knows the 29-year-old isn't someone to overlook, especially after such a long time away.
"Myles is a bigger featherweight; he's cutting down from 155," Mendes says. "He's a counter-striker who likes to use his kicks to keep his range. He'll throw some crazy stuff like flying knees. He's not afraid to wrestle and is a guy who will try to scramble and move around. All in all, I feel like my style matches up great against him."
Before the suspension, Mendes was one of the top fighters in the UFC. He's coming off two losses, but both were against all-time greats in Frankie Edgar in December 2015 and Conor McGregor two years ago. The only other two blemishes in his 21 professional bouts were from legendary featherweight Jose Aldo back in 2014.
Those are big fights with big names, but the circumstances regarding Saturday night make it one of the most unique of his career. He doesn't envision any ring rust.
"I hope it's like riding a bike for me, where I can just get back out there and do what I used to do before," Mendes says. "For me, I've just focused on what I can control: my training and focusing on my game plan. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.
"I'm treating it like it's the biggest fight of my life. It's a comeback fight. I've been out for a while. This is a fight that I feel I need to win to prove that I belong back at the top of the division. That's the plan."