Khabib Nurmagomedov’s coach Javier Mendez has explained why Conor McGregor is still his pupil’s toughest opponent.
The undefeated lightweight champion was scheduled to defend his title against Tony Ferguson in the main event of UFC 249. However, due to travel restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak and Nurmagomedov’s commitment to Ramadan, their showdown has been postponed. Justin Gaethje will fill in as a short-notice replacement to fight “El Cucuy” on May 9.
The eagerly anticipated matchup between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov has been scheduled to take place five times but has never come to fruition. Mendez previously insisted that Ferguson would be his fighter’s toughest challenge.
“Well for me, I just go by the toughest opponent. I think overall, Tony [Ferguson] is the toughest opponent, overall, with everything in skill set,” stated Mendez.
“Striking wise, I think Conor [McGregor] was the best striker Khabib has ever faced. But I think overall, Tony has got the best overall skills out of anybody he has ever fought.”
Now that their matchup has been delayed indefinitely, coach Mendez has changed his tune. During an interview with SiriusXM, the American Kickboxing Academy leader was asked if the winner of Ferguson vs. Gaethje would be their toughest challenge to date.
“No I’m sorry, I think it’s still Conor,” the long-time Nurmagomedov coach said. “Even though people may disagree me, but I just know how good Conor is. Conor’s the toughest fight to date.
“He’s [Ferguson] got way better cardio but Conor was dangerous, anytime you let Conor release any type of striking he could just put you out. That’s why he was so dangerous to me. If you let Conor get in his groove, he would have done some amazing damage if we allowed him to. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen, but I still fear him, I really do.”
Do you agree that Conor McGregor is the biggest challenge that Khabib Nurmagomedov has ever faced?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 5/7/2020.