Khabib Nurmagomedov's coach Javier Mendez is aware of the threats that the former's upcoming opponent Justin Gaethje poses to "The Eagle's" undefeated streak as the pair prepare to lock horns in the main event of UFC 254 at the Yas Islands in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
The head coach of American Kickboxing Academy knows that Gaethje is being projected as Khabib Nurmagomedov's toughest challenge yet inside the octagon. This isn't only because of Gaethje's glorious striking repertoire but the fact that "The Highlight" is also an accomplished wrestler, and considered by many to be the best defensive wrestler in the lightweight division.
Mendez acknowledges the fact that Gaethje’s skill set makes him one of the toughest challenges in Khabib Nurmagomedov's career because “The Highlight” has only been taken down twice in his seven-fight career with the UFC. Gaethje recently trained with UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman as well but despite Gaethje’s high-profile wrestling credentials, Mendez claims it’s difficult to prepare for someone like Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I know he’s working with the welterweight champion, so he does have someone good working with him, but it’s different when you’re fighting Khabib,” Mendez said on Monday’s episode of Hablemos MMA. “It’s different. Let’s see what happens, but he’s preparing well, he’s preparing with the champion and the champion is really good.”
While admitting that in Gaethje, Khabib Nurmagomedov faces a lethal striker with wrestling second to none, Mendez said that if the champ does manage to take the challenger down, there is no getting back up. Mendez also said that should his takedown attempts fail, Nurmagomedov stands the risk of being knocked out inside the cage for the first time in his life.
“The thing with Justin is, when has he used wrestling? I’ve never seen it. Just to get up, but he hasn’t used the wrestling. So let’s see what happens. If we can’t get him down, we have a fight. If we get him down there’s not going to be a big problem because he doesn’t work on the ground, from what I’ve seen.”
Mendez has a lot of confidence in his star pupil and believes that Khabib Nurmagomedov is a master of the ground game and nobody can stop him from taking the fight to the ground, including Gaethje.
“He says he’s tough to take down, so let’s see what happens,” said Mendez. “I don’t think it’s going to be as hard as he thinks, but it’s possible that it’s tough to take him down. I don’t believe it will, because Khabib is a master at taking the fight to the ground. Look, if you’re an Olympic wrestler and it’s in MMA, he’ll take you down. He’s the master of this.”Published 20 Oct 2020, 17:19 IST