Coach: Conor McGregor didn’t wrestle at all before UFC 189

Many have observed since Conor McGregor stopped a slowing Chad Mendes in the main event of UFC 189 last Saturday, the man who had the longer training camp to prepare also had the conditioning advantage. Of course, there are a million factors that go into the outcome of every fight, and Mendes taking the fight on short notice and effectively forgoing any real camp must have affected his ability to keep pace with the well-conditioned McGregor.

McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh agrees that a rematch may go differently — for both men. He says that’s because McGregor’s knee was so injured that the Irishman did not do one round of live wrestling training in preparation for the title bout.

"I’ve gotta be honest, when we were walking out to this fight, it was in the back of my mind that we haven’t done a single round of live wrestling," the coach told MMA Fighting this week.

"Really the first round of full wrestling was done in that fight. His timing a little bit on the sprawl and dealing with the shot was not quite there. It started getting better as the fight went on. Do I think a rematch, if it does happen down the line, would be different? Yes, for both of them."

Since McGregor had no wrestling training and ended up fighting one of the division’s strongest grapplers, the coach admitted to being a bit nervous about the fight. 

"I had my eyebrows raised and thought, let’s see what happens," Kavanagh said.

The fighter’s own confidence inspired the coach, however. "When I spoke to Conor and I saw this absolutely unshakeable confidence, I knew it was the right decision. I knew it didn’t matter who it was going to be," Kavanagh continued.

"For Conor to have done what he did and accepted that change, I think that showed a championship mentality."

That mentality makes McGregor the "real" champion, according to him, even though full champion Jose Aldo has defended his belt within the past year and hung on to it longer than any other current world champ.

"I feel like he’s (McGregor’s) the champion," Kavanagh said.

"He’s done pretty special things in the UFC in quite a short period of time. He’s been willing to accept any challenge. I don’t know if there’s many fighters with what he had in front of him with two weeks’ notice would have accepted [the fight]."