Right after his interim title-sealing win over Chad Mendes (highlights here) in the main event of last weekend’s (Sat., July 11, 2015) UFC 189 pay-per-view (PPV) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Conor McGregor revealed that he had far worse injuries than the broken rib that unfortunately forced champion Jose Aldo to pull out of fight.
His head spinning in the aftermath of his dramatic come-from-behind finish of Mendes, McGregor wouldn’t go into detail about just what the injury was. But during an appearance on The MMA Hour today (Tues., July 14, 2015) his Straight Blast Gym (SBG) coach John Kavanagh did, noting that he walked out to the cage with a bit of nervousness considering that ‘Notorious’ hadn’t done one single round of live wrestling to combat NCAA All-American Mendes’ best skill:
“I’ve gotta be honest, when we were walking out to this fight it was in the back of my mind that we haven’t done a single round of live wrestling,” Kavanagh said. “I had my eyebrows raised and thought, let’s see what happens.
“Really the first round of full wrestling was done in that fight,” Kavanagh said. “His timing a little bit on the sprawl and dealing with the shot was not quite there. It started getting better as the fight went on. Do I think a rematch if it does happen down the line would be different? Yes, for both of them.”
For Kavanagh, any concerns about McGregor’s knee injury, which supposedly healed up only two weeks before his fight, were alleviated when he saw his fighter’s performance during the first round:
“That was the first full test on the knee and he flew through it,” Kavanagh said. “He was able to deal with some oppositions. There were some scrambles, there was a lot of wrestling and it held up and there’s nothing wrong. So we’re 100 percent confident that it’s perfect now.”
And even despite an injury that wouldn’t allow him to train fully, Kavanagh clarified that McGregor never considered pulling out. That, he said, is what separates him from the rest of the division with a championship mentality:
“When I spoke to Conor and I saw this absolutely unshakeable confidence, I knew it was the right decision,” Kavanagh said. “I knew it didn’t matter who it was going to be.
“For Conor to have done what he did and accepted that change, I think that showed a championship mentality.”
McGregor will now move on to an awaited and hype-filled grudge match with Aldo, potentially sometime early next year. But if you ask Kavanagh, McGregor doesn’t need to beat the undisputed Aldo to earn the moniker of championship. He believes that the warrior spirit he exhibited in facing Mendes on short notice is enough for him to be called the real champion:
“I feel like he’s the champion,” Kavanagh said. “He’s done pretty special things in the UFC in quite a short period of time. He’s been willing to accept any challenge. I don’t know if there’s many fighters with what he had in front of him with two weeks notice would have accepted [it].”
McGregor certainly deserves credit for accepting the fight and dispatching of Mendes, and he has undoubtedly done what no other fighter has in taking the UFC by storm in such a short period of time. But for McGregor and SBG to say that they had an injury worse than Aldo’s debilitating rib ailment when his knee had supposedly ‘healed up to 100 percent’ two weeks before the fight may be a bit of a stretch. At the end of the day, Aldo is still the true champion until someone proves otherwise.
What do you think?