Justin Gaethje has given a very interesting take on why it is exactly that Conor McGregor seems to struggle to find his composure in moments where he fatigues mid-fight.
I reckon it’d be hard to pin down a UFC debut in recent times that thrilled as much as the former WSOF champ Gaethje’s first venture into the octagon when he took on Michael Johnson back in July.
Gaethje, who has compiled a perfect 18-0 record over the course of his six-year career, felt the power of his quick-handed opponent on several occasions but despite being dropped and badly hurt more than once, was able to dig deep and overwhelm Johnson through a combination of constant pressure, some brutal leg-kicks and a pretty fantastic display of dirty boxing.
The fans immediately pegged the fight as a potential ‘Fight of the Year’ and though Gaethje himself has admitted that his reckless style will one day get him knocked out, through his heroics in what was his promotional debut he managed to expose himself to a much larger audience and earn himself a legion of fans who just cannot wait to see him in action again.
The reaction to his memorable performance was undoubtedly a factor in getting him signed to coach on the newest season of The Ultimate Fighter – opposite Eddie Alvarez – and with their eventual clash set for December 1, you’d be hard pressed to find a bout this year that looks like a better pick to top his contest with Michael Johnson than this one.
The MMA community has already gotten to know the unbeaten Arizona brawler better in recent times but even though he has only been in the world’s premier MMA organisation for a few months, his status as a contender in the lightweight division has already been solidified.
In a recent interview for his appearance on TUF 26, he spoke to the media about his own views on the 155lb champion Conor McGregor and gave some pretty interesting insight into his widely-known stamina issues.
McGregor, of course, rather noticeably gassed out during last month’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather and while those who align themselves with the sweet science were respectful towards him in his defeat, for the most part, virtually everyone agreed that his composure and inexperience in the face of fatigue was a major factor in his demise, something Justin believes those with a background in high-level grappling while in high-school or college learn at a quicker rate than those without one (via MMAFighting.com).
“The reason he can’t fight through when he gets super tired is he’s never grappled. You have to learn how to fight through when it sucks and it’s really hard. You have to be in that position over and over and over, to be able to perform in that mindset. The fact that he’s never wrestled or grappled, it doesn’t help when he gets super tired and starts questioning himself.
“He wasn’t a regular guy coming in off the street, even though he had an 0-0 record. He wasn’t just somebody coming off the street to fight Floyd Mayweather. He was a world-class athlete coming in and that’s what he proved. He wasn’t gonna go in there and get embarrassed. He’s a competitor.
“I figured he would stay in good position, try to land hard punches, but probably overextend himself. Fourth, fifth round, it was gonna get bad. Just tired, you can’t perform like that.”
Gaethje himself competed at a very high-level in college as a NCAA Division I wrestler while attending the University of Northern Colorado and despite the fact that McGregor does own a brown-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under John Kavanagh, sometimes the lack of any high-level grappling circuit in the educational systems found in Ireland and Britain in particular does give an edge to certain fighters – in this case those found in the U.S – experience that can be near-impossible to duplicate, a point Justin alluded to in his analysis of Conor’s fatigue issues.
McGregor managed to put on a better show than many had expected from him but even though he took the first three or so rounds fairly comfortably, Mayweather’s persistent pressure and immeasurably high in-ring IQ and experience allowed him to steal away the momentum from the Irishman, TKO’ing him early in the tenth round, bringing his own career total to an even 50-0.
Mental toughness is built up through experience, however, and with the noticeable improvements McGregor showed after his UFC 196 loss to Nate Diaz back in March of 2016, perhaps this latest setback will be one that strengthens his resolve even further, something that could make him an even scarier proposition for those he ends up meeting inside the octagon.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena