It’s no secret that American Kickboxing Academy head coach Javier Mendez rates Conor McGregor’s skills highly.
With UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov announcing his retirement in October, a pivotal main event between McGregor and Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 could determine who’s next in line for a title shot.
Mendez helped Nurmagomedov prepare and beat both men, so he’s spent plenty of time studying tape on McGregor (22-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) and Poirier (26-6 MMA, 18-5 UFC). Mendez gives McGregor the edge in a rematch of a 2014 featherweight bout that “The Notorious” won by first-round TKO at UFC 178.
“I favor Conor because he’s the better precision striker, and taking Conor to the ground is going to be no easy task for Dustin,” Mendez said on “The Schmozone Podcast.” “So Dustin is going to have to grit it out, get inside and grind it out if he’s able to. Anything is possible, they’re both world class athletes, but I definitely favor Conor because of the striking aspect. He’s the master striker in the lightweight division. So I favor Conor, but I’m not counting out Dustin by any means.”
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Nurmagomedov is scheduled to meet Dana White next month in Abu Dhabi, where the UFC president will attempt to lure “The Eagle” back to the octagon.
Although Nurmagomedov hasn’t officially vacated his belt, he recently stated that the winner of McGregor vs. Poirier could eventually succeed him as UFC lightweight champion.
And if that’s the case, Mendez thinks that one half of the UFC 257 main event is certainly deserving.
“If in fact (Nurmagomedov is) not coming back, then the rightful person that should be fighting for the title is Dustin against anybody,” Mendez said. “So, to me, they got one of the right persons in there, and Conor would be the second right one. Justin Gaethje could be the next guy, or it could be Michael Chandler. It doesn’t matter, or Oliveira. What matters is that Dustin is in the title hunt because he’s the one, in my opinion, that’s most deserving of a title shot.”