Coach Kavanagh: How to Train Like Conor McGregor


Picture: John Kavanagh alongside IMMAF European Open champion Ben Forsyth Dublin’s famed SBG Ireland gym currently hosts a full generation of seasoned MMA athletes who have each found their feet on the sport’s grandest stage, with the likes of Aisling Daly, Gunnar Nelson, Paddy Holohan, and of course, UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor. The eyebrow raising ability of McGregor has transcended the sport of mixed martial arts with his seemingly revolutionary approach to the game on a physical and mental level, supported by coach John Kavanagh. recently spoke with Kavanagh to discuss if the results of McGregor’s effective approach to technical development can be replicated in future generations of SBG up and comers. Kavanagh suggested that the toughest and most influential aspect to develop is that of the mind and complete self confidence. On the other side, there is physical and technical development; and he believes that the physical ability of Conor McGregor can indeed be replicated within amateur athletes for future generations. “Of course, things improve as time goes on, my personal technical knowledge now is vastly different from what it was ten years ago. The other side would be that I work a lot on trying to build a guy’s self confidence. When you’re trying to do something at the beginning you’re probably going to be failing a lot and that can be difficult for a young person’s ego. It’s easy to point an laugh when someone is slipping and falling with something new, but I try to point out what they did right about it, and encourage repetition, drilling and practice. Eventually they will get it right and that’s the mental side. “Conor himself has that X-factor and charisma, whatever you want to call it, that has lead him to being followed by millions of people, but I think the physical side of what he’s doing I can replicate. I’ve already got guys coming through like Frans Mlambo who won the IMMAF World Championships, and Ben Forsyth who won the IMMAF European Open. I’ve got other guys coming behind them like James Gallagher, Sinead Kavanagh who got a silver medal at the World Championships, and Lee Hammond who made it to the last four of the European Open. The physical side is the easier side and the mental side is tougher.” While the training philosophy of McGregor and Kavanagh may be believed to be a brilliant and perhaps postmodern example of original thinking, Kavanagh explained that their approach is nothing new.  At its core lies a message often forgotten in MMA but here rising to the surface; the traditional message of dedicating oneself to training with intelligence as opposed to punishing the body with strenuous physical exertion. “I like that our message is about training smart rather than training hard. That’s a side of the sport that I’m very interested in and I educate myself on. I’m talking about sparring less, sparring more sensibly and with lighter contact in the gym. Certainly when I began there was a sort of macho image about having wars in the gym, and that’s something we’ve tried to turn around. You’ve seen Conor talk about upgrading the software while keeping the hardware intact, and there’s videos of him with Ido Portal keeping the body healthy rather than lifting big weights and hitting each other hard. “I can’t go on to Facebook without a sponsored ad popping up with some strength and condition place now offering ‘movement classes’ – that’s just worldwide now. I’m a huge Rickson Gracie fan. Anybody can watch Choke, it’s over twenty years old – an old documentary with Rickson Gracie getting ready for the All Japan Vale Tudo Open, and in it he’s doing all these drills that are very similar to the ones that Conor and Ido are doing. As the saying goes there’s nothing new under the sun, but it’s nice that someone with Conor’s platform is rejuvinating the message, again giving the message of looking after your body and keeping healthy. Your competitive peroid in martial arts or any sport is narrow enough, but the ability to move freely and pain free is a goal for anybody throughout their life.” Written by lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran

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