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McGregor coach John Kavanagh: Ring rust played a part in loss to Khabib

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Conor McGregor and his team are still reeling from their big loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, a largely one sided affair that saw Khabib impose his will on Conor and choke him out in the fourth round. Much of the discussion has been diverted from McGregor’s performance to the brawl that took place after the fight, but you better believe Conor and his coaches are laser focused on the bout itself and what went wrong ... especially considering McGregor is already talking about a rematch once the smoke clears.

His coach John Kavanagh was at Bellator cornering other Straight Blast Gym members and sat down with Ariel Helwani for a 30 minute interview. In it, he shared his thoughts on what they’d do differently next time.

”If I could go back, maybe the mentality was a little too defensive,” Kavanagh said. “Conor’s a very offensive fighter and when his time to land was there - and we did have opportunities - it wasn’t there the way it was in the Eddie [Alvarez] fight, for example. The Eddie fight was off a big training camp for Diaz 2, which was off a big training camp for Diaz 1. So we had a lot of cage time.”

”This one, like you said, it’s almost two years out. I said I didn’t think ring rust would play a part, but I have to be honest, when I look at it now, when I replay it in my head, I do feel like it played a little bit of a part. He didn’t quite get his shots off like he normally would. I thought defensively he did quite well defending a lot of takedowns, especially in round 3. But Khabib is amazing, amazingly effective MMA fighter. His style is suffocating, it’s relentless, and he does it better than anyone else.”

”In round 3 that we won, the shots that Conor were landing didn’t quite have the sting that they normally would, he wasn’t able to do things how he normally would,” Kavanagh concluded. “So yeah, if we could turn back time, I would have liked to spend more time on offense and capitalizing on those scenarios when they presented themselves, which they did.”

Interestingly enough, Kavanagh couldn’t share whether McGregor agreed with his assessment because they hadn’t spoken about the fight since it went down. Apparently, the two only saw each other briefly in a hotel lobby before splitting up and going their separate ways - Kavanagh to corner his fighters and Conor to do a tour of his Proper 12 whiskey business.

”That’s what’s made him who he is, he is able to juggle things like that,” he said. “It’s just been part of his journey the whole way through that we’re always vying for his attention between his other interests. But he is very focused.”

”Listening to Chael [Sonnen] speak in there the other day and he said training is realistically, between 2 and 4 hours a day. If you have a good work ethic, an active mind, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do other stuff on top of that. And that’s how we did it, we worked around that. That’s not a reason, that’s not an excuse. We got our training in and then he was doing his other bits as well, which is just part of who he is at this stage.”