If you ask Conor McGregor how he feels about his first fight with Nate Diaz, which took place on March 5, 2016 at UFC 196, he’ll likely tell you that he beat Diaz up for the better part of two rounds before gassing and finding himself in a rear-naked-choke that would force him to tap near the tail end of the second frame. Prior to that bout, the “Notorious” one had run through the featherweight class, winning seven straight UFC bouts including a triumphant 13 second knockout over former longtime 145-pound king Jose Aldo. McGregor was essentially used to putting people away, but Diaz got the best of him in the end, and it was clear change was needed.
His coach, John Kavangah, admitted earlier today (August 13, 2016) that it was hard to argue with McGregor’s style given his past successes, but also said that change was indeed sought after:
“Each fighter has his own personality, and I’ll model the training camp based around their personality,” Kavanagh said during a spot on The MMA Hour on Monday. “Some fighters you can tell them what to do, and set down a certain schedule. Some you can’t. And with Conor, he has his way of doing things, and it’s hard to argue with somebody who’s going out and knocking out legends in 13 seconds. So his system was working very well for him. But, it obviously didn’t in the last fight. So, we said look, what’s the definition of insanity…it’s doing the same thing and expecting different results. So we changed things up.”
One major change that was implemented was increased endurance and conditioning training, specifically cycling, as Kavangah brought in a friend of his who happens to be an ex-professional cyclist to assist McGregor. With the new training, Kavanagah compared McGregor’s ‘engine’ to that of a ‘super-charged American muscle car’:
“I’m lucky that I have a good friend for a long time, he’s actually the guy behind the camera of TheMacLife,” he told Ariel Helwani. “He’s an ex-professional cyclist. I reached out to him and his teammate from back in the day who is now a doctor, and there’s not much they don’t know about human performance. Being a cyclist, it’s not the most technically demanding sport, as compared to say mixed martial arts…in general there’s not a lot to it, other than having a huge engine. It’s about your VO2, it’s about your heart and your cardiovascular system. So, Dana [White] helped him make a machine, and that’s what we’ve spent the last 17, 18 weeks doing, is upgrading Conor’s engine.
“Now it’s a super-charged, 800 horsepower, five-liter American muscle car type engine.”
Perhaps the loss to Diaz was a good thing for the Irishman. In fact, Kavanagh said that the loss was a ‘positive’ for the whole team surrounding the “Notorious” one:
“I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, that I truly believe, March 5, that loss — in retrospect, in a few years time — will be seen as a turning point for the better,” he said. “And probably the most positive thing that’s happened to the team as a whole.”
How do you see McGregor performing this weekend in the rematch?