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Coach downplays Gaethje’s wrestling ahead of UFC 254: ‘Khabib is a master’ at takedowns

Javier Mendez isn’t too worried about Justin Gaethje’s wrestling against Khabib Nurmagmedov, whom he deemed a “master” at taking people down.

The greater majority of MMA fans and observers view Justin Gaethje as the biggest threat to Khabib Nurmagomedov. Not only does “The Highlight” have heavy hands to shut any man’s lights out, he is also the most credentialed wrestler matched up against “The Eagle.”

But even with his NCAA Division I wrestling accolades, Gaethje has relied more on his striking throughout his ascension to the top of the 155-pound mountain. And it’s something Khabib’s head coach Javier Mendez has paid close attention to.

“The thing with Justin is, when has he used wrestling?” Mendez recently said on MMA Junkie’s Hablemos MMA podcast. “I’ve never seen it. Just to get up, but he hasn’t used the wrestling. So let’s see what happens. If we can’t get him down, we have a fight. If we get him down there’s not going to be a big problem because he doesn’t work on the ground, from what I’ve seen.

“If you’re not working wrestling in your fights, it’s going to be hard in your first fight given how big the fight is and that he’s taking on the master of the ground in Khabib. It’s going to be tough for him. However, if we can’t get him down, it will be hard for us.

“He says he’s tough to take down, so let’s see what happens,” Mendez added. “I don’t think it’s going to be as hard as he thinks, but it’s possible that it’s tough to take him down. I don’t believe it will, because Khabib is a master at taking the fight to the ground.

“Look, if you’re an Olympic wrestler and it’s in MMA, he’ll take you down. He’s the master of this. He knows how to penetrate, how to enter with his striking, he knows. It’s different, it’s not the same.”

UFC 254 takes place this Saturday, October 24 at the Flash Forum in Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

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