Khabib Nurmagomedov is a great coach, but he ‘needs some work’ on becoming a cornerman after UFC 302

Khabib Nurmagomedov is a great coach, but he 'needs some work' on becoming a cornerman after UFC 302

Khabib Nurmagomedov is widely considered to be one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the history of the sport—but his skills as a cornerman could use some work.

‘The Eagle’ returned to Islam Makhachev’s corner at UFC 302, overseeing the Dagestani’s third successful defense of the lightweight world title via a fifth-round submission victory over division fan favorite Dustin Poirier. It marked the first time that Nurmagomedov was in his protege’s corner since he claimed the 155-pound crown against Charles Oliveira in October 2022.

Khabib Nurmagomedov, Javier Mendez, Islam Makhachev

Working the corner with Nurmagomedov was renowned MMA coach and American Kickboxing Academy founder Javier Mendez, who helped coach both ‘The Eagle’ and Makhachev to the top of the lightweight division. Speaking with The Schmo following the events of UFC 302, Mendez revealed that while Nurmagomedov is a great game planner, he needs a bit more fine-tuning when it comes to cornering a fighter.

“Khabib’s actually becoming a great coach and a great cornerman – [but] he needs some work on the cornering,” Mendez said. “He’s great at game planning, he’s fantastic at game planning but we need to work a little bit on the cornering – just a little bit” (h/t Bloody Elbow).

Mendez was able to expand on his comments during a follow-up interview with Helen Yee, revealing that Nurmagomedov’s biggest obstacle is his own excitement in the heat of the moment.

“He needs to master the corner though… We still need to work the corner because he goes a little crazy on there, up and down, slamming on the table – [I told him] ‘Calm down, calm down’. He gets really amped up,” Mendez added. “I mean he loves his fighters so much [as] his brothers that you know, he puts everything into that fight when he goes, I forgot what it was like to have him in the corner; it’s kind of crazy.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov, Javier Mendez, Islam Makhachev

Mendez Offered Khabib Nurmagomedov some advice on how to improve his corner work

Having coached a slew of MMA world champions, including Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, Luke Rockhold, and Usman Nurmagomedov, ‘The Eagle’ would be wise to listen to any advice that Mendez has for him.

“I gave him instructions on ‘Hey, it’s okay to do what you need to do but just sit down, yell as loud as you can to get your fighters’ attention, you don’t have to hit the table, stand up and cause the commission to tell us to sit down,’ Mendez said.

“Scream as loud as you can – he goes ‘Coach, how am I going to reach him’, I go ‘Scream, scream as loud as you can’ but you’ve got to say things within reason because you got to listen the crowd, if the crowd’s screaming [too] then your fighter is going to hear nothing.”

With Makhachev’s win over Poirier, the ‘Dagestani Destroyer’ will likely find himself squaring off with No. 1 ranked contender Arman Tsarukyan. No official announcements have been made, but ‘Ahalkalakets’ believes their long-awaited rematch will go down this October in Abu Dhabi or in November when the UFC heads back to the world’s most famous arena—Madison Square Garden.

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