Appearing in an interview today (Mon., April 25, 2016) on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, SBG Ireland head-coach John Kavanagh commented on the craziness that has been going on this week with his longtime student, UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor.
Kavanagh first commented on McGregor’s Monday morning tweet saying he was back on the UFC 200 card:
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 25, 2016
“I do know that we left Iceland very early this morning”, Kavanagh said. “And we ended up getting separated and went different ways. I turned my phone on, I was with Gunny and Paddy Houlahan, and things started going crazy when I saw this message.
Now I didn’t know about this, and neither did his manager so it was news to both of us when we saw. I hadn’t been speaking to Conor since because I’ve had a bit of a day with Paddy”, he said. “I presume I’m gonna see Conor this afternoon in training and get the exact news.”
Kavanagh also touched on how serious “The Notorious” was when he pondered the idea of early retirement:
“That was not a joke. I’ll tell you how I found out was I was coaching Gunnar in Iceland. He showed up late for the session,” he said.
“I was telling him to hurry up and get on the mat we’re starting. He went, “Oh yeah, ‘I just retired.’ And I said, “Okay well, let’s just do the session and then we’ll talk about that”. So ya we trained for a couple of hours, we went outside I turned on my phone and I’d seen he’d actually put it out there. And ya he was content to leave it at that. That was not a joke”.
The SBG head coach also tried to make amends with the UFC himself by reaching out to UFC President Dana White:
“I did it on Wednesday, last Wednesday”, Kavanagh explained. “I just tried to put my case across, and sort of explain. We’re doing everything different for this fight. There’s a really new approach to what we’re doing.
“I don’t really mind losses, I see it as a necessary step for success no matter what you do in life, but only if you learn from the loss. If you lose and you don’t see what went wrong and don’t make changes, well then you will continue to lose.
“Whereas we very much made a lot of changes and we were in a really great place. Some new members on the team, we were really hitting the ground running in Portugal and we were getting some great stuff done. I knew it would completely throw everything off.”
Kavanagh also assured that McGregor is in good spirits following this week’s tumultuous media frenzy:
“He’s in a great place, we did two great weeks training. We did a week in Portugal, then we did a great week in Iceland and we were there as well obviously helping Gunnar, and he always gets a real buzz out of being in his company.
“He’s not against doing media”, Kavanagh explained. “It was just, at that particular time, that amount of travel, and losing momentum of what we were starting was just going to be detrimental physically and I believe psychologically as well.
Kavanagh was also disappointed to hear that Dana White is reluctant to put McGregor on the promotion’s first event at MSG in New York:
“That was hard to hear. I really think that’s going too far.”
“We get the slap on the wrist for 200, we definitely can’t be put on the naughty step for New York. As an Irish guy in New York and the first card at Madison Square Garden. I think conor will show up anyway and fight someone in the training room if they don’t put him on the card.”
Kavanagh believes that the UFC and McGregor could have worked out other possibilities for the press conference in this day and age of technology.
“The way the world is now, you don’t have to be physically at places to be involved in things. I don’t know what this obsession is with Vegas. UFC is a global sport, not a Vegas sport. I don’t see why everything has to be done there.
“Is there anyone in the MMA world that didn’t want to see that fight?” Kavanagh asked. “Was there the need to spend $10 million on that ad?
“This was Conor getting up at 7:45 a.m. — and I can’t tell you how unusual that is unless you know him the way I do,” Kavanagh said. … “He’d become this soldier. I basically said if it comes down to the press conference or the fight, we’ve gotta let that one go.”
In the end, Kavanagh remains hopeful that the issues between “Notorious” and the UFC can be resolved before the July card.
“It seems to be swinging the right way and we’re aiming and we’re training for 200,” Kavanagh said. “We’re hoping for good news.”
“I don’t think we’ve gone past any point of no return,” he said. “There’s mutual respect from both parties. Dana and Lorenzo and those guys are sensible businessmen. This is just one of those things. I have no doubt that we’ll continue with the tradition for his next fight. Lorenzo will bring in his bottle of Midleton and we’ll do our usual toast and we’ll carry on.”