Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Coach On UFC 254, Justin Gaethje

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Javier Mendez, the coach for UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, explained just what makes Justin Gaethje so dangerous.

Mendez was a guest on Submission Radio recently to talk about the upcoming UFC 254 title unification match and more including Conor McGregor.

On Justin Gaethje being Khabib’s second toughest opponent behind Conor McGregor

“Just without anything right now, I rank him second. But he could be number one easily. I rank him second behind Conor, but I could be wrong on that. He could be more dangerous than Conor. We’ll see. If we’re not able to take him to the ground, we’re going to have a fight on our hands, and I’m anticipating we’re gonna have a fight on our hands. Because if I don’t anticipate that and it does happen, I’m gonna be caught not thinking properly. So, I’m assuming that the process is, we can’t take him down, we have to stand with him. That’s what in my mind I’m assuming. But I’m hoping that’s not the case.”

“Well, Conor’s precision striking [makes him more dangerous than Gaethje]. To me, Conor is just the best striker ever in the lightweight division, I think personally. And Gaethje, with his wrestling, he creates a big problem, he really does. And his power and his guts. And I mean, hey, man, he’s coming to fight, he’s coming to fight. He’s not gonna run from you. He’s coming to you. And if you’re not fighting him, you’re not beating him. You have to fight him. You have to. And we’re prepared for that. We know what he brings to the table, he brings a lot. And I only rank him two only because of the unknown. If it was known that we could take him down no problem, then he wouldn’t be number one, Conor is. But what if we can’t take him down? Then obviously he takes that number one spot because then that would make it the most difficult fight we’ve ever had. And he could very well be number one.”

On Justin Gaethje’s dangerous leg kicks

“Huge. They’re huge. I mean, he’s the best leg kicker in the business, from what I see. So, they’re huge. They’re a big part of his game, and they better be, and they’re big. And we have to be able to address them, we have to be able to avoid them, and we have to implement what we need to do. But no, they’re big. For us to think that it’s not a big deal, then I haven’t been watching MMA as of late with all these people getting destroyed by calf kicks. I mean, anybody that’s getting in there against Justin Gaethje would have to be an idiot. No, they’re extremely… they’re the most dangerous, most effective lethal striking in MMA at the present time. I mean, look at all the fights. Guys get hit one good time, all of a sudden their skillset has diminished greatly because of that danger to the calf. So, we’re fully aware of that and we’re prepared for that. And what happens when you get kicked there, we’ll see, but I’m assuming we’re gonna do fine. But, it’s definitely a super weapon, I guess you can say.”

How effective Javier think Justin’s Division-One wrestling could be against Khabib

“Well, from a wrestling standpoint, I’m sure it’s not division-one level at the present time. But from an MMA standpoint, I’m sure it’s the best it could be. He might very well have the best takedown defense out of anybody because he has that wrestling background. But remember, this is MMA, there’s a lot of variables to takedowns. So, that’s an advantage he has, but that’s also an advantage we have. It’s not pure wrestling. If it was a pure wrestling match, I don’t know how we’d fare. But this isn’t wrestling, this is MMA. So, there’s a lot of things you can do in MMA that you can’t do in wrestling that would prevent the takedown in a regular wrestling match. But in an MMA match there’s almost sometimes nothing you can do, you’re getting taken down regardless. If you get hit in the right spot and it’s done proper, you’re going down.”

“His credentials are extremely dangerous because he’s used to wrestling, so it’s a big advantage for him in the sense of fighting everybody. But the big disadvantage I feel is he’s never met anybody that’s going to continue to stay on the wrestling and continue to wrestle him five rounds. He’s going to have to wrestle five rounds. It’s not gonna be that Khabib’s gonna shoot in a couple of times and it’s over. How many times have you seen Khabib stop after two shots? Uh-uh. Unless he wants to stop, he’s not stopping. He’s prepared to go five rounds, attempt takedown after takedown. And if he’s successful one time, he’ll be successful two times. And if you’re successful two times and you manage to get up after two, I don’t know how much more you’re going to have.”

On running this camp without Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov

“Yeah, it’s been okay. Since I’ve come here, they’re all his fighters. They’re not my fighters, they’re his fighters, and I’m the head coach for all those guys. They’re not used to me, they’re used to father. So yeah, there’s been some things that I’ve had to work on and instances where I’ve had to put the younger guys in line and get them to get on straight. Because that’s expected. They’re not used to me, they’re not used to my ways. If this was in my gym, it’s a slam dunk. Easy. Runs itself. Everybody knows when I step into the room, everybody knows they better be busy, they better be working. But these kids don’t know me. So, they’ve made a lot of mistakes and we’ve corrected them, and right now it’s going fantastic. There’s still gonna be a few little things here that they don’t do, but Khabib and Islam and Umar and all the guys that are fighting are like troopers. They know the routine with me, they’re doing fantastic. But it is hard, you guys, it is, not having his father around, which I sorely miss. Because he’d be here, he’d be running the guys, it would be his show and I’d be in the background doing what I do with Khabib and the rest of the guys, but he’d be running the whole team. Cause it’s basically his team, not mine.”

If Khabib will be any different mentally going into this fight without his father

“I’ll tell you, I’ve only cornered with his father one time since 2012. He’s been with me every fight since 2012. So, his father has only been able to corner one of those fights. So, to me it’s like normal. No big deal. The only thing that I miss, is him here because I miss him, his presence, and the great person that he was. But as far as the coaching responsibilities, no, I’ve already been doing it for so long that it’s not gonna change. How Khabib approaches it, I can tell you right now, he’s mentally super, super strong. We’ve never discussed nothing of his father in regards to missing him.”

“We don’t talk, we have not talked about it this camp at all, we focus on what needs to be done. And I do say one thing, I say ‘father’s plan, father’s plan’. Because his father is the one who made him who he is. I basically got lucky enough to have him with me and then utilize what he has, and it was basically his father’s teaching that makes him great. And I always use ‘father’s plan’ in reference to when I want him to fight right.”

Why Javier wanted to see The Ultimate Fighter with Khabib/McGregor as coaches

“I didn’t talk to Khabib about it, so I don’t know anything other than what I read, and I went, oh, that’s a bummer, that would have been awesome. Khabib and Conor, opposite sides. That would have been one of the best Ultimate Fighters ever. Ever. People would have tuned in amazing to that, because there’s a lot of friction and you know Conor’s gonna start a lot of problems. You know it. And this is the thing, you also know that Khabib’s not gonna take it. So, if they did an Ultimate Fighter you might see a fight in the damn show on a daily basis if those two guys are together. A real fight. So, that would be very volatile. So, people would tune in to the train wreck that that could be, and the incredible fight that would turn out to be. ”

What McGregor needs to do for Khabib to fight him again

“I think if Conor beats Dustin and he smashes Dustin, and I think that comes back around, then I think there’s a possibility. Because Khabib is about earning the right to that, and I think that Dustin is the lead horse right now. So, I think that if that fight happens, Khabib would be down for that. Because if he does beat Dustin, that would be legit for him. But I think he has his heart and his mind set on GSP.”

On Khabib/GSP being a great way to start a 165 division

“I think as a coach, what a great way to start a 165-pound division. That’s really needed. To have one of those guys fight for that title, what a great way to start, right? Khabib is not too far off of that. It’s 165, GSP will more likely make that more easily than 155, which he’s never fought at 155. So, I think that would be an ideal scenario. And let’s face it, at 155 we have an advantage. At 165, I don’t know. I think it’s an even flip of the coin on that one. And I think that would be the biggest challenge in Khabib’s life, that fight itself. I think GSP and him would be the biggest challenge he’s ever faced, I think.”

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