Khabib Nurmagomedov faces a harmful opponent this weekend, but the most important problem to his light-weight supremacy may well by now be in his rear-check out mirror.
Which is how head mentor Javier Mendez sees it, at least right until he receives to see Nurmagomedov truly protect his title against Justin Gaethje this Saturday at UFC 254. Till then, any danger measurement is strictly theoretical and with that getting the scenario, Mendez still considers Conor McGregor to have been Nurmagomedov’s toughest examination however.
“I assumed when I looked at [Gaethje], I was pondering possibly the second biggest risk [to Nurmagomedov] mainly because I still to this working day consider Conor was,” Mendez reported at a media day in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. “And the reason why I feel Conor was is mainly because of that precision striking. But Justin could conveniently establish me wrong and prove to be the toughest examination we’ve ever had. We have nevertheless to see that. But I know we’ve currently seen Conor and that’s why I would say Conor.
“If you imagine about it, who’s gained a round in opposition to Khabib? Conor. And whose offered Khabib a rough time—The 1st round, he took Conor down, but how a lot injury did Khabib give him? No, Conor was pretty very good there, so I have to give it to Conor for that. I have not found Justin. Obviously, if I’ve witnessed Justin by now and we fought him presently and we are victorious like I’m hoping, then I can explain to you 100 percent he was the hardest. Proper now, I assume in idea he’s selection two.”
Nurmagomedov effectively defended his lightweight title against McGregor at UFC 229 in Oct 2018, an occasion that stands as the most thriving pay back-per-perspective in UFC heritage. In spite of McGregor turning into the to start with UFC fighter to take a spherical from Nurmagomedov, it was “The Eagle” that triumphed by way of neck crank submission in round 4.
Mendez admitted that up until finally recently he hadn’t targeted too much on Gaethje’s exploits. It was not until Gaethje’s a single-sided get over Tony Ferguson this previous May well that Mendez actually took recognize.
“Long story brief, I didn’t genuinely pay consideration to him till he dismantled Tony,” Mendez wrote. “Because now he was true, now he’s in entrance of us. So then I paid out interest and I saw how fantastic he essentially is and what a challenge he is. That is when I actually compensated awareness.”
Pundits have pointed to Gaethje’s hanging, inhuman stamina, and grappling protection as variables to take into consideration when buying him for a likely upset. “The Highlight” has only shed two times in 24 pro bouts and 19 of his victories have occur by way of knockout.
Gaethje himself has advised that he wants to preserve the combat standing and in the middle of the octagon normally he’s “screwed,” but Mendez is not convinced that it will be that straightforward. Primarily based on what he knows about Gaethje now, he does not be expecting that anything at all Nurmagomedov does will split Gaethje’s will.
“Absolutely not,” Mendez reported. “That man ain’t quitting for very little. That guy’s a true warrior. He ain’t quitting. You have got to eliminate him to end that man. Both of these guys. No, it goes in the center, it goes on the cage, he’s combating, he’s supplying it all. You have seen what form of person he is. You have observed what kind of terrific warrior he is, you’ve found the mentality he has. How can you not appreciate him? You have to respect him. If you really don’t love him, you have to regard him.
“Obviously, my career is I’m Khabib’s coach and I like him and I want him to get and we’re accomplishing every little thing we can, but Justin is as outstanding as they appear in every section. Psychological, physical, how he techniques the combat game, how he functions, he’s great all over the place.”