American Kickboxing Academy coach Javier Mendez says Khabib is ‘already a terrific coach’ (VIDEO) — RT Sport Information
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s longtime coach at the American Kickboxing Academy, Javier Mendez, says the retired UFC champion is already an excellent coach, but “he doesn’t know yet” when comparing him to his late father, Abdulmanap.
Mendez, one of the most respected figures in mixed martial arts, was unsure what to expect when a calm, humble Russian fighter walked into his gym eight years ago without a word of English.
In San Jose, California, several world champion caliber fighters had walked through those doors to spill their blood and sweat on the exercise mats. Some have reached their potential, some have not. But with Nurmagomedov, Mendez says that it didn’t take him long to realize the extent of his new student’s potential.
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“When he first came to see me in 2012, I first noticed how amazing he was there,” Mendez said exclusively to RT Sport. “The only thing that frustrated me was that I wish he’d listen – he doesn’t listen! He does what he wants.”
But whether it was the language barrier or the stubbornness (or both), Mendez soon saw all the concerns he could have dispelled.
“It wasn’t until years later that I found out what he was really doing when he was learning to speak English. He said, ‘Do you remember the coach when you kept telling me to relax? I thought it was going to be harder will.’ Then I realized that I have something because I am now very comfortable because he is listening. “
The immediate results were hard to ignore. Khabib’s UFC debut came in early 2012 against well-respected Iranian wrestler Kamal Shalrous and – almost a year later – at the time of his third UFC win, this time against Thiago Tavares, whispers began to roar about the talented Russian grappler.
As the months passed and victories continued to mount – including an impressive performance against future UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos – Mendez became more and more certain that he was witnessing the maturation of a future world champion.
Little did he know at the time that it would be Khabib’s last fight in the UFC cage for two years.
“To be honest, the thing I was most concerned about was when he had knee surgery and came back early to train,” recalled Mendez. “I was worried then. I never worried about an opponent. Injuries yes, but I never worried about an opponent. I never had the feeling that anyone could beat them and I still believe that to this day. “
After repeated problems with his knee, Nurmagomedov returned to face unannounced short-term opponent Darrell Horcher in April 2016. However, Mendez believes his toughest test to date in the Octagon came later this year as part of the UFC debut card in New York City.
Michael Johnson had built a reputation for being a strong, if somewhat inconsistent, striker but had recently shown a career best when he defeated Dustin Poirier in the first round of his fight just two months earlier – and Mendez said he knew this would be a far more robust challenge for his fighter.
Were his knees okay? Could it keep up with one of the lightweight division’s dreaded stand-up threats? Ultimately, yes, but Mendez says the win didn’t come without a few moments of apprehension.
“For me it was Michael Johnson [who was Khabib’s toughest fight]”he said.” Conor [McGregor] wasn’t the most dangerous. Nobody was dangerous to me. Nobody but Michael Johnson. He was dangerous to me because [Khabib] stood with Michael and Michael hit him with a beautiful left cross. Right after this point, Khabib realized that I should do what I do best. But for me it was a very dangerous fight. Nobody else was dangerous to me. They were tough, but nobody was dangerous.
“The only reason is that Khabib decided to stand with him. His stand-up was good, but not as good as it is now. If Khabib wanted to stand with him now, he could do it, no problem. He was quiet then Learn.”
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As brutal as Khabib’s ultimate destruction of Johnson was, it came on a night when Conor McGregor added a second world title to his collection with a picture perfect performance against Eddie Alvarez, but as Mendez says, this would be the last time Khabib Nurmagomedov would do so would play second fiddle to the infamous Irishman.
The year-long blood feud between Khabib and McGregor is hard to repeat, save to say that it was the Russian fighter who got the last laugh after aggressive press conferences and parking lot vandalism, subjugating the Irishman in the fourth round of his bout at UFC 229 – just months after Khabib had won the vacant world title against New York’s Al Iaquinta.
It’s a result that Mendez expects to be repeated if the two world-class fighters should ever compete again.
“You saw [that] Khabib smashed it … I think Khabib is still smashing it. It’s all about what these other guys can and can’t do. I don’t see too many people who can do to him what Khabib did to him. “
With Khabib’s resignation in October following this Fight Island win against Justin Gaethje, the odds of continuing the UFC’s best-selling fight are slim. Mendez says Khabib’s recently announced Eagle Fighting Championship can be “as big as he wants” to promote combat, but he also sees his role as learning from him and his late father, Abdulmanap, before moving on to a possible move to coaching .
“It is already [a great coach]He just doesn’t know, “Mendez explained.” He learned so much from his father and from me. I watch him train and I see his dad and me in his coaching style so he’s already a great trainer – the world just doesn’t know yet.
“Aha [his father] in him. I see his dad leading the boys, how great he was as a coach [and] how much love he had for his fighters. Perhaps Khabib is not as strict as his father; His dad was the toughest coach I’ve ever met, but he did it for a reason. He loved the children and didn’t want them to do nothing in their lives. He wanted them to do their best, and if it should be, it should be.
“If you want to get into the sport of MMA, he wanted you to do your best and he was there to make sure you did that.”
With Khabib’s legacy now apparently set in stone, Mendez says Nurmagomedov’s focus is selfless: he wants his family members and training partners to have similar successes as he does.
“Let his boys fight, give them the right match-ups, get them ready to fight [is what excites him]”Said Mendez.” I see he is very excited about planning a future for his fighters and continuing the legacy for his father and himself.
“For me, of course, Islam [Makhachev] is right there in the title fight within a few fights. I believe Islam will be the next UFC lightweight champion from Team Eagle. Umar [Nurmagomedov] has great potential and his brother Usman, whom I started training, has so much talent. He’s so young, so strong – I think he’s going to be the greatest superstar of all. “
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For now, however, Mendez predicts that Makhachev will be the heir to Khabib’s crown – something he says combat fans will see clearly a little below.
“Islam is technically better than Khabib and they are both two-time sambo world champions on site. It is only a matter of luck if they have the right fights and are not hit by great shots.” If everything goes according to plan, Islam will be a slightly better version than Khabib in a technical sense – in stand-up, not on-site. I think Khabib is the best thing that has ever been down.
“For me, nobody in the world is mentally tougher than Khabib. He is the toughest I have ever met. He is the toughest there will ever be.”