Javier Mendez on difference in Islam Makhachev and Khabib’s striking

Javier Mendez thinks Islam Makhachev may be a better striker than Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Mendez has helped hone the skills of both former UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov (29-0 MMA, 13-0 UFC) and current title challenger Makhachev (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC).

But when it came to striking, the head coach of American Kickboxing Academy says Makhachev diversified his training more than Nurmagomedov did.

“The difference between Islam and Khabib is when Khabib was in Dagestan training at Abdulmanap’s gym – his father’s gym – Khabib would only train with me really,” Mendez told MMA Junkie Radio. “He wouldn’t really train standup with anybody. He’d train with me. So his time involved in striking was very limited, whereas Islam was smart enough to train with other people and he has great coaches at home that are working with him. So with him, his striking is further ahead than Khabib’s ever was only because of the fact that Islam was working year-round on his striking.

“Khabib was only working part time, and that’s what people don’t understand. That’s what’s so amazing about Khabib. He was only doing it part time and that’s why his improvement from fight to fight you go, ‘Wow, he keeps improving,’ because for him, there was a huge gap in striking and what he could learn and what he was able to do , where Islam, he’s been steadily growing all the time and he’s by far one of the best all-around fighters that I’ve ever trained.”

Nurmagomedov is currently retired and helping Mendez guide Makhachev and other fighters trying to reach gold. As fellow coaches, Mendez said he and Nurmagomedov share the same ideals. But when Mendez was coaching “The Eagle,” it was a slightly different story.

“As a coach coaching him, there were times where we had different ideas,” Mendez said. “He wanted to show people that he could stand, etcetera, etcetera, and I didn’t like that. I wanted him to do where he was most superior. As a coach, it’s much easier for me than it was when he was a fighter because as a fighter, he didn’t listen to me all the time. He listened to me most of the time, but not all the time. As a coach, (Makhachev) and I, we’ve been on point 100 percent of the time.”

Mendez and Nurmagomedov are currently in Dubai helping Makhachev prepare for his vacant lightweight title fight against Charles Oliveira, which headlines UFC 280 on Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 280.

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