In the build up to UFC 196, much was made of Conor McGregor’s thicker, more heavily muscled physique.
Settling into the role of a lightweight contender, McGregor had switched from salads to steaks, in the words of his coach John Kavanagh, and judging from the pictures that were emerging from the camp, the results appeared dramatic.
When Rafael dos Anjos withdrew from the March 5th show and McGregor subsequently made the decision to combat late-replacement Nate Diaz at the welterweight limit of 170lbs, the SBG product’s size became a major talking point once again.
How much weight had the Irishman actually gained during camp?
Diaz’s team added fuel to the ensuing fire by going so far as to claim that the featherweight champion was no longer confident of making even the lightweight limit. While “The Notorious” himself hardly quelled the flames with his talk of challenging Robbie Lawler for the welterweight belt as early as July.
At the weigh-in for the fight, McGregor stepped atop the scales looking a picture of health compared to his previous visits to the apparatus and his weight was announced at 168lbs.
Considering that this drama formed the backdrop to the fight, it should come as no surprise to hear people questioning whether McGregor’s increased musculature played a role in his demise. After all, he did seem to run out of gas at a very early stage in the fight.
However, during a recent appearance on The Manual podcast, McGregor’s strength and conditioning coach, John Connor, assured observers that the fighter’s weight had little to do with his first UFC defeat.
“Conor fought at the weight that he walks around at – always,” said the trainer.
Adding context to the situation, Connor went on to speak about how McGregor’s body has changed during the time since he suffered an ACL injury in a 2013 fight against Max Holloway.
“This is when he got into movement, this is when he got way more into strength and conditioning. And if you look at his body – his body has transformed a lot since then. And his big thing is that, you look at, his arse is bigger, which is more power, his hamstrings are a lot bigger, and his lower back is a lot bigger”.
“When he came in to the Dublin fight[against Diego Brandao in July 2014], he was probably the biggest he had been in his career to that point”.
“He’s kind of sat at that weight since then”.
According to Connor, the difference in McGregor’s weight on the night of the Brandao fight and the night of the Diaz fight is not as significant as many might have assumed.
“So, he weighed in at 168[prior to UFC 196]. So you’re talking 76 kilos. He was probably 1 or 2 kilos heavier than he was fighting in Dublin, fighting in Boston, fighting in Vegas against Poirier, I wasn’t there for July against Mendes so I don’t know, Aldo again it was probably the same. So he was only 1 and a half, maybe 2 kilos heavier than he was in those other fights”.
The conditioning expert, who also works with Northern Ireland’s super-bantamweight boxing star Carl Frampton, added that McGregor was actually the fittest he had ever been heading into UFC 196.
“We did more fitness work for this because we could. Because he was so tight at the weight for 145, we always had to be careful what we did because we couldn’t do too much. Because we didn’t want him putting on size, because it just makes it harder to get down there”.
“He was at his peak condition going into that fight”.
What, then, caused the Dublin native to fade so early in the bout? Connor agreed with McGregor’s own assertion – he was simply inefficient.
“You load up and you get tired,” said the co-owner of the Irish Strength Institute.
Perhaps it appeared as though McGregor’s body failed him last Saturday night, but in reality it may have been his mind. The decision to attack Diaz with such fervour and to search for a shot that might close the show in characteristic fashion certainly seems to have been the key to a “Notorious” downfall.
You can check out the interview with John Connor below. The video starts at the relevant point, but there is so much interesting insight beyond the talk about McGregor that we encourage you to check out the entire piece.