UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s longtime friend and head-coach, John Kavanagh, recently did a three hour Q&A at Sydney’s Star Casino on Friday night (April 7, 2017) from Australia, and answered a plethora of questions regarding ‘The Notorious One’s’ legendary career.
The first topic of discussion, of course, was the pending super fight boxing match between McGregor and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. UFC President Dana White has already confirmed he is trying to make the fight happen, and Kavanagh has already admitted McGregor is in preparation for the bout.
Furthermore, the SBG Ireland frontman also stated that McGregor’s motivation in his combat sports career is not money – but competition. If it’s competition that the Irishman is seeking then he’ll get just that and more in a boxing match with Mayweather (quotes via News.com.au):
“What I see happening this year is the Mayweather fight, maybe the end of the summer or something like that … (But) let’s say Mayweather doesn’t want to do it, for whatever reason. Then I could see us fighting in MMA by the end of the summer, (for) the lightweight belt. One thing you’ve got to understand about Conor — and this might rattle your bones — is his motivation is not money when it comes to fighting. Right now, even with his ridiculous spending habits, he wouldn’t be able to spend his money by the time he retired.
“It’s not money that’s getting him up in the morning. It’s the competition. It’s facing someone he genuinely feels is a threat. Like when we lost to Nate (Diaz), he could’ve gone straight down to lightweight and fought (Eddie) Alvarez, who turned out to be a pretty straightforward opponent. But that wasn’t his interest. His interest was ‘I’ve got to beat this guy, this guy’s beaten me’. That’s a real challenge … I don’t know what name out there in the lightweight division is that guy.
“I would have loved to see Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and Tony (Ferguson) have a great fight (for the interim title), the winner win definitively and get on the mic and call out Conor. And I know that would get him riled up. That didn’t happen.”
McGregor is currently the king of the UFC’s 155-pound division, and because he is expected to take a lengthy layoff from Octagon competition to enjoy the birth of his first child, an attempt to make an interim lightweight title was made. No. 1-ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov and No. 2-ranked Tony Ferguson were scheduled to co-main event UFC 209 on pay-per-view (PPV) last month, however, ‘The Eagle’ was forced out of the bout the day before the event after being hospitalized due to weight cutting complications.
The winner of the bout was expected to take on McGregor upon his return to mixed martial arts (MMA) competition, but Kavanagh doesn’t believe either one of them would have presented a huge challenge to his fighter:
“Too many kebabs for Khabib … I had picked Khabib to win that. I thought he would be in a few difficult situations for the first round or two and then he’d wear down Tony as he does to all his opponents. It will sound cocky but I genuinely don’t see a massive challenge in either of them. If you look at their last couple of fights — Khabib got badly rocked by (Michael) Johnson and he really struggles to make that weight. I think a great fight for Khabib would be Gunnar Nelson (at welterweight) this summer.
“Khabib actually weighs more than Gunnar outside of fighting. I’ve heard he weighs 90kg. Gunni is 81kg. And Tony, he fought that guy (Lando Vannata) who just came into the UFC and got punched around for a couple of rounds and then fair play to Tony, he’s tough as nails, he took a lot of punishment and then went on to win. But you can’t do that with Conor. In round one, if you eat four or five solid shots, unless you’re Nate Diaz, you are going to be unconscious. He’s a one-off. That’s just Homer Simpson there. He’s a one-off.”
Following the loss McGregor became obsessed with rematching Diaz and avenging his sole loss under the UFC banner. McGregor went as far as yelling at Dana White and former owner Lorenzo Fertitta over the phone to make the fight happen, despite advice from Kavanagh to forgo the rematch and take the lightweight title fight instead:
“We said to Conor afterwards, ‘what do you want to do next? They’ll still give you the lightweight title if you want’. And he was like ‘no, I want to fight Nate’. And in my head I’m thinking ‘why do you want to fight him again? He is terrifying’. When I was in the corner and you just see Nate plodding forward. And Conor has really nice technique on his hands and clearly has a very hard punch and Nate could just take them and be like ‘what bitch?’
“So we knew going into the rematch it’s probably going to go 25 minutes. Because he has very good jiu jitsu, you can’t knock him out … so that was one of the moments I just had to tip my hat to him (McGregor), what courage and bravery that took … I was there the following day and he was screaming on the phone to Dana (White) and Lorenzo (Fertitta) ‘you put that f***ing fight together’ and he was not letting go of it. And I was thinking ‘dude, let’s f***ing fight Alvarez, have you seen him?
“He’s not that scary’. But he wanted that challenge and he pursued it and he made the changes. The training we did was sickening. All fighters like sparring and all fighters like rolling but making weight and getting that insane level of cardio — that’s the part that’s not as fun. And to be with him during those times and to see what he put himself through … and then to go and face someone that to me is like in a comic is his nemesis.”
The pair rematched just five months later in the main event of UFC 202. McGregor was able to find his way to a majority decision win after a tremendous 25-minute contest with Diaz, and immediate talk of a trilogy bout between the two began.
McGregor noted following the rematch that the third fight would have to take place at 155 pounds, and Kavanagh believes that rematch ‘has to happen'”
“For me the trilogy has to happen. That’s the fight for me … Definitely at 155 … (And) I don’t think Nate is going to have the same superpower he does at 170 — that ability to walk through shots. He’s done a lot of rounds with Conor and taken a lot of punishment — (and) there is a timeline on that.
“You can only walk through punches for so long. At 155 — I think he will struggle to make that weight, first of all — and if he does make 155 and Conor cracks him like that, I do think there will be a stoppage.”
Instead of taking on Diaz next McGregor refocused his attention on making history yet again, as he challenged Eddie Alvarez in the main event of the UFC’s first show from Madison Square Garden at the UFC 205 PPV. McGregor, who still held the featherweight title at the time of the fight, knocked out Alvarez in the second round to become the first ever dual-weight champion.
The victory came with great ease to McGregor and company, and Kavanagh breathed a sigh of relief in the corner as he was able to see his fighter fight ‘a human again’:
“When I watched that fight I was like (breathing a sigh of relief) ‘a human again’. He’s not fighting Nate. This is what happens to normal people when they get walloped in the head. Nate just seems to eat them up. I didn’t think it would go any different … Alvarez is a great guy, but technically I knew there was going to be leagues between them.”