Exclusive Javier Mendez talks Khabib – ‘His father made that house,’ I just made it prettier

Legendary coach Javier Mendez sat down with Bloody Elbow the history of AKA and the potential future for Islam Makhachev.

By: Eddie Mercado | 3 weeks ago

Legendary coach and founder of American Kickboxing Academy, Javier Mendez, sat down with Bloody Elbow to cover an array of topics from the fight realm. Under his watchful eye, Mendez has groomed several UFC champions—including Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Islam Makhachev, and BJ Penn. He even coached MMA pioneer Frank Shamrock way back in the early days of NHB fighting.

Javier Mendez and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Legendary UFC/MMA coach Javier Mendez of AKA sat down with Eddie Mercado of Bloody Elbow for an interview | IMAGO/USA TODAY Network

Mendez started AKA as a striking gym, but nowadays it’s probably better known for having some of the very best grapplers on the planet. Naturally, I had to inquire about the habits and life lessons that were gained through embracing the Dagestani culture, and training with the Nurmagomedovs.

Jav also weighed in on the upcoming UFC 291 rematch between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. He gives his prediction, plus the tiniest little bit of betting advise. After all, it was SafeBettingSites.com who made this interview possible. Our chat ended with a breakdown of possible next opponents for UFC lightweight king, Islam Makhachev, who had just recently called out UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards.

Javier Mendez interview video

Common denominator among AKA champions

  • When you started American Kickboxing Academy, did you ever think that you would end up training some of the very best grapplers on the planet? 

“I never, no, never, never. And it all started with Frank Shamrock, you know… The one thing that I said that stood out about Frank was the mental, and I guess that’s what stands out with all the guys. They’re mentally super strong. They know what they want. And they’re willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get that, so mental. Mental is what they all had. You know, they all had that attribute, strong mentality.”

Refining Khabib Nurmagomedov

  • Khabib was always someone who was tremendously prepared for his opponents. Was that something he learned at AKA, or did he already have that when he arrived?

“He brought that with him; I just sharpened it. His father was his main tutor. I sharpened him. I look at like this, like a beautiful house. I came in and go oh, this house would look good with this color, or these color shades, or this chandelier here, or that chandelier. So I just made the house prettier, but his father made that house. I just went and decorated the house and made it more attractive.”

Biggest takeaway from Dagestani culture

  • You spent a lot of time with Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, may he rest in peace, over in Dagestan. What would you say is the biggest takeaway from spending so much time in the Dagestani culture?

“Their dedication to each other, family, I mean, you know, after training, they’re all going to each other’s house to go eat one day. One day they’re here, one day they’re there. They’re all bonded together. It’s not hey, I’m coming over. They just show up unannounced. They’re just showing up and they’re there eating ,and they’re a family man. They are a bond that cannot be broken, you know. And that’s why I love those guys.”

Cain Velasquez back at AKA

  • Have you talked to Cain Velasquez lately? Is he back in the gym?

“He’s in the gym all the time. He’s coaching with me, it’s beautiful to have him here. He’s got so much wealth, so much information, such a great heart. And a great caring person that he loves coaching and he loves giving back to the kids. He goes out of his way, you know, he’s here about four days a week. You know in the morning and then he comes here at night. He comes here at night and runs the bike training with the guys. He’s a huge inspiration for the guys. I’m so blessed to have him with me here. I’m so blessed.”

Betting on Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje 2 at UFC 291

  • Let’s mention SafeBettingSites.com that’s who hooked up this interview here. Do you ever bet on UFC fights yourself? Is that a thing? 

“No, no. I never bet on fights. I’d get too nervous. I watch for fun.” 

  • Well, let’s say you were betting. We got a BMF title on the line at UFC 291. It’s not a real title, but it’s fun for the audience I guess. Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje 2, who would you put your money on? 

“They’re both so, so skilled. They’re both great fighters. It’s one of those ones where if you’re not betting, you’re a winner because you’re gonna watch a great fight. If you are betting, yeah hold on to your seat because you may be winning, then all of a sudden you don’t… Roller coaster and you know, I mean, think about between those guys. How many Fight of the Nights have they had together? Quite a bit. It’s perfect Fight of the night material, for sure, and main event material, for sure.” 

Islam Makhachev’s next opponent

  • UFC lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev, needs an opponent. The winner of Gaethje/Poirier 2 is an option. Charles Oliveira just did his thing against Beneil Dariush, so that’s another possibility. But have you two discussed moving up to welterweight at all to face the 170-pound champ, Leon Edwards?

“No, I haven’t discussed it, but I did read about it today where Islam [Makhachev] said, ‘hey, you know Leon, let’s go.’ So, I did read on his Twitter that he is interested if nothing comes through. He’s interested in that fight, but I think Leon has Colby Covington, and you don’t know what’s going to happen from that. So, I don’t think that’s going happen. And then I heard Alex just had surgery. It’s minor elbow surgery, so who knows. Maybe he’ll come for that. That’d be great if he could, but you know I’m sure he’d want better camp preparation for Islam.”

“And then Charles well, let’s face it. Let’s look at Charles. I mean, Charles hasn’t said anything other than he wouldn’t be ready till what November, December, but he wants it in Brazil, right? But he doesn’t get to choose right, so maybe the UFC works it out with him. I don’t know exactly how that would play out, but and then the thing with Dustin and and Justin.”

“Are they going to be healthy enough to get ready Let’s see what happens with the winner of that, and I’m sure there’s going to be high interest in in the winner of that taking on Islam. And I don’t think, personally speaking, the UFC is going to make any decision until that fight takes place. That’s what I think.”

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About the author
Eddie Mercado
Eddie Mercado

Eddie Mercado is a writer and content creator for Bloody Elbow, and has covered combat sports since 2015. Eddie covers everything from betting odds and live events, to fighter interviews and co-hosting the 6th Round post-fight show and the 6th Round Retro. He retired at 1-0 in professional MMA, competed in one Muay Thai match in Thailand, and is currently a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu under the great Diego Bispo.

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