Despite not competing in mixed martial arts (MMA) since a knockout win over Eddie Alvarez back at UFC 205, Conor McGregor remains the most talked about fighter in the sport.
The 29-year-old Irishman is planning an eventual return to the Octagon later this year, but will first have to get through a court hearing on July 26 for attacking a bus earlier this year in Brooklyn. If that goes as planned and McGregor is allowed to return to competition, a lightweight title fight with current UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would likely take place
McGregor’s long-time striking coach, Owen Roddy, believes that a clash with Khabib is imminent, especially if it’s the matchup fight fans are calling for.
“I’d love to see [the Diaz] fight again — a trilogy fight would be awesome — but I always [think about] what’s getting the most attention and the Khabib fight seems to be brewing up nicely. The fans are really getting behind it,” Roddy told MMA Fighting’s Mike Sheridan at a Q & A at SBG Charlestown on Saturday morning (shown above).
“I never thought the Mayweather fight was going to happen, but when the fans got behind it and then when Mayweather started talking you knew it was going to happen.”
The last time we saw McGregor compete he was getting tagged inside of the boxing ring by Floyd Mayweather Jr. While “Notorious” ended up losing his boxing debut opposite “Money” via TKO, it was one of the most watched fights of all time.
Much of that can be attributed to McGregor’s pre-fight antics, having produced countless soundbites and nose-to-nose staredowns with Mayweather leading into their superfight. McGregor’s ability to verbally slay opponents and hype fights is something that has earned him massive paydays in the past — evident by the $100 million he earned for MayMac — so don’t expect any changes moving forward.
“It’s not staged at all. At the end of the day, especially if you’re fighting Conor, he’s going in to kill you,” explained Roddy. “If you’re at a press conference with him he’ll go at you; it would take a lot for him not to go at you. The only thing that would stop him is if he’d lose a few bob [some money] for it, and rightfully so,” said Roddy.
“If you sign to fight him he’s looking to inflict as much damage as he can, as quickly as he can. After the fight, he gives every one of his opponents the respect they deserve. A lot of fighters make excuses but he’ll stand by what happens in any fight and he’ll give you the respect you deserve, but beforehand he doesn’t like you and he’s going in to dismantle you.”
Outside of Nurmagomedov, McGregor has a few options to consider. He could always fight Nate Diaz in a trilogy fight, rematch Max Holloway for the UFC featherweight title, or partake in a massive superfight opposite former UFC champion Georges St-Pierre.
All of those fighters pose different risks to “Notorious” and would all warrant his best foot forward, but they are also opponents that Roddy believes McGregor can exploit.
“[GSP] is one of the best to ever do it. He has a tricky code to crack, most definitely. Same with Khabib, that style is [tricky], but you can come up with plans to beat them,” said Roddy. “Nobody is perfect. There are flaws in everyone’s game — there are flaws in Khabib’s game and there are flaws in GSP’s game.
“They both do what they do really well, but at the end of the day, for me, what Conor has over all of them is he’s so good at landing shots, he lands a shot within the first minute and 99 percent of people can’t take it. In those small gloves, he is going to catch you, he’s going to catch you on the chin or on the temple and there are very few people who can deal with that.
“Once that happens it doesn’t matter how good you are anywhere. Once you’re rocked everything goes out the window and you’re on autopilot. You don’t want to be fighting him on autopilot because he just sets traps and he puts people away.”
Based on McGregor’s style of fighting, Khabib and GSP are two of worst matchups for the Irishman on paper. Both utilize strong ground games to control opponents and inflict damage from the top. McGregor has gotten past strong wrestlers in the past such as Eddie Alvarez and Chad Mendes, but they just aren’t in the same league as Nurmagomedov and St-Pierre.
Luckily, McGregor has a well-rounded team behind him that is willing to work on his weaknesses to get past any opponent in the world.
“Every fight is exciting, it’s like, ‘How do we approach this guy? What’s he going to come up with? What threats does he have and where are his flaws?’” Roddy explained.
“We’ll find the threats and look at how to nullify them. Then we look at the flaws and see how we capitalize on them. It’s not just me, it’s a team effort: it’s John [Kavanagh], it’s Conor — Conor has a huge input on what shots he uses. He’s such a smart fighter. People think he just goes in and lands the left hand, but it’s everything before — he’s leading people into that position and he’s very good at doing that.
“John is very good at what he does, I’m very good at what I do. If we’re fighting wrestlers Sergey [Pikulskiy] comes in and he’s a phenomenal wrestling coach. And Dillon [Danis] will be there. It’s a phenomenal team and we have all angles covered.”
A victory over Khabib or GSP should be enough to land McGregor on the short list of the greatest UFC fighters of all time. It’s something that the brash Irishman would love to add to his resume so pay close attention to the next steps McGregor takes.