Javier Mendez on Khabib's potential UFC return
The American Kickboxing Academy founder discusses a potential UFC return for Khabib Nurmagomedov, and also reveals he received an offer to step into the boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather.
Javier Mendez, owner and founder of world-famous mixed martial arts gym, American Kickboxing Academy, was Khabib Nurmagomedov's coach for more than eight years.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Betway Insider, Mendez discusses a potential return for the former UFC lightweight champion, who retired following his win over Justin Gaethje in October 2020 and would be the favourite in the sports betting odds in any comeback fight.
Mendez also reveals his ideal opponent for a comeback bout, and says Khabib received a legitimate offer from Floyd Mayweather to step into the boxing ring.
Khabib recently sent you a message saying: 'Send me location.' Does that mean he's ready to fight again?
"I guess you could say he wants to fight again - but absolutely not because his mother would have to give him permission before any of that. I mean, he misses training, he misses coaching.
"I took it as he misses being around me and coaching. Our relationship is more than fighting, that goes beyond fighting. It's not a relationship like: 'Okay I’m done with my career, you know, my coach and I were just distant friends.' No. We’re family, we grew with each other.
"They’re family to me and we’ll be in each other's lives for the rest of our lives."
Khabib has been busy since retiring, including cornering for his cousin in the UFC. Has it been hard for him adjusting to normal life?
"Yeah it would be unnatural. He loves the fighting, the energy, and he loves watching his cousins and his teammates perform. He gets nervous for them.
"You know, when we went to the last fight and his cousin Abubakar was to fight, he just got all energised and he said 'I miss this feeling'. And it’s a feeling that he’s gonna miss for a while because of that adrenaline you get from entering that octagon with all those people cheering you on.
"It's hard to replace that in normal life because normal life is not like that."
Do you get the feeling that he's tempted to come out of retirement?
"I don’t talk to him about if he’s tempted to get back in, so I don’t know. What I do know is his mother's bond and his mother's wishes are extremely important to him and if he did ever decide, it would have to be his mother and him talking, and his mother would have to give him her blessing.
"Even if he wanted to fight, it's never gonna happen. He will not disobey his mother, he will not. That’s just who he is."
What would be the latest date for a potential comeback?
"I can say this comfortably, that after two years out of the octagon, there will definitely be no comeback. Before that, when he’s feeling young and he’s in his prime, I’m gonna say I don’t know.
"I’d definitely say that when he’s past his prime, definitely not because he’s not going to compete when he’s not able to compete. But I can honestly say that if he’s still in his prime, there’s always the possibility that he and his mother could talk. I can say that.
"I wouldn’t bet against it, but I know there is a possible situation that I could see. If there was something that would bring him back, it’s him still being in his prime and him and his mother talking."
Who do you think is the opponent who would most appeal to Khabib in a comeback fight?
"Back then, it was Georges St-Pierre. That was the fight that would have made the most sense because that’s what his father wanted. He wanted him to retire at 30-0 and GSP was the person that his father wanted him to end his career on. That was an appealing fight for him.
"I don’t know about anybody else appealing to him at the present time - maybe Floyd Mayweather. But right now, I really don’t know. I know GSP was. GSP is a great athlete. One of the greatest of all time, he’s a great gentleman, he’s a true sportsman in and out of the octagon.
"We were trying to get him for a while and things didn’t work out. It probably excites him to want to fight somebody like Khabib because that's a huge challenge for him. But I just seriously doubt it’s going to go anywhere right now because of his mother. Mother’s plan is stronger."
There were rumours of an offer for Khabib to box Mayweather in a lucrative exhibition fight. Did any discussions actually take place?
"When I was told about that, I was like woah, Floyd Mayweather?! Well, alright, I guess we got to try and find a way of beating him. I don’t know how that one is going to work out but Khabib wanted to do it! Khabib wanted to do the challenge!
"The challenge to fight Floyd in a boxing match was what excited Khabib. It was a huge challenge, a monster challenge. Let's face it, Floyd Mayweather, I consider him the greatest of all time in the boxing ring.
"Why it didn’t work out I don’t know, we just got busy doing other stuff but there was definitely a legit offer. It was definitely something that was potentially in the works but it didn’t gain steam and I don’t remember why it didn’t but it didn’t. I just know it was definitely a real offer."
How do you think Khabib would fare in a boxing match?
"Against a pro he’d do well because he always sparred really well with my boxing pros. A lot of people undersell his striking and one of the biggest reasons I never wanted him to stand up was because I knew he was the best on the ground.
"There’s nobody I’ve ever seen that could beat him on the ground and I always like the easier route - so why stand with people when I know he can demolish anyone on the ground?
"So, I was always on him to go to the ground. But look, if you watched him spar in here you’d go 'god this guys got some good stand up, he’s got really good stand up'. People undersell it."