They say that the real measure of a man is not how he reacts when things are going well, but by how he copes when things don’t go his way. Last March, when Conor McGregor walked away from the cage following his first fight against Nate Diaz, he was forced to confront this very maxim head on. And confront it he did.
For the rematch McGregor wanted nothing changed. Everything must be as it was. Same opponent, same weight, no excuses. So last August when the two fighters faced each other for a second time, all the key components were just as they were for UFC 196. Same opponent, same weight, same city.
Except this time around, Conor McGregor was a much different fighter.
“The last camp was very, very different”, McGregor said in an exclusive interview with TheMacLife.com. “This camp has been different as well. It’s, what, only 10 days to the fight? It’s very unusual for me to be home this close to a fight, so I’m actually enjoying it. Training’s been great. I’m very prepared, very calm. Ready to go and make history.”
And it’s definitely history that is in his sights. Conor McGregor having his hand raised next Saturday night in New York will mean that he will hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously, an achievement so difficult that no fighter in the near 24 year history of the UFC has had either the temerity or the ability to pull it off.
McGregor and his coach John Kavanagh redrew their training regime ahead of the second Diaz bout eight months ago. Training became more regimented and it was within this rigid structure that McGregor found the freedom to improve his game.
And they expect to see increased dividends this time around, too.
“It was very scientific. It was very measured”, McGregor says of his training camp for UFC 205. “There was no guess work. I used to come in [to the gym] for ten hours a day. I never really switched on, I never really switched off. I was just flickering, just like a light buzzing. That’s not what this is about. That’s not what the fight game is about. You need to be on when your’re on and you need to be off when you’re off.”
“One thing that I kept doing consistently was over-training. I’d be running myself into a brick wall and I’d be pushing and pushing and pushing. I’d get run down and I’d be sidelined for two weeks and then I’d have to pick it back up. I was never really getting to that next level.”
McGregor has a high level team working alongside him in preparation for New York but no one is more important in keeping the McGregor show going than John Kavanagh. It is perhaps appropriate that the man who has been there from day one, and seen first-hand the evolution of McGregor’s game, is still the person guiding the ship.
“I put my trust into my coach”, McGregor explains. “We became coach/student again [for UFC 202] and it’s just been more of the same this camp.
“We’re all in this together. We all went through a learning process after the first Diaz fight. In the second one we came together like a unit. Now it’s more of the same. We understand what everyone is looking for.
“Everything is a lot more scientific [now]. Everything is a lot more measured. I’d be told what heart rate I’d have to be at for different sessions. There was many times I wanted to go more. I was like, ‘I don’t feel like I’m doing much’ but no, we had to build it up and up and up.”
It is these improvements which McGregor feels wouldn’t have been made had he not met Diaz last March. In overcoming that obstacle, McGregor says, he was become a far more dangerous fighter than he was this time last year.
“[The second Diaz fight] was phase one of cardio training, this is phase two. That, coupled with the weight coming down, my body mass… I’m much leaner. I’m very confident that I will put this man away.
“Eddie seems to think he has a cardio advantage. Let’s go into the later rounds, I’m going to sprint in round 5. I’m very, very happy.”