Three-time UFC title challenger Chad Mendes has officially retired from mixed martial arts.
Mendes, 34, announced his retirement to ESPN on Tuesday. Unconfirmed reports of the California native's decision to step away have circulated since his most recent appearance in December, a knockout loss to Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 232. Mendes, however, had not made any official announcement until this week. He finishes with a record of 18-5.
He also said he has notified the UFC of his retirement and withdrawn from the company's mandatory drug-testing program.
"The main reason I didn't say something sooner was there were some loose ends I wanted to tie up," Mendes told ESPN. "I wanted to step away for a little bit and let everything settle, and just make sure my feelings didn't change, as I was coming right out of a training camp and a fight.
"And they haven't, man. It's just that time for me. I have no regrets. I had an amazing time, being able to come right out of college wrestling and join an amazing team. All these guys at Team Alpha Male [in Sacramento] are like brothers to me. It was fun. But I always said, right off the bat, I'll probably fight until 35 and reassess.
"My wife and I spoke before this last training camp, and we knew going in this was the last one."
A former collegiate wrestler at Cal Poly, Mendes made his professional MMA debut in September 2008. He won his first 11 bouts, and earned a featherweight title shot against the UFC's dominant champion Jose Aldo. Mendes would challenge Aldo for the title twice, in 2012 and 2014. He came up short in both. The rematch was widely considered the fight of the year in 2014.
Mendes challenged Conor McGregor for the interim featherweight title in July 2015. He outwrestled McGregor in the opening round, but McGregor finished the bout on the feet in the second frame. Mendes missed all of 2016 and 2017 because of a failed drug test.
Mendes believes he avoided major damage over the course of his career, but said the desire to preserve his health is a key factor in hanging up his gloves. He admitted he is not in favor of longtime teammate and mentor Urijah Faber's decision to come out of retirement this weekend to fight Ricky Simon at age 40.
"This sport is very young, and I just don't think there is enough testing to know the type impact it has on the brain," Mendes said. "Urijah is a prime example, coming back at 40. He's my brother. I look up to the guy, and I'll admit, when he texted me saying he was coming back, I was the first person to tell him I thought it was dumb.
"Urijah is a fierce competitor, and hopefully he'll get the guy down and submit him real quick. That's how I see it happening. But I just don't want to see any of my good buddies get seriously hurt, you know? This is a dangerous sport."
Mendes parlayed his MMA success into several business ventures, including a hunting company called Finz and Featherz. He said his greatest moment in the sport was probably his second fight with Aldo, which took place Rio de Janeiro.
"Even though I didn't win the fight, I think that was my peak," Mendes said. "It's probably the best I ever felt in any fight. It was probably the most focused I ever was. Aldo was the best fighter at the time. That's what's so cool about the sport. It's you and another human in there. All the mental game that goes into it. The dieting. There's so much preparation, and then you in there against another human being and one of you wins. That's what makes it special."