Javier Mendez started training in martial arts in 1978, studying the discipline of Tang Soo Do. Mendez started his kickboxing career in 1985 in exhibition bout against Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, after which he began his pro kickboxing career. Shortly thereafter he established American Kickboxing Academy out of Capital Glass Shop and started training with a small contingent of students. After fighting his way through the kickboxing ranks, Mendez won his first world championship in 1992 when he became the ISKA Light-Cruiserweight Champion. After defending the title for two years, Mendez moved up in weight and won the ISKA Light Heavyweight Championship in 1995.
Mendez would also train several amateur and pro kickboxing champions such as pro champions like Travis Johnson, Jerome Turcan, Jean-Claude Leuyer. His amateur champions include Derek Yuen and Gary Owens.
In 1996, Mendez had his first foray into the world of mixed martial arts, when local UFC fighter Brian Johnston sought out Mendez to help him improve his kickboxing ability. Mendez then found his new career, becoming a MMA trainer. Mendez would train his first UFC champion in 1997, when Frank Shamrock would join American Kickboxing Academy. Mendez would be his trainer until his first retirement, which included being in his corner for his perfect 5-0 UFC run as UFC Middleweight Champion.
Mendez’s next big star would be B.J. Penn, whom was already a highly respected grappler but needed to learn how strike and become a complete fighter. Under Mendez, Penn would win his first three fights by knockout, earning the young fighter a title shot against then UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver. Although unsuccessful in his attempt to become champion, Penn’s training with Mendez would lay the foundation for his successful UFC run down the road.
Mendez would slowly build his stable of MMA fighters, which initially included Bobby Southworth, Josh Thomson, Mike Swick, Paul Buentello, Jon Fitch and Mike Kyle, all who would eventually find themselves in the UFC at some point in their careers. After the success of the Ultimate Fighter and with MMA booming, more fighters would seek Mendez’s tutelage like Ultimate Fighter standout Josh Koscheck. More and more fighters would join AKA’s stable of MMA fighters like Trevor Prangley, Phil Baroni, Nate Moore, Justin Wilcox, Kyle Kingsbury, Luke Rockhold, Cung Le, Mark Ellis, Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez. Mendez would also prepare former Heisman trophy winner Herschel Walker for his MMA career, training him and cornering for all his fights so far.
Many of AKA’s fighters would go on to win various championships in several different MMA organizations. In King of the Cage; Daniel Cormier would claim the heavyweight title and Mike Kyle winning the light heavyweight title. In Strikeforce alone, several of Mendez’s fighters won several championships titles; Cung Le becoming the middleweight champion by stopping former Mendez trainee Frank Shamrock; Josh Thomson becoming the lightweight champion; Bobby Southworth becoming the light heavyweight champion and Luke Rockhold as the Strikeforce Middleweight title.
Last but not least is Cain Velasquez, who became the UFC Heavyweight Champion at UFC 121 by stopping then champion Brock Lesnar with strikes.
In 2015, Javier became the ONLY trainer to have 3 concurrent UFC Champions (Heavyweight – Cain Velasquez, Light Heavyweight – Daniel Cormier, Middleweight – Luke Rockhold).
Mendez has built up AKA to be one of the more respected MMA camps in the world and he isn’t done yet, having many young fighters in the pipeline to become the next MMA stars.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nathan Mendelsohn at Claudio Franca Jiu Jitsu Academy in Santa Cruz, CA. Above all other things Nathan is the direct embodiment of BJJ lifestyle here in California. He trains it, he lives it, he breathes it . He's a true martial artist, an avid competitor, a well respected instructor and an all around great guy to know.
Nathan Mendelsohn is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Cláudio França and a representative of the Coalition 95 BJJ, a team based in Santa Cruz, CA. One of the top American grapplers of his generation, Mendelsohn is known not only for his tremendous list of achievements but also for his open minded attitude towards training – often breaking strict team taboos to practice with the best in this martial art/sport.