Kavanagh says that a couple of months before McGregor joined the UFC, someone tried to sign him as his manager to a very restrictive deal.
That would have cost him around 20-25% of his earnings in return for something like €1,000 a month. Conor was rushing to sign it, saying: ‘I’m getting a thousand euros for doin nuthin!’ I begged him not to sign – I literally ripped the deal away from him – and to this day I bring it up every now and again: ‘Do you remember that?’ Because Conor will still get a contract, flick straight to the end, and look at the number without knowing what he’s committing to…He was on the dole, earning €100 a fight and training at the height of winter in a cold gym. His annual earnings for that five-year period was something like €1,500 a year! There was no money. Now it’s a 10-car cavalcade wherever we go, but back then there was just the two of us.
Shortly after, McGregor earned a €60,000 fight bonus for his first round finish of Marcus Brimage, and is now the highest paid UFC athlete.
Kavanagh talks about the first time McGregor came to his gym.
Well, it was supposed to be a spar, but it was a fight. Owen [Reddy] was the top dog back then and the new guy [McGregor] wanted to test himself…Owen had been with me a long time — he was my boy — but this new kid moved in a certain way. He was a southpaw, a good boxer and he just had a way about him that made you go: ‘What’s going to happen here?’ And he caught Owen with a good shot and put him down. [And then he floored Aisling Daly], which sounds worse than it was. He wasn’t hitting her in the head or anything, but just happened to throw a body shot that hit her in the sweet spot, the solar plexus, and put her down…I got a little emotional because Ash had been with me a long time and the other guys would look after her. But this new guy had come in and put her down, and my protective nature kicked in. I was still fighting at that stage, or hadn’t stopped that long, so I put the gloves on… actually, he has corrected me on that and says it was bare knuckles. But I held him down and beat the shit out of him, without putting too fine a point on it… I kept hitting him in the body until he couldn’t breathe and then I looked at him: ‘What’s it going to be? We can train or we can fight?’ And he was OK from the next day.
Kavanagh talks about going to J-Lo’s party with McGregor and Ronaldo. When McGregor was taken away by Lopez for a dance, Ronaldo questioned the coach.
Ronaldo comes over and tells me that he reads everything I write and follows me on Instagram. I’m thinking ‘Wait until I tell my dad about this’…[Even though I moved to another part of the party] he kept coming over, and then he would drift away, and then I’d be in another part [of the house] and he’d come over again…This guy is just like Conor. Just a one-track mind, no interest in anything else. Civilians would call them obsessed or say there was something wrong with them, but you can’t get to that level unless you have that personality.
In advance of Kavanagh’s appearance on The Late Late Show, McGregor gives a shout out to his coach and the fans.
It’s great to see Coach Kavanagh getting the recognition he deserves. What an amazing coach he is. I wouldn’t be in the position I am in without [his] guidance throughout the years…I want to give a shout out out everyone back in Ireland…I want to thank you and let you know that it’s that motivation that continues to push me on, to work harder each day and stay focused, and make the right moves on this crazy journey I’m on.
Coach Kavanagh says that McGregor will decide on his next fight when he returns to Ireland in the next few days. On the potential of a fight with Alvarez:
It’s a great fight…It’s a pretty straightforward fight for Conor to be honest. Will he get it? I can tell you that we’re in talks. It will be decided whether they are going to go with that fight within days…If the next fight is for the lightweight strap, they will take the featherweight belt off Conor. I think that’s a given. I guess, the little bit of consolation Conor will take from that is that it will be two guys he has beaten fighting for the vacant featherweight title…It will probably be (Max) Holloway and (Jose) Aldo. He beat one in 13 seconds and one on one leg. It’s hard to say that on paper he isn’t the champion when he’s beaten the two guys who are fighting for his belt. He’ll probably do the same to the lightweight division.
At the BAMMA 26 press conference in Dublin, Kavanagh says that he used to struggle to sell ticket for McGregor fights.
You know sometimes I laugh because I used to run small amateur shows, well they were pro fights back then but they really were amateur shows, and I remember I had a show with Gunnar Nelson, Conor McGregor, Aisling Daly and Paddy Holohan and it was a tenner for a ticket and I struggled selling them. I’d probably sell them out now pretty handy, but what I’d say to fans now is [BAMMA 26] is your chance to look at future stars [in Irish MMA]. For me BAMMA is more or less the top show in Europe, and you don’t have to be bowing down to the UFC, because as far as I’m concerned, these fighters have skill levels that are as good as anyone, regardless if they fight in the UFC or BAMMA.
Kavanagh says McGregor’s UFC 202 training not only used training partners capable of mimicking Diaz inside the cage on MMA sparring day, they also attempted to mimic fight day conditions in every other possible way.
We made sure that we did a lot of very accurate fight simulations. On our MMA sparring day, we really treated it the exact same as fight day. What he was going to eat on fight day, how he was going to rest – we mimicked it perfectly. We left the house at the same time he was going to leave the house for fight day. One of the guys that we brought in as a sparring partner, they didn’t hang out together, they didn’t become friends, they didn’t chat to each other. And when they would go into the gym, they would get changed in a different room and they wouldn’t talk to each other until they were actually sparring. And then, as sort of a stroke of luck, this particular guy we got, he actually liked to do some shit-talking.
Coach John Kavanagh on Conor McGregor at UFC 202 | Mentality of Combat Sports
In reply to a screenshot of an article where Kavanagh said he’d prefer for McGregor to go to 155lb and fight Alvarez for the lightweight championship, and in addition predicted a second round knockout, Henry says:
John Kavanagh, for a jiu-jitsu coach who can’t event teach his student Conor McGregor how to tie his belt and just got subbed quick you have a lot to say. PS give the proceeds of your book to the striking coach, he deserves it.
@SandhuMMA it won't. I'll focus on my fighter. I'm not a fighter and I'm not interested in headlines, I'm just a coach doing my best.
Kavanagh writes an article for The 42, where he talks about UFC 200 and what he would like McGregor to do next.
A lot of Conor’s fights have been short and relatively straightforward — which is great, because those wins are also to be enjoyed — but to see him go 25 minutes and face adversity, especially when so many people expected him to lose, it doesn’t get much better than that when you face those odds and come out with a victory…Where do we go from here? Well, we’re taking a short while to enjoy this victory, first of all, because it’s something we invested a lot in…I think it’s important to enjoy each victory, at least to a certain extent. Conor was actually back doing cardio work less than 48 hours after last weekend’s fight, so the training has continued…From a personal point of view, my own preference would be a lightweight title bout against reigning champion Eddie Alvarez next. Conor can make 145lbs to defend his featherweight belt, absolutely, but I just think 155lbs suits him best. Ultimately that’s Conor’s decision, not mine…If and when that fight is announced, I would be leaning towards a second-round knockout in Conor’s favour.
Kavanagh also says he welcomes the idea of a fight at Croke Park, in Dublin, and that non-US fights should be scheduled for Irish local time.
Coach Kavanagh confirms to MMA Hour that McGregor did not injure his foot or leg during his fight with Diaz. McGregor landed 40 kicks to the leg of Diaz throughout the 25 minutes.
It’s a bad bruise and it’s very, very painful but there’s no damage. He never mentioned it [that he was injured] but I saw. If I remember correctly, in the third round there were one or two where Nate did turn his knee out and started checking them. And the range was a little bit wrong so he was kind of slapping with the foot and caught Nate’s knee. I just remember seeing that but I knew with adrenaline and with his mindset, it wasn’t going to make a difference. His shin could be clean snapped and he wasn’t going to stop for the five rounds. We discussed it as well. He knew he was going to bang up his left leg. That was going to be the sacrifice. It was going to be a bruised leg but victorious.
In his interview on MMA Hour, Kavanagh talks about the effect of McGregor’s training camp.
I think the first round of the fight was all Conor. I think there is the technical superiority there. I don’t think that will have changed with 18 weeks training. I don’t think Nate will have been able to catch up on that. Clearly the way the contest ended, there was a substantial conditioning difference between the two. That’s what we have changed. Skill wise, it takes maybe ten years, the 10,000 hour rule, to get to a mastery level in something. But conditioning wise, 18 weeks is a lifetime… So I think he is the somewhat perfect MMA fighter now.
On McGregor’s mood:
I have never seen him like this six days out from a fight. Six days out from a fight is normally…you got to creep around the house a bit because the weight cut’s in, he’s tired of training at this stage and all the media obligations. Where we didn’t have to do all that much this time, there is no weight to be cut, training went perfect. He is like a kid on Christmas Eve.
UFC releases a second trailer for Bad Blood, showing McGregor sparring with southpaws, including Wallace.
I’m certainly preparing a lot more specific. Usually, I don’t prepare specific, because they always pull out, every time. I know Nate will show up. This time I know this fight will go down. This time I know I’ll be facing a tall, lanky southpaw, with the height, the weight, and the reach on me. So I am preparing accordingly…I’m feeling very confident. It’s gonna be a bad night for Nate.
For the first fight we didn’t even have one training session with a similar opponent. Now, it’s all we’ve done for the last few months.
Kavanagh says that, after his loss to Sitenkov in 2008, McGregor stopped attending SBG and went missing for a few weeks. Concerned by his behaviour, McGregor’s mother, Margaret, called Kavanagh to try and get him to convince her son to return to training and steer him back on track.
Yeah (it was big). Maybe you and me wouldn’t be talking now (if it didn’t happen). At that stage, he’d already disappeared for four or six weeks. I kind of just moved on with what I was doing and sort of half forgot about him if I’m being honest. Over the years, I must have had what must be over tens of thousands of guys come through my doors at this stage. You get these little flames of enthusiasm and sparks of possibilities but then they fizzle out for the 99.9-per-cent. So, I think I was already putting him down to being one of those could’ve been type people. And maybe if I hadn’t of driven up that night to try give us one more chance, maybe he would’ve been a has been and be that guy on the bar stool talking about ‘I could’ve been that guy, I could’ve done this.’ So yeah, I’m glad his mother called me and I’m of course very happy that I went up there and we worked it out and he came back. And since then, we’ve been a fairly rock-solid team.
In an article for The 42, Kavanagh details his approach to McGregor’s training.
We’ve been following that pattern now for what feels like a long time — about 19 weeks in total come fight night. Although it seems like it has been a long process, we’re definitely seeing the fruits of our labour. There are certain fitness tests that we have numbers on, and the improvements from when Conor began to where he is now have been dramatic. There’s no comparing this training camp to any we have done previously. I can’t stress enough how different this has been. As many of you will probably already know, routine hasn’t been something you would have associated with Conor’s preparations in the past. But this has been like nothing we’ve done before and it’s going to be a massive help for his next number of fights, not just this one…We’re learning about this art as we go along…I strongly believe that will manifest itself in Las Vegas in 12 days’ time…I’ve often spoken of how drastically Conor improves with each training camp, and while there’s certainly no denying that he gets better for every fight, this has undoubtedly been his biggest leap forward yet…Patience will be essential for Conor in this fight. I’m veering towards a fourth-round finish in his favour, following an opening three rounds which I expect him to dominate in the same manner he did in the first frame of the previous fight.
In an interview on Fox Sports, Coach Kavanagh says McGregor is looking to make a statement.
I really feel it has to be a very dominant performance to make the type of statement that Conor wants to make. For me, round 1 was quite one sided. I’m pretty sure anybody would have scored that round for Conor. That’s the way I see it going this time. Even more in Conor’s favor, because there was some exchanges in that first round that he was still figuring out which way Nate moves. Whereas now it’s been a fairly obsessive couple of months where we feel we have a very strong game plan to counter everything he does. I expect it to be one sided, but how long as it lasts, it’s difficult to predict. But as long as it does last, I expect it to be one sided.
Conor McGregor's Coach John Kavanagh Is Looking For Dominance At UFC 202
Kavanagh says he knew McGregor was special, after seeing him train at SBG Ireland’s gym as an 18-year-old novice to mixed martial arts.
It was very obvious from early on that Conor had this unusual set of skills contained in the one person. It’s tempting to talk about Muhammad Ali when you talk about Conor just from the showman side of things. There is a certain set skills, as Liam Neeson might say, that are required to become the no.1 in this world. And certainly being very good at the sport is a huge part of it. But to have the x-factor, to be able to have charisma, to be able to speak on the mic and be able to deal with the heavy media attention, that’s something that I don’t think you can be taught. That’s something that’s in somebody or it’s not. I’ve seen it before with guys who are incredible in the gym but the can’t do it on fight night or they can’t handle the pressures of dealing with a bunch of interviews and so on and so forth.
Despite his admiration for Aldo’s performance, Kavanagh says he does not expect a different outcome when Aldo meets McGregor, most likely in November. He also expresses his regret at the fact that Edgar was unable to get the job done against Aldo.
Probably I had a little personal vision or dream of it being Edgar going in and doing amazing against Aldo…It would have been just amazing. As storylines go, that would have been really, really exciting. Really, really interesting. But I guess Aldo showed he had ‘The Answer’ again, and I think Aldo — I said this in the lead-up to Conor’s fight — is one of the best in the world at beating short wrestlers…There are certain things he’s doing that are really, really brilliant, but then on the other side I look at it and go, ‘It’s pretty much the same guy that [Conor] beat the last time’. It’s not the most unpredictable style — Muay Thai, defensive wrestling. It just looked a very similar guy…I think [Aldo] has improved a lot at beating that sort of guy again, but Conor’s not a short wrestler. I’m sure Aldo will have a more tempered approach the next time. I think the first time he did certain things that I don’t think he will do the second time. It will be very hard to beat 13 seconds the second time but he will definitely want to show his dominance and that it wasn’t a lucky punch.
Kavanagh says that he expects McGregor to win against Diaz so comprehensively that another rematch won’t be required.
I want this win to be in such a way that there are no questions. If this is a back-and-forth contest, if Conor ekes out a decision, then it has to be [a rubber match]. Nate obviously did fantastic in their first match. Conor accepted the change of weight class and style with very short notice, but you’ve got to give massive props to Nate. He accepted it on very short notice [too]. Now let’s do it where both guys have had months and months of preparation, and there can be no questions asked. And let’s make the victory in such a way that no one can say, ‘Well, he was close, he was close, let’s do the best out of three’. Neither can bitch or moan. Conor can’t say anything about it — ‘Well, new style of opponent, new weight class’ — and Nate can’t say anything about, ‘Well, it was on nine day’s notice’. No. You both knew who you were fighting, you both knew at what weight class, you both had months of preparation. Who won that one? I want that to be decisive. Now, in saying that, maybe there still is cause for a rubber match, but I think it’ll be done in such a way that there won’t be.
Coach Kavanagh says McGregor is reaching new levels of training in Las Vegas.
If I was to sum it up, there’s order to this training camp. There’s no chaos. Everything is very disciplined, very military style. Beforehand, it was kind of done on Conor’s whim, how he felt on a certain day. This training camp has been based on cycles. Every day, we start at 1 p.m. sharp. In the evenings, we do cardio training. Everything is measured, nothing is left to ‘How you feeling?’ We have a performance doctor taking care of the performance side of things, I’m taking care of the fighting side of things, everybody is working together and nothing we’ve done before comes close to comparison for this one…he last couple of weeks there has been a real level of growth to what he has been able to do. Now, he really is a truly elite athlete. He has always been an incredible fighter, but now, training like a true Olympian-style champion — for me, that’s a scary combination.
McGregor and Kavanagh talk about the fighter’s training program in a profile in the Irish Examiner. McGregor starts training at 1pm, with intense workout for over an hour. After lunch he spars with partners brought over from all around the world, finishing with more cardio in the evening. McGregor:
[For UFC 196] I was waking up late and training late, showing up here at maybe 2pm and still being here till one in the morning. Like a buzzing light. Buzzzz. I was never fully on and I was never off. I was just there. That’s not what this game is about. You need to be…[clicks fingers]…On.
Kavanagh admits he did not pay enough attention to McGregor’s training, and that the Diaz loss has helped them focus.
After the Aldo fight, I’ll admit in terms of training Conor, my foot went off the pedal altogether. I got caught up with stuff in the gym…It was supposed to be only for a week or two but it turned into six or seven and then I realised ‘We’re just two weeks out from this and I’ve barely done a session with Conor.’ Now it’s every day. We’re here at 1pm. Sharp…The only reason it didn’t happen for Conor in round two was because he got tired. That’s one thing that will not happen in this contest…The Conor that’s going out there on August 20 is an absolutely new model. This is Conor 3.0 compared to what went up against Diaz in March. And I’ve said it to Conor, whenever he’s fought his next few fights and he calls it a day, we will look at the first Diaz fight as the absolute most positive thing that ever happened to us because it taught us so much.
Kavanagh says that the rumoured $100 million fight between McGregor and Mayweather would happen, but only if revenues were split evenly between both men.
There was talk that Conor would get $7 million and Floyd would get the rest of it. It will be an even share or Conor will not do it . . . There is no one generating the type of media that Conor i. It would have to be an even split. Conor is not going to take it if Floyd is getting more than him. Floyd needs Conor more than Conor needs Floyd right now.
Kavanagh said he believed that McGregor could beat Mayweather, despite the boxer having a record of 49 wins and no defeats.
Floyd is amazing. He is incredible. I don’t think there is a boxer who could beat him. He has figured out boxing, but Conor doesn’t move like a boxer.
Kavanagh says he expects McGregor to ask for an equity stake in UFC if it is sold. Kavanagh said “it is true” that the UFC was for sale, but he does not know the details.
Conor will have thought of this and I am sure, when he is sitting down with his new overlords, he will have that conversation…What will happen when it is sold, if it is sold? Short answer is, I don’t know what will happen the daily operations of it . . . it is a truly global company now. Like any big takeover, there will be a period of finding your feet again.
At Win or Learn – An Evening with John Kavanagh, McGregor talks about UFC 196 and 202.
To see the way that last fight went, I can’t live with it…The last fight, mid-round, I wasn’t listening, I wasn’t paying attention. That was one of the errors I made…I was a little bit heavy around the mid-section, I was over-trained and it came back and bit me in the ass…I’m looking forward to the rematch; to going back out and showing what we have learned…I’m working my nuts off for this rematch. Believe me on that. I’m feeling very confident that I’ll go in and toy with this man. He was one or two shots from being done.
According to an excerpt from Kavanagh’s upcoming autobiography, the lack of cutting weight caused a lack of focus in McGregor’s team leading up to UFC 196.
Not having to cut weight for the fight against Diaz was supposedly helpful, but in hindsight it was undoubtedly a hindrance. Cutting weight may not be much fun, but it does serve as a reminder that you’re preparing for a fight. It focuses the mind and has been an enormous part of what we’ve been doing. Without that ritual, things were just weird. It left us all in an unusual state of mind. The routine we had established was suddenly absent. The need to cut weight gets the fighter in the zone and lets them know that a fight is on the horizon. If a person is starving, they’re in survival mode. It focuses the mind and taps into the reptilian part of the brain. When Conor is cutting weight, he views his opponent as an obstacle in the way of his next meal. It’s a primal thing. On the other hand, when you’ve eaten a good dinner, all you want to do is relax in front of the TV. The fire in your belly is replaced by food. Being stuffed isn’t conducive to maintaining a competitive mindset.
Kavanagh says another mistake was to stay in Ireland as long as they did, delaying the trip to the United States until just two weeks prior to fight night.
Two weeks isn’t quite long enough to spend in the US before a fight like that. We need at least three, ideally four…There were mistakes made and, as the coach, I’ll take ownership of them. We should have travelled out sooner. We should have maintained the same level of meticulous preparation and competitive mindset that we had become accustomed to. We won’t be tucking into desserts, driving around in flashy cars and fucking about.
During a talk with MMA Underground, Kavanagh says he thinks McGregor-Mayweather will happen.
It puts it on hold. I think that contest will happen eventually but it’s on hold for now. I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t at some stage. I think it’s a bigger fight; I think there’s a lot of intrigue about it. I could be 100% wrong. Right now we’re focusing on August 20th. We have an important rematch – a mixed martial arts fight – but if in time that fight was to be announced it would not surprise me and I think it would be an interesting one.
It’s hard to beat Floyd with boxing because he seems to be almost perfect in terms of how defensive he is. I think if you’re a classically trained boxer you’re gonna lose to Floyd because he just seems to make everybody look quite ordinary. But maybe somebody who doesn’t strike like a boxer might be a new look for him. Maybe the odd sly knee and leg kick as well. [Laughs.] You get two warnings. [Laughs.]
John Kavanagh Exclusive ahead of June 24th Release of his New Book "Win Or Learn"
Kavanagh says he and McGregor have been watching the featherweight division and that what happens next will depend on how the next couple months play out
The short answer is I don’t know [if Conor will return to 145 pounds]. I’m very intrigued to see the Aldo and Edgar fight. I hope Aldo is fully recovered from the bad knockout. I thought (Chad) Mendes went back in there really quick after the knockout against Conor. People don’t realize the damage it does — it takes a long time to recover, and I think Mendes went down quicker in that fight because of that. Maybe if he’d let himself rest a bit more he might have had more fight for Edgar. I hope that’s not the case for Aldo, (I hope) we get to see a solid version of Aldo and a new kind of improved Edgar, and see what different from the first fight. So yea, let’s see that, and assess after the rematch. It’s kind of those two names and (Max) Holloway kind of in the mix, so it’s an interesting time….I thought Holloway looked fantastic the other night [at UFC 199]. I’ve said it ever since Conor fought Max, I had him as the second best 145er in the division.
John Kavanagh Exclusive ahead of June 24th Release of his New Book "Win Or Learn"
Kavanagh says McGregor will definitely fight again.
Conor’s going to fight again. He’s going to fight at 201 or 202, or 203 – whatever the deal might be. We’ll see what’s next you know when that plays out. 200 is the fight that everybody has been looking forward to for a long time. It is what it is, the show is going to roll on and Conor will fight again.
Kavanagh says he did not know McGregor had announced he was back on UFC 200, until he saw McGregor’s tweet.
We left Iceland very early this morning and we ended up getting separated, going different ways. I turned my phone on. I was with Gunni and Paddy Holohan and thing’s started going crazy, I saw this message. I didn’t know about this and neither did his manager, so it was news to both of us when we saw it. I haven’t spoken to Conor since….I presume I’m going to see Conor at training and find out the exact news, but that’s how I heard about it…Things seem to be coming down to… I guess ego isn’t the right word, but at some stage you’ve got to see that it’s pointless. It upset so many fans that wanted to see this fight and ignore the kind of numbers that it brought in over a press conference where it tends to be more or less the same questions asked every time. It’s not the same for Conor to have to travel half way across the world when others only have to go down the road.
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