Javier Mendez: Islam Makhachev ‘can do whatever he wants’ against Dustin Poirier at UFC 302

Many are seeing the upcoming lightweight title fight between Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier as a repeat of Poirier’s 2019 failed attempt to win the belt against Khabib Nurmagomedov. However, Javier Mendez, head coach of Makhachev and Nurmagomedov, thinks that analysis is totally wrong.

Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) looks to make his third title defense against Poirier (30-8 MMA, 22-7 UFC) on June 1 in the main event of UFC 302. Although Makhachev’s team is familiar with Poirier, Mendez sees this as a different matchup.

“No, this is going to be a lot different because Islam is not Khabib,” Mendez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “They’re two different fighters, and they don’t work the same. The only thing they do the same is the discipline. They both work hard, but their style is different.

“Khabib was more ground-oriented, but that’s what we wanted. We’d always tell him, ‘Take the fight to the ground, take the fight to the ground. Father’s plan, father’s plan.’ … With Islam, he’s training all the styles; Muay Thai and boxing with other instructors in Dagestan. Khabib never did, he only trained with me. That’s why Islam evolved so much in the striking. Islam can fight however he wants, Khabib we would tell him to wrestle because no one in the world could deal with it, and we knew it.

“Islam has it all. How he wants to win, when he wants to win, where he wants to win, it’s up to him. We can take the fight anywhere we want. That’s the difference between Islam and Khabib. Khabib’s No. 1 thing was wrestling, but Islam can do whatever he wants.”

Many have suggested that Makhachev’s path to victory is to wrestle against Poirier like Nurmagomedov did in his 2019 title defense. Poirier is a dangerous striker, but Mendez is confident that Makhachev can not only hang with Poirier on the feet but also beat him at his own game.

“Look what happened against Volkanovslki, he beat him in the striking,” Mendez said. “If people think that Islam can only win by taking the fight to the ground, they are wrong. That’s not how it has to happen. Islam can do whatever he wants. Now, I’m not going to tell you what we have planned for the fight, but I can tell you Islam can do whatever he wants. Striking or ground game, we can do it all.”

For more on the cards, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 302.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie