Undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov established his dominance through his wrestling, grappling and ground-and-pound game. But from time to time, he chooses to showcase what he can do on the feet.
If it were up to his coach Javier Mendez, “The Eagle” would stick to his strengths, which is to get the fight to the mat.
“Never ever forget your best weapon, and that should always be your go-to weapon,” he told his fighters after one practice session at the American Kickboxing Academy. “I’ll just use Khabib in this case. His go-to weapon is the ground. I still, to this day, have yet to see somebody in the 155-pound division that can handle him in that area.
“That’s why you always hear me say ‘father’s plan, father’s plan, father’s plan.’ Because I don’t want him deciding that he wants to stand with these guys, even though you guys know his stand up’s really good. We all know.”
Mendez is aware of what Khabib can bring to the table in terms of striking, but he just refuses to let it take over during fights.
“Everybody here knows how good Khabib’s stand up is. Because you guys have all seen it,” he said. “But the real world doesn’t know how good it is because I don’t allow him to do it. And his father doesn’t allow him to do it.
“Like he said to me, ‘Coach, you keep saying father’s plan, father’s plan. When are you gonna let me stand?’ I go, ‘I don’t know, we’ll see.’”
Mendez’s philosophy is more about getting the win over putting on a show for fans to see.
“We don’t go out there and give blood if we don’t have to. We give as little blood as possible,” he explained. “The win is the most important thing. Number two is excitement.
“But if you guys go out and throw an exciting fight but you lose the fight, the promotion’s gonna be loving you for that, but you lost the fight. So there’s one ding against you.”
After his second successful title defense at UFC 242 against Dustin Poirier and a 28-0 record, Khabib has yet to finalize what’s next for him. What he says he’s almost certain about as of the moment is that his next fight takes place in his home country of Russia.