Some commentators have expressed the belief that Conor McGregor has simply not had a long enough time to bridge the gap between he and Nate Diaz in certain key areas ahead of UFC 202.
Five months, some have said, is not long enough to bring McGregor anywhere near Diaz’s level on the ground, where their first fight came to it’s shocking conclusion. Five months, they have added, is not long enough for the Irishman to bring his endurance to the almost unrivalled level of his March conqueror’s.
Thus, it has been suggested, McGregor is facing the very real prospect of a second straight defeat.
However, on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, John Kavanagh told Ariel Helwani that he feels Diaz is the one who faced the unbridgeable gap going into this camp, not McGregor.
“I think the first round of the fight was all Conor,” said Kavanagh. “I think there is the technical superiority there. I don’t think that will have changed with 18 weeks training. I don’t think Nate will have been able to catch up on that. Clearly the way the contest ended, there was a substantial conditioning difference between the two. That’s what we have changed.”
“Skill wise, it takes maybe ten years, the 10,000 hour rule, to get to a mastery level in something. But conditioning wise, 18 weeks is a lifetime. We have had measurable, massive increases in endurance training.”
With a more structured approach to conditioning and indeed training overall, Kavanagh believes that the 28-year-old featherweight king has brought his game to a completely different level. In fact, the SBG Ireland founder and head coach stopped just short of calling this version of McGregor “perfect”.
“So put those two things together, I’ve said it in another interview, it’s that Randy Couture style engine, or maybe you could use Nate Diaz as an example of that, and then with that BJ Penn super-high skill to go on top of that, and again I’d use Conor McGregor as an example of that now. So I think he is the somewhat perfect MMA fighter now.”
Kavanagh was singing a familiar tune during this interview, as he and McGregor have both spoken at length about the camp’s focus on cardiovascular conditioning in recent weeks. However, Helwani wondered aloud if perhaps there was a risk of overtraining or burn-out, especially considering the extended nature of their preparation – a consequence of the Dubliner’s stand-off with the promotion’s brass and his subsequent removal from UFC 200.
But ‘The Notorious’ one’s longtime trainer assured Helwani that things had been handled perfectly.
“It certainly would have been[a possibility] with the old approach,” he said. “If we had approached this the way of the Mendes fight, where we pretty much trained seven days a week.”
“But this way, you have probably heard Conor talk about it himself, three days on and one day off, you can kind of go hard because you see that break coming up. It’s not this never ending, ‘okay twelve weeks to go’ or ‘eighteen weeks to go.'”
“With this approach we were able to do an extended training camp because it was three days on, one day off, three weeks on, one week active rest.”
Though you wouldn’t expect anything less from a fighter’s coach this close to a major contest, Kavanagh added that McGregor was in the best mood he has ever been in six days out from a fight.
“Speaking to him yesterday, the tapering down process has begun already, and the last cycle was particularly tough, and it was expected – the performance coach said to expect it. By the end of it you are going to be weary and sore and tired, a little bit done. But that’s the idea, because then you go into the two tapering phase. We are one week into that, and speaking to him yesterday, with George Lockhart out there as well making sure all the right food is going in, he is absolutely buzzing.
“I have never seen him like this six days out from a fight.”
“Six days out from a fight is normally…you got to creep around the house a bit because the weight cut’s in, he’s tired of training at this stage and all the media obligations. Where we didn’t have to do all that much this time, there is no weight to be cut, training went perfect. He is like a kid on Christmas Eve.”