Javier Mendez on Jake Paul, Conor McGregor and Khabib
Khabib's former trainer discusses a potential fight between Jake Paul and Conor McGregor, and says a return for Nurmagomedov is very unlikely.
Javier Mendez, founder and head coach of world-famous MMA gym American Kickboxing Academy, has trained multiple UFC champions, including recently retired Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In this wide-ranging interview, Mendez discusses a potential matchup between celebrity boxing star Jake Paul and former UFC champion Conor McGregor, and says he would favor Paul in the sports betting.
He also comments on the title prospects of AKA's rising star Islam Makhachev, a potential trilogy fight between McGregor and Nate Diaz, a crossover bout between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou, the likelihood of a return for Khabib, and fighter pay.
Who do you think would win in a boxing match between Jake Paul and Conor McGregor?
I would favour Jake Paul at 175 over Conor in a boxing ring because he’s too big. But you can’t count Conor out, Conor’s a good boxer, so you can’t discount his boxing ability.
But the size is a little much, Jake hits extremely hard, as you can tell by what he’s done. If you haven’t woken up to Jake’s ability you better, because he’s only improving. So I think the size is a big difference and the power would be too much for Conor. Sometimes you can be bigger and not punch harder, but in this case Jake is bigger than Conor and punches harder and he’s good, so all three variables are with Jake. He’s just a bigger man fighting a smaller man.
Jake also isn’t necessarily a novice anymore. He’s experienced in dealing with high pressure fights, and he’s proven he's able to handle that pressure. So it’s a big man versus a little man and the big man just so happens to have more firepower.
Jake Paul has said if was to crossover into MMA, he'd want to train at AKA. What do you say to that?
The doors at the AKA gym are not open to Jake Paul or any celebrity fighter. If he wanted to come he would need permission from the whole team. If there is one fighter or one coach that’s opposed to him joining, he would be denied.
The doors are open for him to apply anytime, but whether he gets approved or not I could not say yes or no. He’s never asked to apply, he’s only complimented us by saying he would like to train with us, which is a huge compliment, but he’s not officially applied.
Paul has been very vocal about fighter pay in the UFC. Do you agree with his comments, or do you believe the UFC pays well?
Who is Jake Paul talking about when he says the UFC guys need to get paid better? The lower guys on the shows get better paid than just about anybody else out there. It’s just the pay-per-view numbers that need to be worked on.
The UFC pays great in comparison to other organisations - apart from the pay-per-view - compare the UFC to boxing and see who pays more. The UFC does. The UFC has guys on the undercard that get paid more than boxers do in the main event. Just look at the numbers with the exception of pay-per-view - those numbers are different. But outside of that the UFC pays great.
McGregor is approaching a return, and a trilogy fight against Nate Diaz is a potential option. Who do you think would win that?
The last time Conor fought Nate Diaz, Nate had an injury to his ribs. Nate said after the fight if he was facing himself, an injured fighter, he would have been able to finish himself, which Conor wasn’t able to do. But that’s just the fighting talking, I would tend to think that I favour Nate.
The reason I would favour Nate is because he never quits. You have got to kill this guy to stop him coming forward and if he's not injured, and there’s nothing wrong with him, he’ll keep coming and we know Conor breaks. How many times has he broken now? How many times have we seen it now?
Islam Makhachev has won 10 fights in a row but Dana White claims he's not next in line for a title shot at 155lb. Why do you think that is?
One-hundred-and-fifty million per cent, Islam deserves a title shot next. It was not his fault Dariush had a bad injury. His record speaks for itself. All the guys who are ahead of him have already had their chance so they need new blood, someone who hasn’t fought for the title yet.
I believe Islam has every right to fight for that title next. But let's see what the UFC says, and what numbers make sense for them. It’s about the business for them, not about who is deserving. Islam is the most deserving but can the fans get behind him? I think so.
If it makes business sense for Dana then he’ll do it. Dana is a mastermind of creating news in the media, he’s a master at it. Even the thing with Jake Paul, you know he has his war with Jake Paul, but behind closed doors he actually admires the kid and respects how he goes about getting attention.
Dana knows how to market it and if the attention is there it's going to happen. What Dana says may not be what he really means. Sometimes he’s building up the hype and he’s a master at that. I’m 80 per cent confident Islam gets the title shot next.
McGregor has recently called Makhachev out on social media. How would you see a potential fight between those two playing out?
Islam was ready to beat Conor when Khabib fought Conor. Islam will destoy Conor just the same way Khabib destroyed Conor, if not quicker. Islam can deal with anything Conor has. His defence, takedowns and ground and pounds and submissions are great.
He’s different from Khabib, they are different fighters but I’m so confident he would beat Conor. Islam would smash him.
Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou have both expressed interest in fighting each other recently. How do you think that would compare to McGregor v Mayweather?
Tyson Fury is one of the greats. He’s a great motivator and great for the sport. He looks so unathletic and then you watch him fight and you see his championship heart, the way you can knock him down and he gets back up. He’s an unbelievable fighter and a fight against Francis Ngannou could be a huge, huge fight.
Whether it could be competitive or not I don’t know. You got the great boxing of Tyson Fury and you’ve got the great power of Francis Ngannou. Ngannou can take a good punch, it could definitely be interesting. I could see it being built up big, because they are two giant men who are the best of the best.
I don’t think it’s as big as Mayweather-McGregor. They could spend a lot of time promoting it but Ngannou is such a nice guy, he does not trash talk. He doesn’t trash talk at all. But then again it’s two giant men. Can it outperform Mayweather-McGregor? I think not, but you never know.
Khabib and Tyson Fury have a huge mutual respect for each other. I was with Khabib one time when I was talking to him and it was extremely respectful and it looked like they were friends. It sounded to me that Khabib is a big fan of Tyson Fury and likewise, Tyson is a fan of Khabib. They are friends.
It's been 18 months since Khabib retired, and he will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in July. Does that mean there's no chance of a comeback?
I would say that is the case, there is no comeback. Based on him entering the Hall of Fame and based on Khabib always saying when you're at a certain age it's time to retire. You're not the same physically, you're not at your best.
I think there is no comeback. He's 33, I think there's maybe a two-year window now, if there is any chance of a comeback - which I don't think there is - it would be within the next two years, but I think the Hall of Fame is a big curtain call.