Javier Mendez is Nurmagomedov’s coach at American Top Team (ATT) and he says that Gaethje isn’t much of a threat to the champion.
“Not much,” Mendez said on The MMA Hour. “Not much, because he ain’t going to be able to stop the takedown. None of those guys can. [Nurmagomedov will] take them all down, and if they don’t have much of a ground game, they’re done. The only way it becomes interesting is if Khabib decides to do things. Look back on all his fights, it’s only when he decides to stand with people that it becomes a little bit trickier. I mean, he stood with Conor (McGregor) so he gave Conor a chance, and I’m begging for him, ‘Go back to father’s plan. Go back to father’s plan.’ He screws with me all the time. He did the same with Michael Johnson. I’m telling him, ‘What are you doing? Go back to father’s plan.’ Father’s plan, that’s what I call ‘just wrestle the guy, take him down and wrestle him.’ And he does that all the damn time."
Nurmagomedov isn’t expected to compete again until later this year, as the champion is in the midst of serving a suspension for his role in the UFC 229 post-fight brawl.
Mendez also says that Nurmagomedov’s toughness will help the fighter get past any opponent.
“The guy can take a shot, he doesn’t even get fazed,” Mendez said. “I mean, look, Barboza kicks him in the head, it didn’t even look like, what, nothing. And then Michael Johnson taps him right on the head and I’m like, ‘Dude, he hit you.’ And he goes, ‘No, he didn’t.’ And I go, ‘Yes, he did. He hit you with a decent shot. I mean, you didn’t show it very much, but you can’t get caught like that too much.’ But it’s up to Khabib. Khabib is the reason why these fights are more standup than they need to be. My choice is always, just take them and smash them. And he could do that to every one of these guys.”
Gaethje is ranked #5 in the UFC Lightweight Division, meaning that a title shot is within grasp for the fighter.