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Javier Mendez: Cain Velasquez will give Fabricio Werdum a worse beating than Junior dos Santos

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

NEW YORK – It’s been an inauspicious start to "Fight Week" for AKA head coach/owner Javier Mendez. An insomniac, he had to show up in Manhattan on Wednesday on just an hour-and-a-half’s worth of sleep. He hadn’t slept because his sleeping pills were in his luggage. His luggage was lost at the airport. He looked like hell warmed over. These are the kinds of things that a coach endures.

Still, Mendez held pads for Luke Rockhold through the pageantry of the open workouts, which were conducted at the UFC Gym in SoHo. Fans stood by as Rockhold thwapped the pads while Mendez suffered through. It was like watching a man with a raging hangover confront a symphony on a glaring afternoon. Yet he did it gamely.

"I was hoping I wouldn’t have to come here, but Luke says, ‘You’re my coach, you have to come,’" he told MMA Fighting. "I said, 'I don’t want to hold for you because you f*cking kick me in the head.' He has this habit of kicking me in the head."

Mendez perked up when talking about the possibilities for 2015, though. Already he has the heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in his stable, but there are so many AKA guys knocking on the door. There’s Khabib Nurmagomedov, who fights Donald Cerrone on May 23 at UFC 187. Should the Dagestani fighter win, he will likely be next in line to fight new lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos (whom he already beat, convincingly, last April in Orlando).

And he has Rockhold, too. Rockhold looked in great shape just a couple of days ahead of his main event with Lyoto Machida. Should Rockhold defeat Machida on Saturday night at UFC on FOX 15 in Newark, it would springboard him toward a title shot against the winner of Vitor Belfort and Chris Weidman, which also happens at UFC 187.

It is possible that by the end of 2015 there could be three titles in the possession of AKA. Mendez, in his sleep-deprived state, humored the idea the best he could.

"Yeah, sure, it’s fun to think of, but it’s not here," Mendez said. "Someone made a comment that since Khabib already beat RDA, do I feel he’s the champ? I said absolutely not. The champ’s RDA. He legitimately earned that shot. So, no, I won’t feel that until we accomplish it. Because at the end of the year we could end up with still just one."

That one is Velasquez, the long-shelved heavyweight who fights Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188 in June to unify the belts. Mendez is certain that Velasquez will walk through Werdum when they finally meet in Mexico City. He is certain that Velasquez will remind everybody just how dominant he is, like he did against Antonio Silva and Junior dos Santos.

"That guy isn’t losing," he said. "Cain’s doing great. He’s on point. He’s looking great, physically, mentally everything’s right. The goal with him, he wants to come out and he wants to make a statement. And that I will say. He’s going to make a statement in that fight. So he’s going to remind everybody why he’s best. I’m being honest with you -- Werdum’s going to get destroyed. That’s just the way I look at it, and Cain’s looking at it the same way. We’re either going to stop him or we’re going to hurt him really bad. He’s going to get a worse beating than dos Santos if he makes five rounds, and that’s a fact."

One thing that is not a fact, at least in his mind, is the notion that a rivalry is forming between AKA and the Los Angeles-based gym, Kings MMA. Kings is home to both Werdum and Dos Anjos, the guys in the immediate and future crosshairs for his fighters. Though there have been whispers that things are getting contentious between the California-based gyms, Mendez said that he and Kings coach Rafael Cordeiro are friends.

"There’s no rivalry," he said. "If there is a rivalry it’s the fighters doing it, not the coaches. So, maybe I should rephrase that…if there is a rivalry Daniel [Cormier] and Khabib and those guys are doing that. I’m not involved. The coaches are all friends."

The AKA team captain Cormier, who fights Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night 68 on June 6 in New Orleans, is another AKA fighter who could end up with a title shot before 2015 closes out. He lost to current 205-pound champion Jon Jones at UFC 182 in January, but given the dearth of contenders at light heavyweight it’s within the realm of possibility that he could ascend back up the ladder quickly.

Overall, starting with Saturday’s fight with Rockhold and Machida, Mendez has a lot to be optimistic about. Especially since they found his luggage and, as of this writing, it was in the process of being delivered to his hotel.

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