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John Kavanagh discusses ‘gradual separation’ between him and Conor McGregor before UFC 196

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The relationship between Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh went through a rough patch earlier this year

Kavanagh, the UFC's phenom's longtime coach, told Ariel Helwani on this week's edition of The MMA Hour that he and his prized pupil drifted apart somewhat after UFC 194 when McGregor beat Jose Aldo via 13-second knockout.

There were even times when Kavanagh would be leaving his SBG Ireland gym, McGregor would be coming in, and the two would only exchange a nod.

The issue stemmed from McGregor changing his training schedule to later at night, Kavanagh said. The coach would be in the gym first thing in the morning at 9 a.m., while McGregor, a late riser, wouldn't get his workouts in until 10 or 11 p.m.

"No tension," Kavanagh said. "No bad feelings or anything like that. It's just like, ‘Oh, I guess that's how he's doing it now.' He's the champion of the world. He just beat who some say is the best ever in 13 seconds. What am I gonna say?"

That all changed quickly, but it took an event to be the catalyst. McGregor fought Nate Diaz at UFC 196 in March and lost by second-round submission. At the club later that night, McGregor and Kavanagh had a bit of a heart to heart over some whiskey, the coach said. McGregor was actually the one who broached the topic.

"That doesn't seem to be working," Kavanagh said. "I'm not gonna repeat a process that doesn't work and expect a different outcome. And we went back to scheduled sessions, routine, and look what happened a short period [after]."

McGregor got his rematch against Diaz at UFC 202 back in August and attained his revenge, beating the durable Stockton native by majority decision in a second straight welterweight bout. He has kept the current situation with Kavanagh intact heading into a fight with lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 on Saturday in New York.

One of the keys, Kavanagh said, was going back to the way things were when McGregor first got into the UFC three years ago. The coach said he played every role for McGregor before his first UFC bout against Marcus Brimage in Sweden in 2013. Now McGregor, the biggest star in MMA, has an entire team for all of those roles.

"Conor's life has obviously gotten pretty wild over the last couple of years," Kavanagh said. "Not that it was by design, but we did kind of drift a little bit. And we realized that and we spoke about it after the contest and we just kind of made a pact to go back to how it was when we went to Sweden for the first time."

It worked then and has been inarguably effective ever since.