‘He was screaming on the phone to Dana’


Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh.

AUSTRALIA has MMA royalty on its shores this month as Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh visits for a pair of speaking engagements.

The man behind the man was at Sydney’s Star Casino on Friday night where he gave Aussie UFC fans an exclusive insight into McGregor’s preparations for a boxing fight against Floyd Mayweather.

But Kavanagh’s description of Mayweather as “pretty much a dirtbag” wasn’t the only highlight of the three hours he spent on stage being quizzed by hosts Kacper Rosolowski and Denis Shkuratov and members of the audience. Here is the best of the rest.

MCGREGOR’S FUTURE

Kavanagh is 100 per cent convinced the Mayweather fight will happen.

Kavanagh is 100 per cent convinced the Mayweather fight will happen.Source:Supplied

What the Mayweather fights means for McGregor’s plans to defend the lightweight belt …

“What I see happening this year is the Mayweather fight, maybe the end of the summer or something like that … (But) let’s say Mayweather doesn’t want to do it, for whatever reason. Then I could see us fighting in MMA by the end of the summer, (for) the lightweight belt. One thing you’ve got to understand about Conor — and this might rattle your bones — is his motivation is not money when it comes to fighting. Right now, even with his ridiculous spending habits, he wouldn’t be able to spend his money by the time he retired. It’s not money that’s getting him up in the morning. It’s the competition. It’s facing someone he genuinely feels is a threat. Like when we lost to Nate (Diaz), he could’ve gone straight down to lightweight and fought (Eddie) Alvarez, who turned out to be a pretty straightforward opponent. But that wasn’t his interest. His interest was ‘I’ve got to beat this guy, this guy’s beaten me’. That’s a real challenge … I don’t know what name out there in the lightweight division is that guy. I would have loved to see Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and Tony (Ferguson) have a great fight (for the interim title), the winner win definitively and get on the mic and call out Conor. And I know that would get him riled up. That didn’t happen.”

Who would offer McGregor the toughest fight of Khabib and Ferguson, whose interim title fight was called off when Khabib became ill while trying to make weight …

“Too many kebabs for Khabib … I had picked Khabib to win that. I thought he would be in a few difficult situations for the first round or two and then he’d wear down Tony as he does to all his opponents. It will sound cocky but I genuinely don’t see a massive challenge in either of them. If you look at their last couple of fights — Khabib got badly rocked by (Michael) Johnson and he really struggles to make that weight. I think a great fight for Khabib would be Gunnar Nelson (at welterweight) this summer. Khabib actually weighs more than Gunnar outside of fighting. I’ve heard he weighs 90kg. Gunni is 81kg. And Tony, he fought that guy (Lando Vannata) who just came into the UFC and got punched around for a couple of rounds and then fair play to Tony, he’s tough as nails, he took a lot of punishment and then went on to win. But you can’t do that with Conor. In round one, if you eat four or five solid shots, unless you’re Nate Diaz, you are going to be unconscious. He’s a one-off. That’s just Homer Simpson there. He’s a one-off.”

If McGregor would fight for the welterweight belt …

“I’d fancy him in there with (current champion Tyron) Woodley … he’s just another wrestler with an overhand right, and that’s the type Conor grew up knocking out. So I wouldn’t see a massive challenge in that. But I would like to see Gunni get that belt. Gunnar Nelson will be the next SBG world champion.”

If McGregor will ever fight at Ireland’s Croke Park …

“I have to be honest, I don’t ever see him fighting in Ireland again. Just (because of the) time difference (between Ireland and peak American viewing time). He’d be doing a 4am walk (to the Octagon) the way (Alex) Gustafsson had to do. Imagine Irish people from 8pm to 4am drinking and then Conor walking out … there’d be 80,000 people asleep on chairs. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

THE NATE DIAZ WARS

They were bloody fights ... and Kavanagh wants more.

They were bloody fights … and Kavanagh wants more.Source:Supplied

The first fight with Nate Diaz …

“You can’t be an MMA fan and not be a Diaz fan. Just the way they carry themselves — almost comically at times. They fight anyone at anytime. And took that fight on short notice … When I went in between rounds, I’d never seen Conor … he’d gone a kind of greyish colour. His lactate tolerance wasn’t where it should have been and Nate is a cardio machine. He (McGregor) looked exhausted and I hadn’t seen this look before. Nate, if he was a Marvel character, his special power is he just has a concrete head. I’ve seen Conor spar big strong heavyweights in the gym and put them on one knee. And with Nate he had all these clean connections in the first round and Nate just walked forward, walked forward.”

How McGregor responded to the defeat, and the second fight …

“We said to Conor afterwards, ‘what do you want to do next? They’ll still give you the lightweight title if you want’. And he was like ‘no, I want to fight Nate’. And in my head I’m thinking ‘why do you want to fight him again? He is terrifying’. When I was in the corner and you just see Nate plodding forward. And Conor has really nice technique on his hands and clearly has a very hard punch and Nate could just take them and be like ‘what bitch?’ So we knew going into the rematch it’s probably going to go 25 minutes. Because he has very good jiu jitsu, you can’t knock him out … so that was one of the moments I just had to tip my hat to him (McGregor), what courage and bravery that took … I was there the following day and he was screaming on the phone to Dana (White) and Lorenzo (Fertitta) ‘you put that f***ing fight together’ and he was not letting go of it. And I was thinking ‘dude, let’s f***ing fight Alvarez, have you seen him? He’s not that scary’. But he wanted that challenge and he pursued it and he made the changes. The training we did was sickening. All fighters like sparring and all fighters like rolling but making weight and getting that insane level of cardio — that’s the part that’s not as fun. And to be with him during those times and to see what he put himself through … and then to go and face someone that to me is like in a comic is his nemesis.”

The possibility of a third fight …

For me the trilogy has to happen. That’s the fight for me … Definitely at 155 … (And) I don’t think Nate is going to have the same superpower he does at 170 — that ability to walk through shots. He’s done a lot of rounds with Conor and taken a lot of punishment — (and) there is a timeline on that. You can only walk through punches for so long. At 155 — I think he will struggle to make that weight, first of all — and if he does make 155 and Conor cracks him like that, I do think there will be a stoppage.”

THE TITLE FIGHTS

Conor McGregor performs for the camera before his featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo.

Conor McGregor performs for the camera before his featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo.Source:Getty Images

Finishing Jose Aldo in 13 seconds for the featherweight belt at UFC 194 …

“We barely got back to our seats and it was over. In all seriousness, Aldo, we’d followed him for 10 years and put a lot into this fight. There was the big world tour and then it fell apart and he (McGregor) ended up fighting (Chad) Mendes. And then another six-month build-up. It felt like my life was on hold for about a year-and-a-half leading up to this. And then after putting your life on hold for a year-and-a-half he goes out and does this. And he’ll dispute it and say it’s 11 seconds. I kinda felt like ‘really? after all this? this is as much as we get?’ I kind of wanted it to be a bit of a war.”

Schooling Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title at UFC 205 …

“When I watched that fight I was like (breathing a sigh of relief) ‘a human again’. He’s not fighting Nate. This is what happens to normal people when they get walloped in the head. Nate just seems to eat them up. I didn’t think it would go any different … Alvarez is a great guy, but technically I knew there was going to be leagues between them.”

OTHER UFC BATTLES

Stephen Thompson lands a shot on Tyron Woodley.

Stephen Thompson lands a shot on Tyron Woodley.Source:Getty Images

The controversial UFC 209 fight between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson …

“If you were a real big boxing fan the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight was fascinating. For the average fans it was ‘what was that? It was 10 rounds of them running around after each other’. I think the Woodley-Thompson fight as well, if you’re in that small five per cent that’s really into MMA, they probably enjoyed that fight, the strategy in it. It wasn’t the most exciting fight in the world, but I still picked up some things from it. (Woodley’s) such a dickhead (and) Thompson is such a nice guy, I wanted him to win. But in Woodley’s favour, he did knock him down and that was pretty much the only thing that happened in the fight. It’s a tricky one. It was very, very close.”

Aldo’s upcoming fight against Max Holloway at UFC 212 …

“I’m very much looking forward to the Aldo-Holloway fight. Before Conor fought Holloway I said Holloway to me is the second best 145-pounder … 10 years ago Aldo had a particular style that worked very well against small grapplers. He was destroying everyone in WEC and then he had a good run in the UFC. But I think he’ll struggle badly against Holloway because Holloway is similar to Conor where he’s not going to be afraid of the striking range … He hits hard, he’s got a good submission game if you try and take him down. I think Holloway will win. If he does it in spectacular fashion and he’s got a bit of momentum behind him, maybe (McGregor could fight) Holloway at 145. Their first fight was a bit weird, Conor did his knee in and didn’t get the finish. Holloway is one of the very few to go the distance with Conor. Who knows? Let’s see what happens.”

AUSTRALIA’S FIGHTERS

Mark Hunt’s fight against steroids in the UFC …

“To be put against Brock Lesnar, seriously, (was) absolutely ridiculous. Mark’s an absolute legend, you can’t help but be a fan. Never forget, Jesus loves knockouts (laughs). No, I really felt for the guy. And all fighters behind the scenes feel for that guy, being put in with that steroided up monkey.”

Robert Whittaker’s rise up the middleweight rankings …

“Great fighter. He’s Australia’s best hope of a UFC belt right now. He’s got a great skillset, a great mentality and is a really nice guy as well. He probably should work on getting a bit more emotion around his fights, a bit more buzz. At the end of the day that is important. We could have an argument about if that’s fair or not, but it is. If people are emotionally invested in your fight — whether they want you to win or lose — more people buy it. And at the end of the day the UFC is a money-making machine and they’re going to promote those guys. The fighting side is there. I’m looking forward to seeing him continue that tear.”

Which fighter he’d love to train …

“Dan Kelly. Dan Kelly is my favourite fighter, bar anyone I already coach … just because I’d get to train with someone that I look up to every day.”

Bringing McGregor’s lightweight belt with him to Australia …

“That’s the 155-pound belt (behind me on stage). I called Conor just before I came over here and said ‘can I just borrow that for a few hours, I’ve got a talk in a school’. I guess he’s going to see this now. Sorry, Conor. I’ll have it back to you in no time and nothing will be done to it. That’s a belt we’re very proud of in the gym … We still got Woodley’s belt as well, he never got that back.”

UFC: Fox Sports goes in depth with Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh about opening a gym in Australia, Mcgregor v Mayweather and Conor’s next move after his megabout.