UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will not train at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) for his upcoming fight against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
Nurmagomedov has trained under coach Javier Mendez at AKA for all of his fights dating back to 2012 when he first joined the UFC. Under Mendez, Nurmagomedov blossomed into one of the greatest lightweights of all time. Along with Nurmagomedov, Mendez has coached numerous other UFC champions including Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, and Luke Rockhold. But Nurmagomedov has long been the prized jewel of the AKA family.
Nurmagomedov recently lost another one of his coaches, his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, to COVID-19. The UFC lightweight champion didn’t want to let that stop him from defending his belt against Gaethje, and “The Eagle” surprised many when he decided to make a quick turnaround against Gaethje in September at UFC 254. But in addition to losing his father, Nurmagomedov has other changes in store for this fight.
Speaking to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Mendez said that Nurmagomedov will not hold his training camp for Gaethje at AKA. In fact, he won’t be holding it in the United States at all, citing concerns with the coronavirus pandemic. Since UFC 254 is likely going to be held at FIght Island, Mendez understands why Nurmagomedov has decided to make this choice.
“We’ve got two choices [for the fight], right? Las Vegas or Fight Island. I’m thinking Fight Island, but they haven’t said it yet. What I do know is that [COVID-19] is too high in California, and Khabib is not comfortable coming here to train,” Mendez said.“I did speak to him for the first time two weeks ago, and he’s still going through missing his father. Rightfully so. The way they were connected, his father was pretty much his everything. Having his father’s blessing gave him that power to go out and do what he needed to do. Everything his father wanted him to do, Khabib would go out and accomplish it. Now, he doesn’t have that. So, he’s gotta focus on the legacy his father wanted for him.”
Mendez also told Okamoto that he believes the plan is still for Khabib Nurmagomedov to get by Gaethje and then square off against UFC legend Georges St. Pierre for his 30th fight.
“It was discussed on numerous occasions — 30-0. And GSP was definitely the legacy fight. If they can complete that, I could see 30-0 and he’s done. I can definitely see that. That conversation was brought up numerous times while I was with them,” Mendez said.