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Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh questions why Poirier fight at UFC 257 isn’t for the belt

In his first interview about McGregor in a while, John Kavanagh opens up about Conor’s training and the politics of fighting in 2020.

UFC 194: Jose Aldo v Conor McGregor Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images

It’s been nearly a full year since Conor McGregor’s last fight at the start of January 2020, the first UFC PPV to start off the year. And now we’re right back where we were: McGregor is once again set to kick off 2021 with his January pay-per-view with Dustin Poirier at UFC 257.

There hasn’t been a lot of interviews coming out of Team McGregor, partly due to COVID, and partly due to Conor’s tightly managed media exposure plan. These days it’s carefully crafted Facebook content, Proper 12 propaganda, and the occasional unhinged Twitter jag.

But with UFC 257 now less than 30 days away, the floodgates are opening. McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh sat down with Conor’s own The Mac Life website to discuss where “The Notorious” is training wise after a 2020 that was nothing like anyone anticipated.

Solid work in the 18oz’rs! Back on the horse! Time zone adjusting. Weight scale calculating. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. No chance! I am preparing a masterpiece!

Posted by Conor McGregor on Sunday, December 27, 2020

“He is the most timiest and the most sharpest I’ve ever seen him,” Kavanagh said. “He’s almost kept up this training camp for the year. 2020 was supposed to be his season, but it seems to have been his training season. Thankfully he kept his head down in that area, and I hesitate to use the word training camp as that’s usually 6 or 8 weeks, as this has been 12 months, really. It’s peaking at the right time, in the last weeks I feel the intensity has been brought up.”

As for his opponent, Dustin Poirier, Kavanagh clearly thinks McGregor has a huge advantage in the fight based off the ass-kicking that was delivered back in 2014 when Conor TKO’d Poirier in under two minutes.

“[Dustin’s] fighting a different animal than any of [his previous opponents],” Kavanagh said. “Somebody with true one punch knockout power that he’s already felt. I think you could spend a lifetime going to sports psychologists and talking to this person and that person. That’s not going to have been erased from his mind. He knows that he is facing somebody who can shut off his lights very, very rapidly. And now is a lot more powerful and a lot more experienced than he was even then.”

“So it’s a tough uphill battle for Dustin, but Dustin’s a phenomenal fighter, a great fighter and I know him and Conor, they’ve got certain agreements on charity things outside which is great. I think that’s what professional sports should be about anyway. But yeah, I’m really looking forward to this one.”

While there hasn’t been a lot of consideration made towards the possibility of Poirier getting COVID and perhaps Michael Chandler or Dan Hooker having to step in, Kavanagh has clearly thought about it.

“I think in terms of opponent difficulty levels, Dustin would be at the top of that group,” he said. “So if one is replacing Dustin, there’s no nice way to say it, but it’s a slightly easier fight. Dustin is the best of those guys.”

Another thing on Kavanagh’s mind: why this fight at UFC 257 isn’t for the lightweight belt now that Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired.

“I don’t really get why this one isn’t for the title, if I’m being 100% honest?” Kavanagh said. “Maybe this is Dana, a little carrot towards Khabib ... ‘Do you really want him to....’ I don’t know. I know there’s these types of games going on, I don’t involve myself in it. But this to me, it feels like it’s for the belt. I guess at the very least the winner of this will be offered a title fight.”

“But who would that be against? It’s a bit of a strange scene in front of us, which makes it interesting.”