Dubbed a ‘Rookie’ Despite Father’s Dagestani Training, Khabib’s Coach Takes Credit for Ex-UFC Champ’s Overlooked Brilliance

Published 05/15/2024, 9:10 AM EDT

Follow Us

via Imago

Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts history. With his legendary strength and historically good grappling game, the former UFC lightweight champion dominated everyone put in front of him and retired undefeated: a stupendous achievement, especially in MMA. However, the one thing that even the 35-year-old’s most dedicated fans will admit as his weakest suit was his striking.

His former coach, Javier Mendez, revealed the reason behind why the undefeated former champion’s striking was lackluster, at least in the initial phase of his MMA career.

Khabib coach on how he went from ‘rookie’ to destroy everybody in striking


Article continues below this ad

In an interview with ‘London Real’, Javier Mendez claimed that the former champion, unlike other Dagestani fighters, didn’t train for striking as long as he trained under his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in Dagestan. It was only when he joined the AKA gym headed by Mendez that he started working on his striking, which is why his stand-up was nowhere as deadly and effective as his ground game.

“Khabib’s standup has only been trained by me and in my gym. He doesn’t train [striking] in Dagestan in standup with nobody, he never did. The other guys: Islam, Umar, all the other guys train with other trainers at home. He wouldn’t train with nobody but me. So his improvement on standup was limited because it was only through me,” he said.


Get instantly notified of the hottest UFC stories via Google! Click on Follow Us and Tap the Blue Star.

Follow Us

Mendez further revealed that ‘The Eagle’ completely disregarded his stand-up in the early part of his career, to the point he would practice it only twice a year when he came to the AKA. “So, when I first met him he would come for two days out of the year, so his stand-up was limited,” he said.

However, by the time Nurmagomedov fought Conor McGregor, one of the greatest strikers UFC strikers ever, at their historic UFC 229 clash, ‘The Eagle’ was a more than capable striker. “So a lot of people were thinking ‘Oh, he can’t stand with Conor’. But the fact of the matter is, I kept telling everybody ‘ You guys don’t understand. Don’t look at his last fight, he’s getting better every single time. Because he’s still a rookie’ and nobody really understood the concept of that,” claimed Javier Mendez.


Article continues below this ad

Further, the coach pointed out that as time passed and Nurmagomedov polished his striking, he was “destroying people” on the feet, in the AKA gym at least. While the Dagestani did not come across a challenge he didn’t manage to get through in the octagon, he is in some unprecedented trouble, possibly worse than any challenge he has faced so far.

Khabib Nurmagomedov’s team denies reports about tax trouble

Recently, Khabib Nurmagomedov has found himself in trouble with the Russian tax agency. According to reports, the former UFC champion has been asked to pay around $3.3 million (or 306 million roubles) in taxes after a full audit was ordered because of discrepancies in the paperwork of some companies owned by the former fighter. Although formal charges are yet to be filed against the Dagestani, accounts linked to some of his businesses have been blocked.


Article continues below this ad

And after days of speculation, Nurmagomedov’s team has issued its first statement about the tax trouble, terming it inaccurate. “The information about tax debt is inaccurate. Khabib continues to engage in business projects and develop them,” the official statement read according to Russian news agency TASS.

What are your thoughts about the whole affair? Let us know in the comments below.


Written by:

Kanishk Thakur


One take at a time

Kanishk Thakur is a senior UFC writer at EssentiallySports. A seasoned writer with about 5 years of professional writing experience, he has expertly covered the heated rivalries in the fight game and delivered meticulous reports of ‘athlete payouts’ here at ES. Additionally, he also unravels stories that occur outside the cage, in fighters’ lives.
Show More>

Edited by:

Sakshi Jain