Javier Mendez Defends Khabib From Critics Over UFC 249 Decision

Undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov recently faced online backlash after flying home ahead of UFC 249, where he was originally set to put his belt on the line against Tony Ferguson. ‘The Eagle’ however became stranded in Russia, following the implementation of the coronavirus related travel restrictions.

It was eventually revealed that UFC 249 was set to take place on tribal grounds in California, which made it impossible for Khabib to compete. In the end, the card was postponed, despite attempts by the UFC to draft in Justin Gaethje as a late replacement.

During a fan Q&A on his YouTube channel (as transcribed by MMA Fighting), Khabib’s long time coach at AKA, Javier Mendez, responded to the online criticism.

“He didn’t choose to sit it out. He just went back home and he was waiting and training and waiting for a location. So he didn’t choose to sit out anything. They couldn’t give him a location and then he couldn’t get permission. He wasn’t gonna be able to get permission, so he didn’t really sit anything out. He didn’t get permission and he didn’t get the location and now we know why he didn’t get the location because of fear of it leaking out. Because it leaked out, now look, there is no show,” Mendez said.

“He did absolutely the right thing when he was told to go to Abu Dhabi because the show more likely was going to be there, and then he would go home from there if that didn’t work out, but that was the plan, and then train at home and then see what happens.”

Prior to Khabib returning home, Dana White announced that the original location of the Brooklyn Centre, New York, had been scrapped. After the UFC lightweight champion became stuck in Russia, he publicly came out to criticise the UFC’s lack of direction, in an interview with ESPN.

“They don’t have a location. Why I have to fly to U.S.? Why can’t I fly to Japan or Asia or Africa. Maybe they can make it in Europe. Maybe they can make it in Middle East. I don’t know where I’m going to fight. Why fly to the U.S. For what? This is not my mistake. Coronavirus come to us. I don’t bring coronavirus. This is not my job,” Khabib stated.

A devout Muslim, it is now expected that Khabib will need at least 12 weeks to prepare for this next fight, due to his annual observation of Ramadan.

“We may see him in August or we may see him in September,” Mendez said. “If it’s August, I believe it’s San Francisco. If it’s September, I believe it’s Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates. So yeah, that’s when we’ll see it. One of those.”

The recent coronavirus pandemic now means that the matchup between Khabib and Tony has been scheduled and then cancelled an unbelievable five times. Given the choice, Mendez would rather see his man face Gaethje next, over a sixth attempt to fight Ferguson fight.

“If I had my choice I want Gaethje because I want an assurance that we have a fight,” Mendez said. “For that reason and that reason only, because right now I’m not—Yeah, that’s why I would want Gaethje or anybody else other than that one. Only because of what’s happened. And that may change later.”

If however, Khabib vs Tony is made for a sixth time, Mendez ensures that Khabib will need another full training camp.

“He’s gonna need the same amount of time to prepare because we have to respect Tony for the great champion that he is,” Mendez said. “If we don’t give him the same time, if not a little bit more, then shame on me. He’ll get the same attention, if not more, because we’ll probably see him fight one more time before we meet him again.

“If that doesn’t happen I’m okay with it just for fear of it not going through because five times? That’s never happened.”

UFC president Dana Whiteis adamant that a May 9th card will go ahead but while most fans want the UFC to wait and make Khabib vs Tony, it is believed that Ferguson vs Gaethje will headline the card. Should it go ahead.

Do you think we’ll ever see Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson?


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