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John Kavanagh says that ideal circumstances leading up to UFC 202 the reason his reputation as a coach is on the line

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

As if the UFC 202 rematch between his charge Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz weren’t big enough, McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh is bringing extra scrutiny to the table. In an editorial he penned for the Irish-based website The 42 on Aug. 8, Kavanagh said that his reputation was at stake in the rematch.

Holding no punches, Kavanagh wrote that McGregor’s performance would reflect him as much as anybody.

"This is a very important fight for Conor, but I also feel that my own reputation as a coach is at stake," he said. "This contest can be a bit of a game-changer for us all. Some observers who are obsessed with weight classes and belts don’t see this as a very meaningful fight. They’re more interested in seeing Conor defend his featherweight belt and going after the lightweight strap too."

Kavanagh clarified those comments on Monday during an appearance on The MMA Hour. When asked if he truly believed the stakes were as harrowing as that for himself and his SBG gym, he said he did, because they’ve had many privileges through the circumstances. 

"Not everybody would have had the opportunity to do what we’ve done, in that Conor, obviously because of his position in the UFC and his status, was able to get the rematch right away," Kavanagh told Ariel Helwani. "And we’ve had plenty of time to train for this. That’s all I’ve really done since March 5. This has been an obsession for both of us.

"And I truly believe we have all of it…money was no object for training camp, time was no object for the training camp. I’ve got great coaches here at SBG where I could travel for as much as I wanted, and they covered classes for me. The whole team is behind them. This means a lot to everybody on the team. And I truly believe this is an opportunity to show that we’ll have losses, we’ll have stumbles, but we’ll come back a hell of a lot better and learn a lot from it. I truly believe this performance will show the technical superiority of Conor, and our superiority in our approach to the contest in our training methods. So yeah, I am putting a lot on this fight."

One thing that Kavanagh has shifted is the training schedule for McGregor, making it a more rigidly structured cycle where they train three days and take one off, rather than go seven days in a row. The new training methods are paying dividends, he said, as McGregor is in a great place mentally heading into fight week, not have taxed himself so thoroughly leading up.

Still, whether the training was more sporadic or not, McGregor raced to a 6-0 record in the UFC, which included a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo to unify the featherweight title. His loss to Diaz also wears an asterisk, as it was taken on 11 day’s notice at a weight class twice removed from his hub.

Yet Kavanagh himself doesn’t necessarily place asterisks on the fight because of the situation, but because he saw what took place in the first round. That and he believes he has the more skillful fighter.

"Like I said, I think the first round of the fight was all Conor," he said. "I’m sure the three judges scored it for Conor. I think there is a technical superiority there. I don’t think that will have changed with 18 weeks training. I don’t think Nate will have been able to catch up in that. Clearly the way the contest ended, there was a substantial conditioning difference between the two of them. That’s what we’ve changed.

"I think skill-wise it takes maybe 10 years, the 10,000-hour rule, to get to a mastery level of something, but conditioning-wise, 18 weeks is a lifetime. And we’ve had measurable, massive increases in endurance training. So, put those two things together, as I said in another interview, it’s kind of like a Randy Couture-style engine, that he never stops -- and you could use maybe use Nate Diaz as an example of that. And then with that BJ Penn super-high skill level to go on top to of that. And again, I’d use Conor McGregor for that now. So I really think he’s the somewhat perfect MMA fighter now."