American Kickboxing Academy head coach Javier Mendez doesn’t think there is any way he could prepare for Khabib Nurmagomedov to be ready for Conor McGregor’s striking arsenal for what he describes as a “classic grappler versus striker fight” on Oct. 6.
Mendez believes that McGregor has the best striking assets in the UFC and insisted that he sees the Irishman as a well-rounded fighter ahead of his showdown with “The Eagle” at UFC 229.
“To me [Conor McGregor] is the best standup guy in the whole UFC, in my opinion,” the AKA head coach told Niall McGrath on the latest episode of the Eurobash podcast.
“He’s got incredible relaxation, he approaches it like a scientist, he knows how to read you, he knows how to bait you…he knows how to put you right into that trap and before you know it you’re caught sleeping.
“He’s a master, in my opinion, on the fighting arts and he’s also got a ground game — he’s good everywhere. I’m not sleeping on how great he is. I’m prepared for everything but he is a great fighter.”
Mendez echoes the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of fans and media that see McGregor as the superior striker and Nurmagomedov as the superior grappler between the two.
With little time to prepare the Russian for every facet of McGregor’s striking arsenal, Mendez believes the winner of the fight will make their opponent play their game.
“There’s no amount of time that we have that’s going to help us to try and get him to stand up, there’s no way possible. So, I’m not gonna say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna get him ready’… come on…wake up…it ain’t gonna work,” he said.
“We have to fight our strengths, we have to find ways of opening the doors to where his weaknesses are and likewise. This is basically the classic grappler versus striker fight. Keep in mind that they can both grapple and they can both strike, it’s just one is better than the other at (each discipline).
“We’re the better grappler, he’s the better striker, but that doesn’t mean we won’t strike, it just means he’s better. It’s about who plays whose game.”
The celebrated coach recalled Nurmagomedov’s last outing against Al Iaquinta as a time when his student would not listen to what he was being told by his corner.
“In the first two rounds, he fought exactly like we wanted him to. In the third round, what happens? Nope, he does one takedown, he shot once — he chains takedowns he never just does one shot — and then he started comfortable hitting Iaquinta with the jab. His chin up high, he wasn’t moving his head right. Khabib was doing all the things you aren’t supposed to do, but yet, he was still out striking him 4-1 if not more,” he said.
“He was comfortable doing that but I was not happy with that because I told him, ‘You’re going to get comfortable hitting him, I don’t want you to do that’. He does that for the first few rounds and then finally I tell him, ‘Obviously, you’re not going to listen to me and your father, but do me a favor, do half of what you want to do and do half of what we want’. I said, ‘Okay, can you do that for me?’ and he said, ‘Yeah’, so that’s why you’ll notice in the fifth round he took him down again. He did the takedown and then he did the standup like he wanted it.”
Although there will be a definite game plan in place for “The Notorious” when he finally collides with Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas, Mendez doesn’t he or John Kavanagh will be able to fully control what their fighters do once the Octagon door is shut.
“I can mention a few times where Khabib has done things I don’t want him to do, so guess what? He’s going to do what he wants to do with Conor. And Conor’s gonna do what he wants to do, and I don’t think John Kavanagh is going to be able to control what Conor will do, just like I won’t be able to control what Khabib will do.
“Look, these are two great fighters and they’re going to do what they’re going to do. Our job is to get them as prepared as possible, but come fight time they’re going to do what they’re going to do. For all I know, Khabib could stand with him and I’ll be screaming my head off thinking, ‘What is he doing?’
“If that’s what he wants to do, that’s what he’ll do. Obviously, that’s not what I want, I want nothing to do with Conor’s stand-up…he’s too good.”
Check out the first episode of Eurobash podcast below. MMA Fighting’s Peter Carroll is joined by former Cage Warriors flyweight champion and UFC veteran, Neil Seery, and Off The Ball’s Niall McGrath to discuss all of the recent developments on the European MMA scene. The Javier Mendez interview begins at 15:00.