MikeSwick.com sat down with AKA owner and head coach Javier Mendez.
The first thing we spoke about with Javier was related to Cain Velasquez. Everyone wants to obsess about his back pain. We wanted to know how Cain is looking a week before his rematch with Fabricio Werdum at UFC 207.
“Right now, Cain is is the most sharp that we’ve seen him. His mitt-work is great. Literally, he’s looked better than he’s ever looked. He’s also around 240 pounds and sometimes leaves the gym around 235. He is mentally and physically ready to go. He has issues with his back, but it hasn’t prevented him from training and he hasn’t missed a single workout.”
A video Javier posted training with Cain yesterday:
Cardio has never been an issue for Cain Velasquez, until his fight with Fabricio Werdum in Mexico. You’d expect that performance to have potentially demoralized Cain. Then he came back and looked like an absolute maniac fighting Travis Browne. We wondered if it was Javier’s coaching or something else that motivated Cain to get back in the saddle.
“After Cain lost to Fabricio in the fashion he did, he knew it was his cardio. I didn’t have say anything to him. Cain picked himself up. He wants his title back. He wants revenge. They offered him a title fight with Stipe Miocic, but Stipe wanted to take a little time off. Cain said he’d take a non-title fight, but it could only be Werdum. Otherwise he’d just wait for Stipe. Revenge is a big motivator for him in this one.”
On the subject of cardio and elevation, Javier explained what happened to Cain in the Werdum fight.
“He lost his cardio, but he still listened to us. Everything we told him to do, he still did. Everything we told him to do, he tried. Despite his exhaustion he continued coming forward. Only thing I can say, is he has that Mexican heart that they are known for.”
Cain would come back after that loss and look better than ever, beating Travis Browne via 1st round TKO in a completely onesided fight.
Obviously AKA houses some of the best fighters and champions in the world. Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier, Cain, Josh Thomson, Khabib Nurmagomedov… ALL are at AKA. We were curious who Javier had in the AKA stable, that would be next to join the upper echelon of the sport.
“Khabib’s cousin Umar Nurmagomedov just won the ‘Worlds’ in China. I think the sleeper is going to be Gabriel ‘Moggly’ Benitez. He’s coming into his own and just beat Sam Sicilia in the UFC. Also Islam Makhachev, the UFC lightweight. All these guys have so much potential. 10 time BJJ world champion’ Buchecha’, is coming at the end of January to see if he wants to come on board.”
AKA is world renowned and the only people who are on the pro team seem to be championship contenders. Mendez talked about what he looks for in a fighter when deciding to add them to the team.
“For me, ability is number 1. You have to have ability. Do they have a willingness to train hard? Will they do GI training and wrestling? Are they afraid to spar? Lastly, they need to be a fighter. That is probably the most important.”
The AKA team is a family and fans can see it. The team concept was never Javier’s idea. In fact, he didn’t even want to be a part of it.
“Originally I was just training people. There was no real family or close team concept at the gym. I started training Josh Thomson and he kept insisting I teach the whole group as a team. He kept asking and I kept saying no. His wife began taking care of my kids while we were working. She did me a big favor and the right thing to do was to return it. I agreed to coach the team. I saw that I needed to keep us all together and communicating. Now, we have team meetings at the end of every practice. We discuss training, news and upcoming events. This is where the family concept developed. It definitely didn’t start out as my idea.”
AKA has gotten a bad reputation from MMA media about going too hard in training. Granted, there have been some well documented gym wars there. Javier says it’s gotten way better. Almost a night and day difference.
“I’m always on these guys about slowing down, but the light sparring is actually better than it’s ever been here. These guys would get in there and the egos show up, and they would start going hard. I would have to tell them all to chill out. It took about a year for us to get the guys to check their ego at the door. Injuries are way down and lighter sparring is now the norm.”
Daniel Cormier is the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. By the time 2017 is over, Mendez has his predictions for AKA and their UFC tile status.
“I think Cain, Luke, and Khabib will all become UFC champions in 2017. DC is doing great and always has a great attitude. We are hoping his groin heals well and he defends his belt by June, 2017.”
When you think about ‘AKA’ and ‘Team’, you think Jon Fitch. What people may have not known was that Fitch left California a couple of years ago and moved to Nevada. With no UFC promos to make us aware of it, Fitch quietly moved away. The current WSOF Welterweight Champion is now back at AKA and defending his title against Jake Shields next week.
“Fitch was our 1st team captain. If you wanted a perfect teammate and captain, it would be Jon Fitch. Fitch came back with the skills he left with and new added weapons. Shields and Fitch trained together for years and both know what the other has got. It’s going to be a back and forth battle. Jake shields is no Joke, so it should be a very interesting fight . I’m confident in Fitch.”
Javier closed us out by speaking about the future of AKA, AKA Thailand, and his new fighting system he has created.
“I want AKA to be in the top 10 teams for the rest of my life. So far so good. I will continue to try and keep us there by picking up and recognizing good talent.”
“We also have AKA Thailand, which is playing a huge role in spreading AKA internationally. It was built and runs under the home grown knowledge and guidance of one of Team AKA’s originals, Mike Swick. Mike knows our system and he is an expert in the way we do things here. He has our system nailed down and has made it tremendously successful.”
“The homegrown talent that has been produced and potential champions they have, is crazy. They way Swick runs it has it working so well. It’s great because it is so cheap to live and train in that economy. In San Jose it’s almost impossible for people to pay us, because it’s so expensive to live. AKA Thailand has everything there!”
“(AFS) American Fighting Systems is what we are working on next. It was developed by myself, Joanna Takacs and Derek Yuen. It combines Muay Thai, Western Boxing, Taekwondo, and other martial arts. It will be a belt system. You cant get a belt in Muay Thai or Kickboxing, but you can also soon get a black belt in AFS. The system we create will be based on the discipline that Derek and I formulated.”
Follow Javier On Instagram: Instagram.com/AKAJav
The American Kickboxing Academy: AKAKickbox.com
AKA Thailand: AKAThailand.com