Following his impressive win in Phoenix, Augusto Mendes eyeing top 15 fight...

Following his impressive win in Phoenix, Augusto Mendes eyeing top 15 fight in Fortaleza

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PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 15: (L-R) Augusto Mendes of Brazil punches Frankie Saenz in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 15, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

After scoring the biggest win of his young MMA career in Phoenix, Augusto Mendes is ready for his next fight. He picked up a win over Frankie Saenz and has already informed the UFC that he is ready to go. Next, he’d like a fight in his home country of Brazil.

Mendes picked up a split decision win over Saenz a couple of weeks ago in a back and forth battle. Despite scoring 2 knockdowns and controlling the majority of the fight, one judge scored the fight for the crowd favourite Saenz, which had Mendes on edge for a moment.

“I thought I was going to get a unanimous decision because in my mind I won the first and third rounds for sure,” Mendes said. “I lost the second because of the elbow but before that I was controlling the fight. I thought it was pretty clear that I won the first and third round and I was a little surprised that it was a split decision.”

Despite not getting the finish, “Tanquinho” was happy to get the W as it was a long road to Phoenix. After losing a fight on 5 days notice to current bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt last February, he spent almost a year healing from an ACL injury.

“I got hurt maybe 2 months after the fight with Cody,” Mendes explained. “I was training and it was an accident, it happens. I was defending a heel hook in the academy and my knee got stuck and I tore my ACL.”

“That was hard. It’s never easy going through surgery especially an ACL. It’s been like 8 months since my surgery and I stayed like 5 months and a half without training. Just doing rehabilitation, a lot of therapy and when about 5 months passed that’s when I started training.”

He would finally make his return in Phoenix in an event he asked to be on. Mendes has been living and training in Phoenix for the past 5 years at the MMA Lab as well as opening his own academy. Drawing the tough Frankie Saenz in his first fight back from surgery was a tall order but Mendes made the transition to MMA to fight the best.

“That’s why I signed with the UFC, to fight the toughest guys. I don’t choose fights, I just wanted to have a full camp and I can fight anyone. I work my ass off in the academy to be better every day and I don’t choose anyone. First it was Cody then it was Frankie Saenz and I want a top 15 next.”

He admits he took a risk by returning after 8 months and felt he could have used at least one more month to recover. However, he did not want to miss the opportunity to fight in front of his friends and students.

Mendes was able to show a very well rounded game as he mixed things up well with his striking and takedowns. Always feared for his world class jiu-jitsu, he showed much improved striking, scoring two knockdowns on Saenz.

Jan 15, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Augusto Mendes (left) against Frankie Saenz during UFC Fight Night at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“A lot of people are talking about how my striking has developed over the past year but I was only working on it the past 2 months,” Mendes said. “Before that I had my ACL surgery, I was just doing therapy to my knee and I couldn’t even move so I know I’m going to get better.”

“I want to be a complete fighter not just a jiu-jitsu guy. When I have people worrying about my striking, my jiu-jitsu will shine. Right now everyone thinks about my jiu-jitsu and I’m going to surprise everyone with my hands so I’m working everyday to be a better athlete.”

Growing up in Brazil, Mendes like most young Brazilians wanted to be a soccer player. The influence of his older brother got him hooked onto jiu-jitsu and since then, “Tanquinho” hasn’t looked back. He achieved plenty of accolades competing, including the Rio Open Championship, Las Vegas Open championship and World Pro Trials championship, thriving in the world of jiu-jitsu. He also placed third in the Pan-American Championship, Brazilian National Championship and US open, achieving pretty much everything he could have aspired.

“In jiu-jitsu I already conquered everything that I wanted,” Mendes said. “MMA was completely new for me so I started to have goals.”

Now he has his eyes set on the top 15 and would like to return soon. After being sidelined for almost a year, Mendes is looking for at least 3 fights in 2017.

“I want to be active. I want to fight 3-4 times this year. If I don’t get Fortaleza, I’d like to fight in April, I want to be active this year. I want to fight someone in the top 15 and work my way up in the division so anyone who wants to face me, let’s get a fight.”