Get to Know AKA – Exclusive Interview with Javier Mendez (Part 2)


Make sure you check out the first part of the interview here.

For those that are not very familiar with the name, Javier Mendez is the founder, owner, and head trainer of the American Kickboxing Academy. Javier first made his name in the Martial Arts world as a two-time ISKA World Kickboxing Champion. After his illustrious career in Kickboxing was finished, he opened up AKA and became one of the top coaches in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Some of the greatest fighters to have ever lived have called the American Kickboxing Academy their home.

Frank Shamrock, BJ Penn, Josh Thomson, Cung Le, Josh Koscheck, Cain Velasquez, and Jon Fitch are just some of the names that have been under the guidence of Javier Mendez. This is the final chapter of an in-depth two part interview, he tells us about the other leading men in AKA, a possible dream match between Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, who’d he like to fight, the brand new AKA facility, and Phil Baroni‘s Twitter habits. If you haven’t read part one, I recommend you click here first before you continue with this part of the interview.

It’s interesting you come from a striking background, yet you attract many world class grapplers. Who are some of the staff at AKA who help your fighters become well-rounded Mixed Martial Artists?
For grappling it’s Dave Camarillo, Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu is his style. He’s a Ralph Gracie black belt, he’s also a Judo black belt. Dave, I’m proud to say is one of my proudest prodigies in regards to coaching and working with the fighters. He’s doing really well. Bob Cook is another guy who has done extremely well under my guidance. It’s almost to the point where they don’t need me any more. They’ve done so well it’s like I don’t even need to be around and those guys will do a fantastic job. Those two in particular are the most important ones.

My students Andy Fong and Gary Owens, who just works with Jon Fitch. There’s definitely different coaches that come on board, I can’t do it all. Daniel Cormier is our wrestling coach.

With the recent purchase of Strikeforce by ZUFFA, the dream match that many fans want to see is Alistair Overeem versus Cain Velasquez. What would you do to help Cain prepare for Overeem’s K-1 level striking and size?
I’m not concerned about the size factor whatsoever. Cain’s used to wrestling with guys his size and bigger. It might be more of a deterrent for Overeem, because of Cain’s quickness and speed. Due to the fact that Overeem is an incredible striker, it would be stupid to simply strike with him. Of course we’d strike with him, but we wouldn’t strike with him know what I mean? If we choose to stand with him, that’s probably one of those fights that we would lose.

We would play to his weaknesses, not his strengths. You can honestly say that there is no way from now till whenever or if ever the two meet that Alistair’s wrestling will improve to that of Cain’s level. Obviously we are going to exploit Overeem’s lack of wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu wise I don’t know how good Alistair’s ground game is. I heard he’s pretty good, Cain’s a brown belt in BJJ. People don’t understand how good Cain is in Jiu-Jitsu, he’s really good. But the thing is he always listens to his coaching staff and is really dedicating to following our advice. We never asked him to go for a submission on anyone. And that’s why people will say “he doens’t have any submission skills” but that’s because we never wanted him to go for it.

That’s why you never see Cain try to tap out anyone, because we’ve never asked him to. We never wanted him to play the submission game, but he’s really, really good. You may doubt that because you’ve never seen it, but wait till he shows you how good he is. Critics used to say Cain had “pillow hands”. The thing about Cain Velasquez that the people don’t understand is that you are watching a fighter that keeps evolving, he keeps learning, and getting better. He never settles for what he was yesterday, he always strives to be better. If you watch his fights, you’ll notice a big improvement with every fight. He went from having “no hands” to knocking people out! If you watched him on Sports Science on ESPN, they tested his punching power. He punched harder than anyone who has ever appeared on that show.

How is that possible? I’ll tell you how it’s possible, he refined it, he worked on it. There’s a saying “with technique, comes power. When you hone that technique, you’ll bring the power”. It took Cain a while, don’t get me wrong. He couldn’t hit hard at all, but he never stopped trying, and he has good speed. When you combine good speed and good technique, your going to generate some power.

What are some of the values and essentials that you instill into your fighters to help make them champions?
The biggest value I have is preparation. You have to make sure you are 100% prepared in all aspects of MMA. Some of them get it, some of them don’t. The ones that get it, do great. The ones that don’t, they end up falling apart a little bit. This is Mixed Martial Arts. Become a Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu, become the best boxer you can be on a professional level, become a professional level kickboxer, K-1 level. As a wrestler you gotta try to get to Division One type status. That’s my goal to instill this value into all my guys, it’s really important. Be the best you can be.

Are there any fighters that you haven’t worked with yet, but would like to help out?
King Mo is coming in a week from now. He’s good friends with Daniel Cormier. They are best friends. Mo misses training with Daniel (Mo and Cormier were teammates at OSU), and I mean, who better to sharpen each other’s wrestling skills than the two of them? As a result of their friendship, King Mo is coming here.

I ask many fighters this question and I’d like to ask you Javier. If there is anyone you would like to fight, they don’t have to be a pro fighter. They can be a historical figure or fictional character, who would you challenge?
Somebody I can beat (laughs). Anybody I can beat, maybe someone lighter than me.

To give you an example, Cain Velasquez wanted to fight Genghis Khan. Justin Wilcox wanted to fight King Kong, because he wanted to be the real “Silverback”, and wanted to beat someone like King Kong. So who would you challenge? Note: Darcy McBride and I from interviewed Cain and Justin earlier this year.
You know that great chess player, Bobby Fischer (laughs).

Why do you want to fight Bobby Fischer?
Because I can beat him, that’s a great mind right there. I want to beat him.

Oh you want to beat him in a mental match.
Naw, I can’t beat him in a mental match. I want to beat him in a physical match, so I can say I beat Bobby Fischer (laughs).

Aside from training fighters, what does the founder of AKA like to do on his spare time?
I just lay around the house with my kids and family. I watch a lot of TV, play on my Twitter. I just started doing the Twitter thing and I like Facebook. Twitter is pretty cool though.

Justin Wilcox told me that you and him make fun of Phil Baroni. Apparently he has more tweets than he has followers, is that true?
Ya look him up! He’s got like 10,000 followers and has like 14-15,000 tweets! Unbelievable, I mean that man is a tweet maniac. Some people get addicted, I sort of have an addictive personality too, but that’s just obsessive (laughs).

You just opened a new AKA gym, could you tell our readers about the new location, and why they should train there?
The new location is 27,000 square feet, if you include the outdoor swimming pool it’s 30,000 square feet. It’s a complete fitness facility with crossfit, BJJ, children’s wrestling, adult’s wrestling. We got wrestling rooms, a beautiful kickboxing cage, all the weights you need, cardio equipment.  It’s a full service health club, we got four racketball courts.

It you want to be a martial artist, an MMA fighter, this is a great place for you. If you want to mix that with weights and cardio equipment, we got everything in house. We also got chiropractic in house, we have all the latest technology in chiropractic care. We have sports nutritionists, personal  trainers. We got the vibration machine that helps with bone density, a hyperbaric chamber, all the state of the art equipment.

If your an elite athlete, you definitely want to come to AKA. If your a fighter in the San Jose area, you would be amongst the best. We are reasonably priced and you get ten times more here than any other gym out there.

If I ever go to San Jose, I need to look you guys up, and get my ass in shape.
Me too, I need to get in shape too trust me (laughs). I have no excuse, it’s a tough thing to do in the later part of your years. Hopefully this will motivate me to get in shape. There’s no excuses, everything is there for me.

Once again thank you, it is an honor to speak to someone like you. Do you have any shout outs that you would like to make?
I appreciate the interview and follow me on Twitter @akajav!

Special shout outs to my friend Darcy McBride from for helping set this up!