Following his second-round submission defeat to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, one that was at least partly attributable to fatigue, Conor McGregor made significant changes to his training regimen.
The Irishman had often favoured flexibility over structure in his training camps, volume of work, perhaps, over quality, but his first setback in the UFC made him reconsider this approach – especially as regards conditioning.
“I was waking up late and training late, showing up here at maybe 2pm and still being here till one in the morning. Like a buzzing light. Buzzzz. I was never fully on and I was never off,” McGregor said of his training camp for the first Diaz fight when speaking to the Irish Examiner ahead of the rematch last August.
In an effort to bring some scientific structure to his preparation, McGregor hired former professional cyclist Dr. Julian Dalby to oversee his conditioning program.
“This [Diaz] fight is 25 minutes. Five five-minute rounds, four minutes rest in between. That’s what I need to be on for, so that’s what the sessions are tailed for. Come in, work hard, and go,” McGregor said of the new approach.
“Then rest, recover,” he added. “Because I know it’s on and then it’s off. I push it and then I chill.”
‘The Notorious’ one, of course, gained vengeance over Diaz in the rematch at UFC 202, winning a majority decision after a titanic five-round war.
Some, however, continued to question McGregor’s engine, pointing to his trouble in the middle portion of the bout.
Speaking to Pundit Arena some weeks after the fight, Dr. Dalby rubbished claims that there were still issues with his charge’s conditioning.
“Nonsense,” he said. “The end justifies it all. The fact is, he went a hard, hard five rounds and he won at the end of the five rounds. So that answers the question. The man is capable of going a hard 29 minutes. His fitness level is exceptional now. You can see how quickly he can recover in the one minute between rounds, he comes back up fresh again [at the beginning of each new round].”
Following McGregor’s recent loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., however, questions were once again being asked of McGregor’s cardio. After a solid start in his professional boxing debut, the UFC lightweight champion struggled through the middle rounds, before being stopped in the tenth – exhaustion seemingly contributing more to his demise than the fists of his foe.
Even McGregor himself acknowledged the issue.
“I would have liked to see the end of the 10th… I have this patch where I must overcome, I get a little wobbly, but it’s more fatigue. If you look at the [Nate] Diaz 2 fight, I came through that,” the Dubliner said. “It’s not damage, there’s always a patch in my fights where I go through this fatigue stage… but I wasn’t rocked.”
So, what can McGregor do differently in the future to remedy this problem?
UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping thinks he knows.
“What people want to know is, what’s Conor’s fucking problem, cause the guy has a problem,” Bisping said on a recent edition of his ‘Believe You Me’ podcast. “He can’t go the fucking distance.”
“It’s kind of an issue, if you can’t go the fucking distance,” Bisping continued. “In the first Nate Diaz fight, what cost him is that he was tired, simple as that. He took a good shot, and that obviously diminishes your gas tank, but he was kind of gassed. And in the rematch, even though he won – and I gave him the rematch, he won the rematch fair and square – but still he was absolutely gassed in that, and it was getting close. The longer the fight went, the more Nate Diaz was getting back into the fight. If you remember, the first round was a white wash. The first round was Conor all over him. The longer the fight went, the more Diaz came into the picture. Same [in the Mayweather fight], the fight started great, but he was fucked! Round seven, eight, nine, he was a shell of himself.”
“It ain’t anything to do with the pace [of the fight]. It’s very, very simply. You know what it is? If you look at the social media, he’s there and he looks great. You’ve got The Mac Life, you’ve got the [UFC] Performance Institute, he’s doing this exercise bag with nine or ten people around him going ‘come on Conor, whoa, yeah, you’re the fucking man, woo!’ Going great. That’s awesome, that’s great, but that doesn’t get you in shape for a fight. You know what you didn’t see? It was him out on the streets running. Running! You’ve got to run! That is the best thing ever for cardio. That is the best thing ever for a fight. MMA or boxing, you have to run. But of course, nobody likes to run. Running’s a pain in the ass, running sucks. Running is lonely […] But you’ve got to run. I don’t know, maybe he did run, but from what I’ve seen on social media, I didn’t see him out there doing any running(Transcription via BJPenn.com).”
While a UFC 189: Embedded episode featured McGregor speaking of his love for running in July of 2015, he said in a UFC 202: Embedded episode that he had indeed eschewed long-distance running and moved on to cycling for endurance work, due to the fact that there is less impact on the joints.
Does Bisping have the answer, then? Does McGregor need to return to his old habits? To old school habits? His theory doesn’t sound particularly scientific, rather it appears to be based on anecdote and his own personal experiences. Bisping’s well-earned reputation as a cardio-machine is likely to persuade some people that he is right, however.