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Home » Blog » exclusive interview with javier mendez

Exclusive interview with Javier Mendez: Islam Makhachev can change his game plan against Leon Edwards, Tom Aspinall is the future, Dustin Poirier has the mentality to beat Justin Gaethje

Javier Mendez
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Speaking exclusively to, MMA trainer Javier Mendez, who has coached the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Daniel Cormier, has given his view on two big UFC events over the next fortnight.

Javier believes Tom Aspinall is the future of the UFC and would have a chance at beating Jon Jones.

“Who knows how much time Jon Jones has left, Tom is definitely the future.”…Mendez says Jon Jones will pass the torch to Tom Aspinall

JM: “Based on everything I see, Tom Aspinall is 100 million percent going to be the future heavyweight champion. Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard about him, I think people don’t know how great this guy is. I even heard he’s a sparring boxing champion and he’s been boxing for a long time, that just shows me the level he’s at. And he’s not really shown his level in the UFC as his fights haven’t lasted that long. He’s thoroughly dominated everyone.  He’s not really a known guy yet. But the little insight I have on him and the little bit I watched of him, I’m extremely impressed by him, and as a human being, a very good guy. I think the UK has the future champ, I really do. Jon Jones is how old now, 36? Who knows how much time Jones has left. Tom is definitely the future.

“He could go out there and destroy Tybura, but that isn’t an easy task to do. But I think Tom will have his way with him. I don’t see how Tybura handles his boxing or the wrestling. I think Tybura’s getting on the bad end of that one. I don’t see Tom as the underdog by any means.

“Tom Aspinall 100 percent would have a chance against Jon Jones. I’d favour Jones though, because if he takes the fight he knows he can’t do it. But if we give Aspinall a few more fights and experience then I might reverse my pick.”

“I told Khabib, let’s change the game plan, let’s take him down.”…Mendez explains why Islam Makhachev is so versatile And breaks down how a future fight between Islam and welterweight champion Edwards would play out

JM: “Islam and Leon would play out on both levels, both stand up and ground. Leon proved last time he can get up and he can take you down. You have to be ready for everything in that fight, striking and grappling. You can’t negate anything, you can just say we’re going to take Leon down. That’s two well rounded fighters that can do it all. Islam can stand with him, Islam can go to the ground with him, and Leon can do the same. It’s one of those fights where we’ll have to see who has the edge on the night and who can implement that edge.

“The edge is whoever is easier to be hit, whoever is getting hit in the stand up the most, and can’t take the other one down, that’s the edge right there. Or whoever can’t stop the takedown and defend well, that’s the edge. Can you stop my take down, can you take my big shots? There’s so many ways that it can go.

“With Khabib there was one focus – take them to the ground. I didn’t care if Khabib could beat you up on the stand up, I didn’t want to take that chance because he wasn’t as well rounded, whereas he dominated on the ground. With Islam, he’s so well rounded then he can change it up. When we fought Moises, we were walking out to the fight and the game plan was to stand with Moises. We thought his Jiu Jitsu was good, so let’s stand with him. When we were walking out, I saw Moises and said he looks a lot smaller than Islam. I think we’re the bigger fighter, I said. I told Khabib, let’s change the game plan, let’s take him down. Khabib looks at him and says ‘yes coach, you’re right’. We tell Islam ‘change of plan – take him down’ that’s how good Islam is. We changed the game plan as we were walking out.”

“What are you expecting a magic trick?”…Mendez responds to Leon Edwards’ criticism of his time working with Mendez at the American Kickboxing Academy prior to the first Usman fight.”

JM: “When you come to my gym and you only have three weeks to work for a Kamaru Usman and you have no wrestling, he had done zero wrestling, what are you expecting magic or something? What are you, expecting a magic trick? Where you get a shot in the arm, and then you’re going to beat up Superman who knows how to wrestle and you don’t. He learned that he didn’t need AKA anyway, he learned that he needed to bring a wrestler to him. And if he criticised us, that’s on him, he’s a great guy, I have no problem with him. And may someone led him down that path, who knows. Bottom-line he doesn’t need AKA and he proved it, all he needed was the ingredients of bringing a wrestler over. In regard to saying we were too defensive minded – whatever you did in those three weeks and you have no wrestling, I don’t care what you’re going to do, it wasn’t long enough to prepare to beat Kamaru back then. Your chances weren’t very good, not with three weeks training.”

“It could be a trainwreck”…Mendez breaks down Fury v Ngannou

JM: “You want to watch Fury and Ngannou because it’s a crossover. It could be a trainwreck, crossovers normally are like Mayweather and McGregor, where Mayweather carried him. Mayweather is a perfectionist, he didn’t want to take a chance of getting caught, so he made sure Conor was tired, took all his steam from him, and then added the finishing touches. But two things Francis has are speed and power. Two equalisers. Francis will be stronger in the early rounds, but in the later rounds I see Fury dismantling him, I really do. He’s one of the greatest boxers of all time and how can someone who doesn’t box compete with someone in their prime? I’m not saying Ngannou doesn’t have a chance, he has a chance, I’m just saying the chances are not great. But the good thing is Ngannou is going to get paid, and people are going to watch it, because there’s a potential upset. Now if they fought with 4oz MMA gloves then there’s a better chance Ngannou wins. Ngannou’s best bet is to catch him with that great power that he has early.

“The best fight for Ngannou out of AJ, Fury and Wilder would have been Wilder because he’s not as technical. He’s a guy who goes out guns blazing and puts the hammer down, so he’s got the best chance of getting caught. Tyson is the most difficult challenge for Francis because he’s so smart.”

“I’m favouring Dustin”…Mendez picks Poirier to beat Gaethje

JM: “Poirier and Gaethje play out the same as last time, a great fight for the fans because they’re both durable and they love to excite the fans. Two great fighters. We could see Gaethje reverse his loss but I’m favouring Dustin because he’s got that ‘come from behind never be beaten’ type mentality – Justin has that too – but he’s crumbled a bit more than Dustin in situations like this. That’s why I favour Dustin, just a little, not much.”

Advice for Jake Quickenden and Paul Smith

JM: “The first thing Jake and Paul need to do before they get into the cage is to get countless hours of sparring. And then to understand that the real fight will be much harder than those hours in the gym sparring. My advice is to concentrate on their mentality, bringing your mind strong. You get your mind strong by sparring as much as you can, so they can get used to what it’s going to be like in that competition. But then also to be prepared that fight night isn’t going to be exactly like sparring. It’s going to be much harder. They also need to stay relaxed as much as possible and they need to put in their head ‘I’m winning’ and ‘this is how I’m going to win’ everything you’re doing is about entering that competition to win.

“Their mindset needs to be that you’re going in there to do nothing but win. They need to adopt a winning attitude. Then visualise how it comes. Ok, I’m going to knock him out with a left hook. You have to put in your head and visualise over and over. And then stay relaxed, don’t get hyped up because you’re wasting energy. If you hear our corner work, we are always saying ‘relax’.”

Javier Mendez

Javier Mendez is an American mixed martial arts coach who was the trainer of former UFC Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and trainer of current UFC Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev. Mendez is the founder of MMA Gym, American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). A former student of ISKA kickboxing, in 1992, Javier became ISKA Light-Cruiserweight Champion. In January 2023, awarded Mendez 2022 coach of the year.

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