Lightweight stars Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov are often compared with each other and there’s nobody who knows them better than their long-time coach Javier Mendes, who has repeatedly stated that he believes Makhachev to be the better striker, and in a new interview he explains why.
“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 part time working, 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.”
Mendes also said that he has an easier time coaching Makhachev than he did with Nurmagomedov.
“As a coach coaching him, there were times where we had different ideas,” Mendez recalled of Khabib. “He wanted to show people that he could stand, etc, etc, 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.”
Makhachev will have an opportunity to follow in the footsteps at UFC 280 later this month when he goes up against Charles Oliveira for the lightweight title in one of the most eagerly anticipated fights of the year.