Islam Makhachev's Coach On Why Alexander Volkanovski Fought A Different Fighter In UFC 294 Rematch: 'Those Things Play A Factor In Your Head!'

American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) coach Javier Mendez was a content man after his pupil Islam Makhachev knocked out Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 294.

Makhachev, 31, registered his 13th win on the trot after he felled his Australian opponent with a head kick in round one, effectively bringing to an end the competitive rivalry between them.

Weighing in on the win, Mendez stated to Submission Radio that it was one of the most satisfying victories of his coaching career. 

“Beacause of the magnitude [of the event] and what a great champion Alex [Volkanovski] is, and the first fight [at UFC 284] being so competitive…this has to rank up as probably the all-time, honestly speaking, on finishes, the magnitude of this one [win] for me, it would have to be the best [in my career].”

The win ends Alexander Volkanovski’s flirtations with lightweight, for the moment at least, with the 35-year-old tentatively penciled in to defend his featherweight crown against Ilia Topuria in January 2024. 

For Makhachev, on the other hand, the emphatic manner of victory opens up a potential pathway for two-weight championship status of his own. 

Welterweight title challenger Colby Covington has already floated an ‘American wrestling vs. Dagestani wrestling’ narrative for a future matchup, should he get past current champion Leon Edwards at UFC 296.

If that is a fight the UFC does put together, Makhachev would need to reproduce his UFC 294 form against Covington — something Mandez feels Volkanovski wasn’t ready for.

Mendez Suggests ‘Overconfidence’ Could Have Played A Part In Volkanovski’s UFC 294 Loss

The 53-year-old legendary coach suggested in the interview that the 12 extra hours Islam Makhachev had to rehydrate at Abu Dhabi rendered him a far stronger fighter than his opponent would have remembered from their first entanglement. 

“I can’t speak for them [Volkanovski’s team], but were they overconfident [from how close the first fight was]? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know that,” Mendez said. :I do know one thing. I asked Islam [Makhachev]… ‘How much do you weigh?’ He goes, ‘Eight pounds heavier than last time!’

“I think Alex might have gone, ‘Damn! This guy [Makhachev] is stronger than I remember!’ Those things play a factor in your head. If the guy is stronger than you remember, if the guy is heavier, there’s a lot of things going on,” Mendez continued. “Especially if everybody [in your team] is feeding you [hope] that, ‘You can knock this guy out! You can do this, you can do that!'”

Mendez then outlined the great respect he still harbors for Volkanovski despite the outcome at UFC 294, but stated that it’s time for Islam Makhachev to move on to other challenges in his career. 

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