Khabib Nurmagomedov's long-standing coach Javier Mendez claims that he knew the Russian wrestler was special from the moment he walked into his gym.
Upon entering the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) gym in 2012, Khabib made an instant impact.
“The very first day he came into my gym. He destroyed everybody. He just smashed everybody,” said Mendez.
It was clear that Khabib was not willing to go easy on his sparring partners, and Mendez soon discovered why.
Speaking to The National News, the famed trainer explained, “He didn't really understand any English whatsoever. The funniest thing is that people would ask, ‘How good is Khabib?’ I'd go, ‘Man, that guy's unbelievable. I just wish he'd listen. Because every time I tell him relax, relax, the guy goes crazy on me’.
Well, later he comes back and goes, ‘Coach, I don't understand. I thought that meant go harder. So I used to go harder’.
Despite regularly beating up his opponents, the 32-year-old was seemingly not content to rest on his laurels. Fighting out of a gym containing former UFC champions Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold and Cain Velasquez, the undefeated grappler always wanted to improve.
“He was a sponge. He didn’t speak much English, but you could always tell he was processing and trying to understand and get better, and he had work to do," Cormier confirmed.
Now 28-0, Khabib has officially lost just one round in his UFC career against Conor McGregor in 2018. Mendez argues that his fighter is just as dominant in the gym.
“People don’t really understand when I tell him I’ve never seen him lose a sparring session. Everybody loses sparring sessions. Not him. You might win a round or so. I've had that happen, but they don't win the session," he said.
Heading into this weekend's clash with Justin Gaethje, Khabib will be stepping into the Octagon for the first time without his father at cageside, who passed away in July.
Mendez believes that Khabib will only be more motivated on Saturday night, and will be inspired by his late father to get his hand raised.
“He’s going to use what his father wanted of him to propel him to victory. I genuinely believe that," he said.
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