Augusto Mendes was one of four fighters issued six-month suspensions by the United States Anti-Doping Agency on Tuesday in cases of contaminated supplements. The problem is, he was originally flagged 13 months ago.

“Tanquinho” tested positive for performance-enhancing drug ostarine in March 2018, a month before a planned UFC bout with Merab Dvalishvili, and “didn’t expect the process to take so long”. Over the last 13 months, the jiu-jitsu star says he spent more than $20,000 between lawyers and testing to be able to prove his wasn’t guilty.

”I sent every supplement I was using to my lawyer, more than 20 supplements, and it’s an expensive process that is paid by the athlete, not by USADA,” Mendes told MMA Fighting. “It’s 500 dollars to test each supplement, and I was using more than 20, so I couldn’t test all at the same time otherwise I would pay more than $10,000.

”It was a slow process, testing two or three at a time, so it takes time. It’s a long, frustrating, stressing process. I lost a lot of money, but I knew I didn’t do anything wrong and I was willing to try to find the stuff and prove my innocence.”

Mendes was informed that the contaminated supplement was discovered in January. From that point on, his lawyer sat down with USADA to discuss the next steps before signing a deal to agree to a six-month suspension, retroactive to March 20, 2018.

The 36-year-old bantamweight hasn’t decided yet if he will file a lawsuit against the company that manufactured the contaminated supplement.

”It was really bad because I lost time, I lost money, I had to leave the UFC,” Mendes said. “So it was a mix of many bad things.”

Mendes has guaranteed since the beginning that he was innocent and would prove it, but paying for the costs of the process was something he couldn’t afford while sitting on the sidelines. With that in mind, “Tanquinho” asked for his UFC release and signed with ACB.

”I had to ask them for my release because it was a way to make money outside the UFC. In the end, I never really fought for anyone,” Mendes said. “I don’t know if it was good or bad, but my idea was to try to make money to pay the costs of the case. I got the money competing in jiu-jitsu, things were happening for me, so I was able to pay the costs of the process and prove my innocence.”

ACB would merge with World Fighting Championships of Akhmat (WFCA) a few months later after he signed the contract, becoming Absolut Championship Akhmat (ACA). “Tanquinho” doesn’t know if his contract is still valid, but feels he’s “open to talking to anyone who makes me a good offer”.

Asked if he would be open to re-signing with the UFC, where he competed three times between 2016 and 2017, defeating Frankie Saenz and losing to Cody Garbrandt and Aljamain Sterling, Mendes says would happily do that — if paid better.

”I don’t think I have to prove my worth with more fights to get back in the UFC,” Mendes said. “I consider myself one of the best in the division. I’ve only fought tough guys and I did well, but for me to get back to the UFC today, I don’t think it would be worth it getting paid what I was. It’s too much headache.

”There are many people in the UFC today that don’t have the fights I have, haven’t fought the guys I fought, doesn’t have the same accomplishments and name I have in jiu-jitsu, and are getting paid more than I was.

”To go there and go through this process getting paid what I was, I’d rather fight somewhere else and make more money. If I were paid better, I would go back to the UFC, no doubt.”

With the entire process finally over, Mendes understands USADA’s role in the sport even though it took a long time to complete the investigation of his case.

”It is what it is,” Mendes said. “I understand what they are trying to do, trying to clean the sport and everything else, and I agree with it. I was always tested and never had any problem. I was tested after that and again, no problem. It’s frustrating, disappointing.

”I had highs and lows over the last 13 months, at moments I thought it would never end. I was working in the gym, seeing my evolution every day in training, but couldn’t actually fight. It was really upsetting. But what can I do? It was out of my control. USADA will do her part. Unfortunately, my case took longer than it should have, but I have to be grateful that it’s over now and I have more time to fight.”

And even after being proven a victim of contaminated supplements, the jiu-jitsu star expects criticism from some people down the line.

”There will always be haters saying stuff. What can I do?” Mendes said. “I wish I never had gone through that, having that image linked to my name, but deep inside I know I did nothing wrong. I’ve been fighting at a high level since I was 17, and I’m 36 now, and never had any issues.”

”People will say whatever they want, but they are not the ones putting food on the table for my family,” he continued. “I have my conscience clear. God knows what He does. I’ll work hard and bounce back. I know I never did anything wrong, I proved I never needed any of that stuff.”

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