John Kavanagh speaks out
A mistake made in preparation, according to SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh, is what led to Conor McGregor’s second-round TKO loss to Dustin Poirier in their rematch at UFC 257 this past January.
“I describe it as a game of spinning plates,” Kavanagh told BT Sport. “You’re spinning the boxing plate, and you realize the wrestling plate is about to stop, so you have to go spin that one, and then you have to go spin the jiu-jitsu one, you have to spin the kickboxing one.
“We got a bit obsessed with the boxing one. There was talk of a big boxing fight after that. Our bad, our mistake, our fault – no one to blame. We just have to make sure we have to keep spinning that kickboxing plate and all the other aspects of MMA and get ready for the rematch.”
Following the loss, the 32-year-old McGregor acknowledged that his lack of activity likely played a role in his poor performance against Poirier. Both him and Kavanagh may have a point.
Before UFC 257, the Irishman had only fought twice following his highly lucrative boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in 2017. And after his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018, McGregor only fought once, beating Donald Cerrone in just forty seconds in January 2020.
The added focus put on boxing makes a bit of sense, too, as there were talks before UFC 257 of a potential bout between McGregor and former eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao taking place in 2021.
However, it’s also important to note the simple fact that Poirier is a world-class fighter. He came into the fight with a strategic game plan, and he executed it perfectly. The Louisiana native is a much-improved version of the fighter McGregor knocked out in less than two minutes back in 2014, and it showed.
“Fair play to Dustin, Mike (Brown), and the guys,” Kavanagh said. “Even when he was getting clocked, he got hit a couple of times hard, and he still didn’t start getting into a trading war or try and gas himself out or go for a takedown.”
Given the history between Poirier and McGregor, it’s expected that a trilogy bout between the two will take place this summer. While Kavanagh favors that idea, the coach is also well aware that changes need to be made for the former two-division titleholder to return to his winning ways.
“We have to fix that technical detail. It’s not like we have to fix everything,” Kavanagh said. “It’s just a small enough area, get that back into the whole game. The knock on him was the boxing mentality going into an MMA mentality. Conor was always famous for his movement, his ability to change stances, his bounce, as he would say, and we need to bring that all back. It’s there; it’s under the hood. It’s not like the skills need to be learned or even relearned. They just have to be reignited, and we have to start that process.”
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.