Javier Mendez: MMA Coach Profile (Gym, Methods, Champions)

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Do you have a question about MMA coach, Javier Mendez?

In this MMA coach profile, we’ll look at Javier Mendez and explore his background, gym, training methods, successes, fighters, the champions he developed, and more.

Who Is MMA Coach Javier Mendez?

Javier Mendez, born in Mexico on September 18, 1970, is a former kickboxer and current MMA coach who founded one of the best MMA gyms in the world, the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA).

Javier Mendez moved to America at 6 years old and started his martial arts journey with Tang Soo Do at 8 years old after being inspired by Bruce Lee’s movies. 

He then picked up taekwondo and eventually transitioned to kickboxing where he trained under the mentorship of Walter Carvalho and Scott Coker (Bellator CEO).

His kickboxing talent led him to become the ISKA light-cruiserweight champion in 1992, a title which he defended for two years. He then moved up in weight and became the ISKA light heavyweight champion in 1995. ISKA was one of the biggest kickboxing organizations in the 1990s.

What Is the Name of Javier Mendez’s Gym?

Javier Mendez founded the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California, in 1985. He founded the gym to build a strong team of kickboxers who could learn and improve with each other, while on his quest to become a two-weight ISKA world champion.

Naturally, Javier Mendez had many fighters asking him to coach them after he was finished with his own training session. This included the likes of kickboxing champions, Jerome Turcan and Jean-Claude Leuyer. Seeing coaching as a way to supplement his earnings, Mendez started coaching while still an active fighter.

In 1996, MMA fighter Brian Johnston came to Mendez for kickboxing coaching, and this planted the seed in his mind that he could become the premier striking coach for MMA fighters, with the sport rapidly increasing in popularity since the UFC’s birth in 1993.

This led to Javier Mendez retiring as a kickboxer in 1996 and committing full-time to coaching, specifically coaching MMA fighters who at the time were mostly wrestlers and not very skilled strikers.

American Kickboxing Academy Expansion

With the continued success of AKA, in 2011, AKA moved its headquarters to a larger facility in San Jose, California, to accommodate its growing number of fighters and coaches. The new 27,000-square-foot facility had a larger training area, more equipment, and improved amenities.

In 2014, AKA established an affiliate gym in Phuket, Thailand, called AKA Thailand, further solidifying AKA’s reputation as an elite training camp. AKA Thailand is run and owned by one of Javier Mendez’s former fighters, Mike Swick.

In 2023, AKA is sponsored by gorilla fighting and gorilla energy.

Who Are the Coaches at American Kickboxing Academy?

Here’s the list of coaches currently at American Kickboxing Academy and working with Javier Mendez:

  1. Ambur Dupis – Coach
  2. Ant Do – Coach
  3. Derek Yuen – Head Coach for Muay Thai – He’s been with AKA since 2014
  4. Eric Luna – Coach
  5. Felix De Leon – Coach
  6. Kyle Driscoll – Coach – He’s been with AKA since 2019
  7. Mark Climaco – Coach
  8. Mike Sotelo – Coach
  9. Reggie Queja – Coach
  10. Ron Keslar – Head Coach, Adult & Youth Jiu Jitsu
  11. Shane Keefe – Coach
  12. Sid Aguilar – Coach
  13. Thomas Diagne – Coach – He’s been with AKA since 2009
  14. Wayne Phillips – Head Coach, Youth Kickboxing/MMA – He’s been with AKA since 2016

Who Are Javier Mendez’s Fighters?

Many of the best MMA/UFC fighters have been coached by Javier Mendez. In alphabetical order, they are:

  1. Aaron Armijo
  2. Abubakar Nurmagomedov
  3. Adam Antolin
  4. Alejandro Perez
  5. Alex Khanbabian
  6. Allison Schmidt
  7. Andre Fialho
  8. Anival Dimas
  9. Anthony Dariano
  10. Anthony Do
  11. Anthony Figueroa
  12. Arjan Bhullar
  13. Arsen Yessengaliyev
  14. Ben Holscher
  15. Bethe Correia
  16. Billy Evangelista
  17. BJ Penn
  18. Bobby Lashley
  19. Bobby Southworth
  20. Brian Johnston
  21. Brianna Fortino
  22. Cain Velasquez
  23. Chuck Campbell
  24. Christian Wellisch
  25. Cung Le
  26. Cynthia Calvillo
  27. Dan Ige
  28. Daniel Allen
  29. Daniel Cormier
  30. Daniel Puder
  31. Deron Winn
  32. Diego Herzog
  33. Ed Ruth
  34. Ernesto Ancona
  35. Favian Gutierez
  36. Fernando Gonzalez
  37. Frank Shamrock
  38. Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez
  39. Gabriel Benítez
  40. Germaine de Randamie
  41. Gray Maynard
  42. Herschel Walker
  43. Islam Makhachev
  44. Islam Mamedov
  45. Isaiah Gonzalez
  46. John Cardenas
  47. Jon Fitch
  48. Josh Koscheck
  49. Josh Thomson
  50. Justin Wilcox
  51. Khabib Nurmagomedov
  52. Khadzhi Bestaev
  53. Kyle Crutchmer
  54. Kyle Kingsbury
  55. Lavar Johnson
  56. Leon Edwards
  57. Liam McGeary
  58. Luke Rockhold
  59. Mallory Martin
  60. Marius Žaromskis
  61. Mark Climaco
  62. Miesha Tate
  63. Mike Kyle
  64. Mike Swick
  65. Muhammed Lawal
  66. Nate Moore
  67. Ousmane Thomas Diagne
  68. Paul Buentello
  69. Phil Baroni
  70. Rich Crunkilton
  71. Romero Cotton
  72. Ron Keslar
  73. Ruslan Magomedov
  74. Salim Mukhidirov
  75. Sean Sherk
  76. Shawn Bunch
  77. Tagir Ulanbekov
  78. Tai Tuivasa
  79. Thomas Diagne
  80. Thomas Ponce DeLeon
  81. Todd Duffee
  82. Tony Johnson
  83. Trevor Prangley
  84. Tyson Griffin
  85. Umar Nurmagomedov
  86. Usman Nurmagomedov
  87. Zubaira Tukhugov

As can be seen by scanning through the list, Javier Mendez is widely successful and the roster of fighters he’s either coached or had training at his gym is among the best of any MMA coach in the game.

What Are Javier Mendez’s Coaching & Training Methods?

Here are Javier Mendez’s coaching and training methods that have made him a wildly successful MMA coach and gym owner.


Making him a great coach is his ability to teach his kickboxing talents to his MMA students.

His approach to striking is comprehensive, focusing on technique, footwork, and the effective use of focus mitts. He likes to use focus mitts because he believes they drastically improve a fighter’s accuracy and it also allows them to work their footwork and movement simultaneously.

He also emphasizes the importance of balance, movement, and relaxation to avoid being a static target and excel in offense and defense. A large focus of his striking coaching is how to strike while keeping wrestling in mind, as MMA fighters must always be wary of both.

Javier Mendez is very well-known for developing the striking skills of wrestlers/grapplers, and fighters like B.J. Penn, Daniel Cormier, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Islam Makhachev are great examples of wrestlers who honed their striking skills under Javier Mendez.


Mendez’s coaching philosophy is rooted in camaraderie and equality, fostering a supportive team dynamic at AKA where everyone helps each other, regardless of whether the coaches are there or not.

This is why there have been so many successful fighters coming out of AKA, and the reason why so many Russian and Muslim UFC fighters gravitate toward Javier Mendez. They see how the family dynamic at AKA fosters improvement for all fighters, while also enjoying their time there.

A great example of this family dynamic is how Javier Mendez allowed Khabib Nurmagomedov to coach alongside him, which led to them being jointly awarded MMA Junkie’s Coach of the Year for 2022.

It’s also known that for a new fighter to join AKA, every fighter in the gym has to agree. They have to know the newcomer won’t disturb the peace or be disrespectful in any way. This keeps Javier Mendez’s fighters focused and together.

Deep Understanding & Respect

Mendez’s coaching style is also characterized by his honesty, openness, and long-term relationships with his fighters.

He believes in the importance of understanding his fighters’ motivations and tailoring his coaching to their specific needs. He creates personalized training regimens and schedules that suit each fighter’s style rather than forcing them to adapt to a specific style.

Also, Javier Mendez founded AKA upon respect and he expects his fighters to respect what he’s teaching them and to listen fully.

Javier Mendez has claimed that in the 10 years of coaching Khabib, not once was Khabib disrespectful to him. With this kind of respect in a partnership, Javier Mendez gives his fighters his full focus.

Also, after each training session, Javier Mendez gathers his fighters to discuss the session and anything of importance, respectfully listening to what each fighter has to say.

He also dislikes disrespectful people and has been vocal about his dislike for Conor McGregor after he made distasteful comments about the death of Khabib’s father.

Mentality Coaching

Javier Mendez also tries to help his fighters grow personally and mentally. He knows that helping them grow this way also improves their fight performance.

One way he does this is by helping all fighters with promotional media training and learning English. Improving their communication skills helps them negotiate better UFC contracts and connect with the fans which are largely English speaking.

Javier Mendez is a father figure for many of his fighters, and his presence grounds his fighters and helps them focus on what matters: improving as fighters and winning fights.

He also understands the mental and emotional aspects of fighting (mind games), and he coaches his fighters to stay laser-focused before and during a fight.

One example was the coaching of Khabib, where he knew McGregor would use the art of war tactics and trash-talk him and his family. He coached him through how to respond and how to react, and Khabib was cool, calm, and collected and ultimately got the win against McGregor.

Javier Mendez’s Coaching Success (Who Are the Champions Under Javier Mendez?)

Having spent nearly 4 decades as a coach since 1985, Javier Mendez has achieved greatness as an MMA coach since he started coaching MMA fighters in 1996.

Perhaps his biggest achievement was in 2015 when he coached 3 fighters to become UFC champions at the same time. They were Cain Velasquez (heavyweight), Daniel Cormier (heavyweight), and Luke Rockhold (middleweight). 

Daniel Cormier went on to become a two-division UFC champion and Cain Velasquez a two-time UFC heavyweight champion. At the time, Javier Mendez was the first and only MMA coach to achieve this feat, but it has since been matched by Trevor Wittman who also had 3 simultaneous UFC champions.

Mendez trained his first UFC champion in 1997 when Frank Shamrock joined American Kickboxing Academy. Mendez was his trainer until his first retirement, which included being in his corner for his perfect 5-0 UFC run as UFC Middleweight Champion (now heavyweight champion).

The next fighter Javier Mendez turned into a UFC champion was B.J. Penn. Penn joined AKA in 2001 and went on to become the UFC lightweight and welterweight champion.

Fast forward, Javier Mendez also coached Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev to UFC titles, and most recently he coached Usman Nurmagomedov to become the Bellator lightweight champion in 2022. 

In total, Javier Mendez has coached 7 fighters to become UFC champions and 1 to become Bellator champion. In order, they are:

  1. Frank Shamrock (1997)
  2. B.J. Penn (2004, 2008)
  3. Cain Velasquez (2010, 2012)
  4. Daniel Cormier (2015, 2018)
  5. Luke Rockhold (2015)
  6. Khabib Nurmagomedov (2018)
  7. Islam Makhachev (2022)
  8. Usman Nurmagomedov (Bellator, 2022)

Javier Mendez remains the coach to have developed the most fighters into UFC champions.

Not only has Javier Mendez coached fighters to become UFC champions, but he’s also trained fighters when they were already MMA champions, such as Cung Le (Strikeforce), Josh Thomson (Strikeforce), Arjan Bhullar (ONE), Liam McGeary (Bellator), Maurice Smith (UFC), and Germaine de Randamie (UFC).

Strangely, Javier Mendez has never won the MMA Coach of the Year Award, which doesn’t make sense considering the huge success he’s had. Nevertheless, the MMA champions he’s produced speak for themselves.

Javier Mendez’s Online Presence

While Javier Mendez spends a lot of time at AKA helping his fighters, he also works online.

He has his own online course called MMA Fundamentals: Footwork for MMA Striking by Javier Mendez (not affiliated, just sharing for those interested), as well as a podcast called the Javier Mendez Podcast, which he started in February 2020 and now has over 775 videos (Youtube).

Lastly, Javier Mendez is also on Twitter.

The Bottom Line

Javier Mendez’s relentless pursuit of excellence, coupled with his ability to nurture and develop raw talent has made him one of the most respected coaches in MMA.

As AKA continues to produce world-class fighters on top of the already unbelievable list of fighters mentioned above, Mendez’s legacy is cemented as one of the greatest MMA coaches of all time.

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