Coach Javier Mendez recently opened up about how Khabib Nurmagomedov’s decision has affected Islam Makhachev, who has been used to having him by his side throughout his career.
In a candid interview on Jibber with Jaber, Coach Mendez revealed,
“I would think for Islam it probably was a little harder. Because he was used to him being there all the time, and this is going to be Islam’s first time… if he [Khabib] wasn’t fighting on the same card with Islam, he was there cornering Islam. So for Islam, this was probably, deep down, more of a shock than anything… Khabib was on the phone talking to him [Islam Makhachev] before he walked out. So, he’s [Khabib] been there [with Islam] like his [Khabib’s] father was with him [Khabib].”
‘The Eagle’, with an unbeaten record of 29-0, made a surprising transition from fighting to coaching after his retirement in 2020. Working alongside renowned coach Javier Mendez at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), Nurmagomedov’s coaching stint proved to be an instant success, with his students Islam Makhachev and Usman Nurmagomedov both capturing lightweight titles in the UFC and Bellator, respectively.
However, at the beginning of 2023, the 34-year-old announced on Instagram that he would be taking a step back from MMA altogether, leaving his students and fellow coaches at AKA in a state of shock.
Check out Coach Mendez’s interview below:
Javier Mendez recalls concerned Khabib Nurmagomedov called him ahead of Islam Makhachev’s first title defense at UFC 284
Khabib Nurmagomedov showed unwavering support for his close friend and teammate, Islam Makhachev, during Makhachev’s recent fight against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284. Despite having stepped away from the sport, Khabib Nurmagomedov remained deeply invested in Makhachev’s success and expressed concerns about the tough matchup.
In the same interview, Coach Javier Mendez also revealed that Khabib had reached out to express his worries about Makhachev’s fight.
“Khabib would call me up and would say, ‘Coach, I’m really worried about this fight, Volkanovski is really tough, I’m concerned for Islam,'”
However, Coach Mendez reassured Khabib Nurmagomedov, saying that they would win the fight.
“I was like, I’m not, we’re gonna win this fight. I don’t know how easy and how hard, but we’re gonna win this fight,”
As the fight unfolded, it became evident that Khabib’s concerns were not unfounded. Makhachev faced a formidable opponent in Volkanovski, and the battle was grueling. However, Makhachev showcased his exceptional skills and determination, ultimately emerging as the victor in a hard-fought victory.
Check out the entire conversation below [38:48 mark]: