Javier Mendez not interested in Islam Makhachev vs. Ilia Topuria: ‘He doesn’t need to fight him’

Javier Mendez thinks Ilia Topuria needs to pump the brakes on his push to get a lightweight title shot against Islam Makhachev.

Mendez, head coach of Makhachev and other notable fighters at American Kickboxing Academy, heard of Topuria’s request to fight Makhachev but was not interested in the idea. Mendez believes there are bigger challenges at the moment other than the UFC featherweight champion.

“You know what, for me, if Islam were to do another champ vs. champ fight, it’s better for him to go up in weight,” Mendez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “If we had the choice, if UFC told us we could fight with the UFC welterweight champion or Topuria, we’d choose welterweight. That’s what I want. I’m confident that that’s what Islam wants, too.”

Mendez has respect for Topuria and his body of work but pays little mind to his comments. At the end of the day, it’s the promotion that decides what’s next for both fighters and not Topuria.

“(Ilia) is a great fighter, and he’s been doing well, but he (Makhachev) doesn’t need to fight him,” Mendez said. “That’s my opinion. I think Tsarukyan is a better choice. That’s what I think. Ilia needs to do more in his weight class. He wants to go up in weight and challenge for a second belt, but we want to do the same. And what happened? The UFC didn’t let us. We wanted to, but they told us to defend. What UFC tells us to do, that’s what we have to do. It doesn’t matter what you say, what we say, what Ilia says. What matters is what the UFC wants.

“The UFC just comes up to you and offers you a fight, and you get to say yes or no. They’re not going to have you picking your fights. Maybe there’s a chance they do that a little, but only people like Conor McGregor and Khabib if he were still fighting because of what they draw.”

Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) defends his lightweight belt against Dustin Poirier (30-8 MMA, 22-7 UFC) this Saturday in the main event of UFC 302, which takes place at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Like Makhachev, Mendez suggests Topuria should defend his belt first against someone in his weight class – starting with whom many believe to be the greatest UFC featherweight champion.

“Look at all the title defenses Alexander Volkanovski had to do at featherweight,” Mendez said. “He’s the No. 1 at featherweight, so why not give him a rematch? He should get a rematch from everything he’s done. And look, Ilia is even saying he wants to fight Conor McGregor, but Alexander Volkanosvki wants the fight again and is willing to go to Spain to fight you. So hey, give the man what he deserves. How many times did he defend the featherweight title? He needs the rematch.”

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

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie