Exclusive With Javier Mendez: UFC Insights

Exclusive Interview With Javier Mendez

We sat down with MMA coach Javier Mendez, the man behind some of the most successful UFC fighters, as he shared his thoughts on the current state of the sport. He discusses the latest news surrounding Jon Jones, a potential Conor McGregor vs. Charles Oliveira fight, and his personal experiences training Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Javier Mendez: “Conor McGregor made Khabib a bigger star, Poirier is ‘in the hat’ for Makhachev, Jon Jones was targeted, Tsarukyan and Oliveira will steal the show at UFC 300”.

What’s the latest with Islam?

Nothing has been signed, Dustin Poirier is only a rumour at this stage. I can tell you Islam has been training for a fight, but we do not have a fight yet. I do know Islam will be fighting soon because I’m going to Dagenstan soon to train him. We are getting ready for a fight, we just don’t have confirmation yet who or when yet, he’ll be back in either June or July.

We can say that Dustin is in the hat, we can also say the other top guys are in the hat, but let’s see what happens at 300 and who the UFC offers the fight to. It may be Dustin, Justin, Oliveira, or Tsarukyan, it could even be Holloway, it will be one of those five. But I kind of like the Dustin one, Dustin was talking about Islam and Islam responded, so I like the banter, the back and forth, there’s already history there, so I like the storyline with Dustin.

What’s the latest with Umar?

Umar and Sandhagen are in negotiation, but there’s no date at the moment. We need to work out whether it’s him or someone else. We want Sandhagen, I want Sandhagen, there’s history there and he is a worthy opponent. I want something with history and a valuable guy, which he is, so there’s meaning to this fight. Beating him would hopefully be a step in the right direction towards a title shot. But we will fight anyone in the top five.

Which 300 match-up will steal the show?

I’m most looking forward to Tsarukyan and Oliveira, it’s highly competitive. I love Charles’s style, and his attitude.  He’s a great champion and I love what he says and what he does, he lets nothing bother him. He’s great for the sport. He’s fought everybody and almost beat everybody, this guy the real deal. I want him to win, I don’t know if he will. Tsarukyan is no joke.

Pereira or Hill?

I think Hill has a chance because he’s elusive and a great striker, but I’m leaning towards Pereira to do the right thing and land those low kicks then mix it up. I think Pereira based on his skillet wins. Hill hasn’t faced a striker like Pereira, so I think it’s going to be tough for Hill. Hill has the knockout chance, but in the long run I think he loses unless he can take him down, but he’s not known to be a great ground guy.

Gaethje or Holloway?

This fight depends on whether Justin wants to give the crowd what they want, which is to stand there and have a fight with Max. He may want to do that, but if he’s smart he’ll wear him down and take him out because Holloway could clip him, it’s a dangerous fight. But Justin takes him down and works him down, lets him up, then wears him down again, that’s what I would do.

Jon Jones has been in the news for the wrong reason, what’s your take?

Jon Jones does a few eccentric things but he wasn’t arrested. If had done something wrong he’d have been arrested. The way some media reported it, it seemed like he had been arrested, he wasn’t. Let him speak his mind and when the dust clears, I’m sure we’ll find out he didn’t do a lot of the things they are alleging he did. He’s high profile and he’s been in trouble before, so a lot of people can potentially target him. I’m not saying that happened but I’m saying potentially he could have been targeted.

Diego Lima has backed Oliveira to fight McGregor next, thoughts?

I think Diego Lima is doing a great job hyping up his fighter, but everybody wants to see Conor and Chandler. Chandler deserves that fight. I don’t think that anyone deserves the McGregor fight more than Chandler. Lima is doing a great job hyping his fighter. Everyone would want that fight because Connor is one of the marquee names and will be a box office hit when he comes back again.

Conor brings a lot of attention and he is of course getting a lot of attention at the moment with his movie which came out at number one. Love him or hate him – I don’t like him – he is a star. I don’t like the way he acts but he’s a great fighter. You can’t take that from him. He’s got four of the highest pay per views in the UFC. I don’t like him but he’s a great opponent for anyone, he’s a great dance partner because he builds the animosity, look at the animosity Conor built with Khabib, then the jumping over the cage that Khabib did, that made Khabib a bigger star having a dance partner like Conor. Good versus bad. You need a narrative to follow.

What was the lowest moment training Khabib?

When Michael Johnson hit Khabib with that good shot, that was my bad moment. I was freaking out because I knew his father would be watching and I knew his father would not want Khabib standing with Michael. I was frantic saying ‘go back to father’s plan, go back to father’s plan’. That was a tough moment. And when he jumped over the cage, that was another tough moment, but it also made him into a big star.

Fantasy fights: Tom Aspinall vs Cain Velasquez / Jose Aldo vs Khabib

It would have been tough for Tom Aspinall because of Cain’s wrestling, his wrestling would have been superior to Tom’s. It would have come down to wrestling and I don’t think Tom would be able to wrestle to that degree, he would be in trouble. Cain could stand with anyone in the stand up, but Cain had a lot of injuries and other things happen to him, he was mismanaged at times, if weren’t for those things he would have been the greatest heavyweight of all time.

It would not have gone good for Aldo. He would have been too small, he’s not big enough to offer any threat to Khabib. He wouldn’t be able to deal with the wrestling. Jose did well with guys taking him down, but Khabib was a master at takedowns, there’s nobody Khabib couldn’t take down and Aldo would have been no exception, plus the size. Khabib was a big lightweight. Aldo was one of the greatest for sure, but he would have not be able to deal with the pressure. No matter who Khabib takes down at lightweight he’d maul them. I’m my eyes Khabib’s the greatest of all time.