Without Conor McGregor coach John Kavanagh would not be the household name he has become. However, more importantly, without Kavanagh, McGregor, the UFC featherweight champion, would never have been as successful.
It, therefore, seems incredible to think that when they first met at Kavanagh’s Straight Blast Gym back in 2007, their future success story started with McGregor receiving a full-blooded beating from his future coach.
Speaking to Paul Kimmage of the Irish Independent, coach Kavanagh reveals the first time he met the ‘Notorious’.
The famous coach reveals to Kimmage that when McGregor first walked into the SBG gym, he was put into the ring with Owen Roddy, now McGregor’s striking coach but then a still active fighter.
In what started as a standard spar, things quickly descended into a fight, with McGregor eager to make his name against the gym’s top dog.
“Well, it was supposed to be a spar, but it was a fight. Owen was the top dog back then and the new guy wanted to test himself.”
As Kavanagh watched on with interest, McGregor was able to land some good shots and even dropped the seasoned Roddy. The new kid, McGregor, caught the coaches eye, who admits:
“This new kid moved in a certain way. He was a southpaw, a good boxer and he just had a way about him that made you go: ‘What’s going to happen here?'”
However, it was McGregor’s next spar against seasoned MMA practitioner Aisling Daly, that made the normally zen coach see red.
In his own words, Kavanagh reveals how McGregor, through no malice, dropped Daly with a body shot:
“It sounds worse than it was. He wasn’t hitting her in the head or anything, but just happened to throw a body shot that hit her in the sweet spot, the solar plexus, and put her down.
“I got a little emotional because Ash had been with me a long time and the other guys would look after her. But this new guy had come in and put her down, and my protective nature kicked in. I was still fighting at that stage, or hadn’t stopped that long, so I put the gloves on… actually, he has corrected me on that and says it was bare knuckles. But I held him down and beat the shit out of him, without putting too fine a point on it.
“I kept hitting him in the body until he couldn’t breathe and then I looked at him: ‘What’s it going to be? We can train or we can fight?’ And he was OK from the next day.”
Hollywood couldn’t make up a back story as good as that shared by MMA’s greatest partnership and Kavanagh’s revelation only adds to the magic of the story that is Conor McGregor.
The rest as we know is history. With Kavanagh honing the skills of McGregor, they have gone on to conquer the UFC, MMA’s premier promotion. Now featherweight champion and set to fight for the lightweight strap next month, their story is a fairytale borne out of hard knocks, mutual respect and learning.
Bringing it all back to that fateful day in 2007, how incredible would it have been to be a fly on the wall on the day it all began?
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena