The momentum ahead of a possible bout between UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor continues to build, with the Russian world champion’s coach Javier Mendez saying the matchup would represent the biggest fight in UFC history.
“I think this one eclipses everything that they’ve ever done, personally,” said Mendez, who heads up an elite team of world-class fighters at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California.
“I’m hoping it happens this year. The fans need to see it. We need to have something outside of the Stipe and DC fight, we need to have another blockbuster, and I think that would be the blockbuster of all time if they can ever get that one together.”
Nurmagomedov won the vacant title at UFC 223 in April after the UFC stripped McGregor due to inactivity.
“The Eagle” defeated late replacement Al Iaquinta to claim the title after interim champion Tony Ferguson sustained a freak knee injury on the FOX Sports set during fight week. But the Russian’s world title win was overshadowed by the events of media day earlier in the week when McGregor and members of his team attacked a minibus containing Nurmagomedov and other fighters set for action that weekend.
The unsavoury incident landed McGregor in hot water with the NYPD, and he faces a second court date on July 26. But Mendez told Submission Radio that the heated rivalry between the pair has only served to make a potential fight between the pair all the more compelling.
“I mean, come on, you couldn’t have scripted a better piece to have with all the video they have of everything and the drama,” he explained.
“The whole world was in on what happened in that situation [at UFC 223]. So this fight is by far, in my opinion, the biggest fight that’s ever gonna be made for MMA.
“One thing I will say is if it does get licensed it won’t be in New York, it would have to be in Vegas. So, the fight will have to be in Vegas if it happens this year.”
As the reigning lightweight world champion, Nurmagomedov has a host of big-fight options ahead of him, including the oft-booked, but repeatedly-cancelled, matchup with Tony Ferguson and a potential superfight with former UFC welterweight and middleweight world champion Georges St-Pierre, who had previously expressed an interest in dropping down to 155lbs in a bid to become the first three-weight champion in UFC history.
And while a fight with McGregor presents undoubtedly the biggest matchup in terms of profile and reach, it’s a clash with St-Pierre that Mendez believes would represent the toughest test his Russian protege could face in the UFC.
“The most dangerous fight for us is GSP,” he stated.
“It’s his fight IQ. He’s got an incredible fight IQ. He’s a brilliant fighter and he’ll have the right game plan and he’ll exercise it. He’ll implement his game plan and it would be up to us to stop him from doing it.
“To me, he would be the most dangerous, because out of all of them he’s the most intelligent when it comes to how he’s going to approach the fight, how he’s gonna get his body ready. He’ll do it to perfection. He’s like a scientist in a way.
“I love the guy, I think he’s incredible and I believe he’s our toughest test for sure.”
But Mendez knows the public wants to see Nurmagomedov and McGregor throw down inside the octagon, and while he believes his charge doesn’t need to face McGregor to prove he’s the best lightweight on the planet, he did concede that if McGregor decided to return to action, the fight simply has to be made.
“I don’t think he needs to beat McGregor, but I think he needs to personally beat a Tony Ferguson, [or] a GSP-type guy. He needs to beat some top, top, top guys to really solidify his place in history. That I do think he needs to do.
“But, does he need to fight Conor? Depends on Conor. If Conor’s fighting, then yes, he does. But if Conor’s not, then obviously it doesn’t matter.
“He’s still going to make history by beating the other guys. But it would be nice to get Conor in there, only because that’s the fight everybody wants to see.”
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