Is Islam Makhachev Better Than Khabib Nurmagomedov? Coach Javier Mendez Shares His Honest Thoughts

Published 02/18/2021, 4:40 PM EST
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – APRIL 18: Islam Makhachev of Russia interacts with the media during the UFC Fight Night Ultimate Media Day at Hotel Astoria on April 18, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)


In a lightweight division stacked with talent, Islam Makhachev is a threat that fans often overlook. Sitting at number fourteen in the rankings, the friend and training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov, has the potential to make a quick rise in the rankings. Nurmagomedov’s coach, Javier Mendez, claims that Makhachev has all the tools to become the next lightweight kingpin.

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Talking on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast, the American Kickboxing Academy head coach broke down the skill set of Makhachev. Despite his well-rounded game inside the Octagon, Makhachev isn’t a big fan of the camera. This adds a layer of mystique to the up-and-coming fighter.

“He’s very charismatic. It just depends, you know. He’s focused on his training. He wants to get to the top. The guy is a beast, man. He’s got it all down – timing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, kicking, punching, strategy – he has it all. He’s everything that’s needed,” Javier Mendez said.

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CALGARY, AB – JULY 28: Islam Makhachev of Russia celebrates after his submission victory over Kajan Johnson of Canada in their lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Scotiabank Saddledome on July 28, 2018 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Makhachev has his next UFC fight ahead of him, following a significant time off. He will go up against Drew Dober at UFC 259 next month. A win over Dober could prove to be a ticket to a top 10 opponent in the future.

I wouldn’t call him the next Khabib, I would just call him the next Islam, which to me is the next champ. I think he has all the tools to be the next lightweight champion. It’s just a matter of getting by Drew Dober, which is no easy task.”

How Islam Makhachev is in a situation similar to where Khabib Nurmagomedov once was

Islam Makhachev hasn’t competed in the UFC for over seventeen months. A significant reason for this duration being so big is because his fight against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 254 fell through after the latter pulled out due to COVID-19. The UFC rescheduled the fight for November only for Makhachev to pull out this time owing to a staph infection.

When Khabib Nurmagomedov was in his early days in the UFC, he was finding it hard to find opponents. Makhachev seems to be in a similar position currently.

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“The biggest problem we’ve had with Islam isn’t so much that he is not willing to fight anybody, there’s nobody in the top rankings that wanna fight him cause he’s too much of a risk. I don’t blame ’em. Why fight him when you can fight somebody that’s not as tough that you got more reward from. Why fight somebody that’s the reward is not so good,” Coach Mendez added.

When RDA pulled out from UFC 254, Islam, along with his manager Ali Abdelaziz and even the champ, Khabib Nurmagomedov, made a lot of attempts to arrange an opponent for him. However, their efforts would go in vain and Makhachev ended up waiting longer for his UFC return.

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While he has shown a ton of promise, there is still a long way to go for Makhachev to become a UFC champion.

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Rishabh Singh

655 articles

Rishabh Singh is an MMA author at EssentiallySports since 2020. An engineer in the making, his love for combat sports began by watching Anderson Silva light people up inside the Octagon. When he isn't busy in his technical pursuits, he is an avid reader with a love for sports in general and sporting history in particular.

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