Khabib could have finished McGregor off far sooner, claims trainer, as he calls for rematch
19th January 2019

It was the biggest fight in MMA history, as Nurmagomedov successfully defended his lightweight title against McGregor at UFC 229 this past October.

McGregor, 30 was defeated in round four via neck crank, but the rounds prior were filled with different narratives.

In the second round, for the first time in his UFC career McGreogor was dropped, as Nurmagomedov landed and overhand right, before in typical fashion taking his opponent to the ground and mauling them with strikes.

It looked as though McGregor was surviving by the thinnest of margins entering the third round – however, Nurmagomedov, 30, flipped the script and proceeded to stand and strike with the Irishman.

Going into the fight McGregor had accused Nurmagomedov of being a one dimensional fighter with a lack of threat when the fight is not on the ground.

Speaking exclusively to SunSport, Nurmagomdeov’s trainer, Javier Mendez, claimed the UFC lightweight champion decided to stand and trade with McGregor to prove a point.

Mendez said: “I think he could have finished the fight earlier if he wanted to, but he didn’t.

“He stood with him to say he’s not afraid of him, I can stand with you.

“I told him after the third round, ‘look, I know you were going to stand with him, I’m not surprised, but do me a favour and let's go back to fathers plan, please.’

“I told him the third round was close and he might have given that to Conor, but let's not to that again.

“He says, ‘Okay coach’, and that’s what you saw in the fourth round.”

The pre-fight build up was surrounded with animosity, threats and bold predictions as the biggest rivalry in UFC history unfolded.

It was built as wrestler vs striker, though for Mendez, he perceived McGregor, a former two-weight champion, as much more than a KO king.

Mendez said: “In interviews people were saying Khabib must take Conor down but I said we have to stand with him.

“You can’t just go and take Conor down, the thing is, I’ve said it before people don’t understand how great Conor is.

“I’m taking nothing away from him, he’s a great fighter, he had a great game plan – but to me, you have someone who is just a little bit better all way round, and that’s Khabib, he’s the better fighter.”

After Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor, a post-fight brawl broke out as the two UFC stars brawled with their oppositions entourage.

As a result, both fighters have been suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission with a hearing set for January 29.

Although unsavoury scenes, the brawl has made the rematch now even bigger, though UFC president Dana White revealed he wants No1 ranked lightweight challenger Tony Ferguson to fight Nurmagomedov next.

For Mendez, he wants nothing but the big-money rematch to take place, however, he understands Nurmagomedov may demand McGregor earns the rematch, rather than be handed it.

Mendez said: “If Dana is saying it’s more likely to be Tony then that’s what they’re going to do and it’s up to Khabib.

“Knowing Khabib he’ll say yes if that’s what they offer.

“We never spoke about the fight, but if Khabib is what I’m thinking he’ll say Conor has to do something to earn that rematch.

“I don’t know if that’s what Khabib is thinking, because I haven’t spoken to him but the way he is, he’ll think Conor has to earn the rematch.

“Khabib is not about the money, he’s more about legacy and what is the right thing to do.

“People ask me what I want and I always say this is prizefighting – Khabib has already been in the biggest UFC fight with Conor, a rematch can become even bigger.

“Khabib is the driver here, he is a huge name now, because of the things that he’s been doing.

"He might be the biggest name worldwide because of the massive muslim and non muslim communities that have embraced him.

“Khabib may well be the biggest star now – but Conor is still the biggest money guy, I think Khabib has made big ground but Conor is still the biggest money draw.”

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