The Maldives Journal recently had the opportunity to sit down with former kickboxing world champion and respected coach, Javier Mendez. In this exclusive interview, Mendez shares his journey and experiences in the world of combat sports, his work with some of the biggest names in the industry, and his thoughts on the future of his brand. Read the complete transcript below to get a glimpse into the life and mindset of this accomplished athlete and trainer.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got started in kickboxing?
I started doing martial arts at 18 years of age, I started getting involved in kickboxing when I was 25. When I turned 26 I started fighting at the age of what uh…. 1992 became world champion light heavyweight, and in 95 won the light cruiserweight ISKA world kickboxing championship.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a professional kickboxer, and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge earlier on was confidence, confidence in myself that I could do things, I never let anything get in the way of me being Hispanic, stop me from doing what I really want to do. Having that confidence and knowing that I have that ability to do that was definitely something I needed to work on, not being of any ethnicity wasn’t the problem, it was the confidence in me as an athlete that was the problem
You have trained some of the biggest names in combat sports, such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Islam Makachev, and Usman Nurmagamedov. Can you tell us about your experience working with then, and what sets them apart from other fighters?
From my experience, since I have been training fighters since 1995, the first one I started in 1995 With Paul Varelans, Brian Johnson which was the fury in 1996, and then I had my first champion which was Frank Shamrock, the first middleweight UFC champion which was in I think it was ‘97 or ’98, Frank won the first one there then from there Ken Beejay Pen and from there came like Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck, and some other but they were all the same until I met Khabib in 2012.
The difference between them, Khabib and my other champions was the respect factor. The humbleness and the respect factor they have for their elders is, I have never experienced it in my whole entire life. You know that’s what I noticed, the biggest difference in his belief in his religion was higher than anybody I have ever met in my entire life. So those are two of the biggest factors is the respect for their elders and the loyalty they had to Islam that’s what I noticed about Islam, Islam Makachev, Habib, you know Uzman you know Umar you know all my Dagestani fighters who are Muslim, the respect factor they had for their elders and religion was huge.
You have had a long and successful career in combat sports. As a figher and now as a coach. Looking back, what are some of the moments or accomplishments that stand out to you the most?
I don’t really know because I don’t really think I’m done you know, I still look like next chance, I think Umar, Khabib's cousin is my next champion. I’m looking at turning him into the bantamweight UFC champion in the year 2024. I’m not looking at what’s behind me I’m looking at what’s in front of me, I don’t look at what I’ve accomplished. I am looking at what I need to do now, he’s my next one then after that. I am looking at a few other ones like Muhamed Alareck from Kuwait. Im gonna make him the champion so I always look at what’s ahead of me I never look at what is behind me
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What are your plans for future? Do you plan to expand your brand in Asia?
Well I have a licensing deal with some individuals Maxwick was one of my former students and one of my best friends, and he has an incredible gym, Aka Phuket Thailand and if anyone has ever been there to Phkuet and want some great training then should definitely go to AKA Phuket and they will get a great experience in Muay Thai, great fun, great activity, great country, you know you never know pretty soon there might be an AKA Maldives too that could happen very soon I don’t own any of those gyms but I have a license in the brand. Its my brand but I don’t own them they are owned separately by different people. There also in Goa, India, there's also an AKA Mandarum, have a license there too. They are coming all over but they aren’t mine, I only own one which is in California.
What message do you have for young Maldivians who are interested in pursuing combat sports?
My message to them is this. Don’t let anyone put you in the corner, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can't do something that you wanna do if you have love in your heart and you wanna do something then you shouldn’t let anybody tell you that you can’t.
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do this you can’t do that, you can do what you want to do as long as it’s within the law and it's not hurting anybody, you can do whatever you wanna do and you should try, you know cause if you don’t try you never know, you can’t fail if you don’t try.
What do you think of the Maldives?
Yeah, this is my first time in the Maldives, it's beautiful, it’s beautiful, it’s a great experience. The people are beautiful, the scenery is beautiful. When you go to the islands and you see how they design them, the huts and everything and the waters blue. Snorkelling, I went snorkeling it was awesome. I went fishing too on the boats, that wasn’t such a great experience for me because I get seasick really easily so that was bad but the snorkeling was beautiful and the people were beautiful.
What is your final message to fans from the Maldives
Like I said you know for young people don’t let anybody stop your dreams. If it's in your heart if your heart is beating get up and go to work, do the thing you gotta do to achieve your goals. Anything is achievable.
We would like to extend our gratitude to Javier Mendez for taking the time to speak with The Maldives Journal and share his insights and experiences. His inspiring story and dedication to his athletes serve as a testament to the importance of hard work, perseverance, and self-belief. We wish him continued success in his coaching career and look forward to following the journey of his future champions.