The man who had it all has recently lost back-to-back fights, and now his coach wants him to give up. That’s one reading of the situation.
Another is that John Kavanagh, Connor’s coach, just wants what’s best for his mate of over a decade. But, in sport, as in life: it’s more complicated than that.
In an interview with Independent.ie, Kavanagh quoted Mark Twain, explaining why he was optimistic in the lead up to Connors fight with boxing champ Floyd Mayweather.
“The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to.”
It also helped, he said, that the McGregor-Mayweather fight bore a certain similarity to Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, with Creed, like Mayweather, possessing a 49-0 record, “Until he faced a tough southpaw that nobody gave a chance to.”
“Sometimes the worst thing you can face in a ring, or anywhere, is a beginner. They do everything ‘wrong’ and it takes you a while to read them: ‘What the hell was that?’ Now, once it goes past two or three rounds the skill kicks in but there’s a moment when it’s just . . . bizarre.”
As it turned out, Mayweather’s record extended to 50-0. But neither Connor nor Kavanagh went home defeated: not long after Connor was back in the game that made him famous—the UFC octagon, with a formidable, but somewhat more familiar opponent.
However, again, Connor lost. And now, according to UPROXX, “If he decides to step into the Octagon once more, he may have to do so without long-time coach John Kavanagh.”
“McGregor suffered a TKO loss in his boxing debut to Floyd Mayweather in August 2017 before returning to familiar territory in the UFC and getting submitted by ruthless lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in October.”
In yesterday’s Independent.ie interview Kavanagh admitted that although McGregor was keen to fight again, as a coach, he wasn’t convinced.
While this sentiment will make for many a dramatic headline, it’s important to note that this comes from a place of concern for Connor’s health, more than a lack of faith in his ability to win fights.
“He has a wife and two kids now and I don’t want him taking more hits than he needs to.”
That said, he also made reference to Connor’s physical condition—which is a first: “Khabib hit him with a punch in that fight that he has never been hit with in his career. And even superman slows down at some stage.”
“We were all fully convinced he was going to win because he has done against that style of opponent in the past but Khabib was the better man (on the night). He won and that’s sport… there are wins and losses.”
As for what happens next: McGregor is still awaiting the NSAC’s ruling on his part in the melee following the Khabib fight, before he can be booked for another.
But as it stands, potential options could be either a rematch with the Russian, or a long awaited fight with Nate Diaz. Beyond those two options, however, Connor’s coach told the Independent.ie, “He would certainly have to convince me to go again.”
“Yeah, I love him. I love the whole journey we’ve had but I’d need a good ‘why’. It might be Diaz again because he promised that fight. It might be a rematch with Khabib. But if it was just: ‘Well, they want me to fight that guy’ I think I’d say, ‘I wish you the best.’”
Whether Connor will be receptive to Kavanagh’s advice in this area, based on previous form, seems unlikely—when Kavanagh suggested Connor retire after he defeated Eddie Alvarez in Madison Square Garden in 2016, and the then-champ just laughed.
“That Alvarez fight marked almost ten years to the day since me and Conor had started. He had just become a two-weight champion and had a bank balance like a phone number, and I think any coach in the world would have said the same,” (Independent.ie).
“Will he fight again?, Kavanagh continued, “I don’t know. I know him as a person and know that coming off two losses – even though one was boxing – will be hard for him. But he’s 30, (has) two kids, and a big whiskey deal that’s making him more money than fighting ever did.”
“Would you get up in the morning to be punched in the face? I don’t think so. But he’ll probably call me tomorrow and say: ‘What did you say that for? I’m fighting in March.’ So I don’t know,” he added.