The American Kickboxing Academy coach thought Nurmagomedov (16-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) perfectly executed his game plan in claiming the Bellator lightweight championship from Patricky Freire this month in Chicago. Nurmagomedov won a dominant decision win, taking the belt from “Pitbull” and keeping his unbeaten status.
Mendez says the challenge was difficult, despite it not seeming that way on fight night.
“He won easily, and it wasn’t an easy fight, but he made it look easy,” Mendez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “There were a few times when the fight wasn’t too exciting, but that’s because Patricky didn’t do anything. He didn’t do anything.
“He had his guard up, but he didn’t exchange. So there were boos from the fans, they always want fighters to collide, but they didn’t. Usman did, he was kicking and throwing strikes, but Patricky didn’t do anything because he couldn’t enter. Usman didn’t let him enter.”
Mendez said the fight played out exactly how they predicted. And despite being champion of a major promotion, Mendez is sure the world has yet to see the best from Nurmagomedov.
Not only does he expect much improvement from the 24-year-old, but Mendez also sees him as a future star of the sport.
“We knew that it was going to play out like that,” Mendez said. “The thing that you have in against Patricky is the long attacks, the legs, the jabs. He’s taller. So we kept the distance and kicked and kicked to push him back, and whenever he closed the distance, he needed to go to the wrestling. So whenever he wanted to come in with strikes, he needed to wrestle, and that’s what he did.
“He did everything perfectly. This kid is only 24-years-old and has a lot to grow. In two or three years when he does his growing, man, watch out. He’s going to be one of the biggest stars in MMA. That’s what I believe.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 288.