Throughout Conor McGregor’s rise through the UFC, the Irishman always seemed to take a particular glee at chirping across the fence at Floyd Mayweather — and in turn, the undefeated boxer was never far off with his own retort.
Of course, few could’ve predicted that those insults would actually manifest themselves into the spectacle that will take place Aug. 26, when McGregor and Mayweather meet in a 12-round boxing match that will likely go down as one of the most lucrative fights in history. It’s not the first time McGregor has turned a seemingly impossible scenario into a reality, but while the boxing world ridicules the UFC lightweight champion for everything from his training methods to his technique in the lead-up to the fight, the confidence emanating from Team McGregor has remained as undaunted as ever.
And as longtime SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh explained Monday, that confidence as been the same from the very first text message McGregor sent him revealing that the fight was official.
“He just said, ‘The man has made a grave error. This is going to be Bruce Lee sh*t. This is water becoming the cup,’” Kavanagh said Monday on The MMA Hour. “First of all, I read that and I went, oh, the Mayweather fight is actually on. I didn’t quite believe it until then, so that blew me away, and my brain starts racing, ‘okay, I’ve got to put certain wheels into motion.’
“But I don’t think it was until a couple of weeks later, or maybe days later, that I kinda read again and I realized what he was saying about the Bruce Lee water quote — that the ruleset might change and the strategy will change, but the fundamentals remain the same. This is something my own coach has told me a long, long time ago — Matt Thornton — that if you take an MMA fighter and you put him in a kickboxing match or a wrestling match, or a self-defense situation, the rules of engagement certainly change and that will affect your strategy, but the fundamentals of timing, of distance, of range, of how to hit hard, different striking techniques, they will remain the same.”
McGregor’s message harkened back to Lee’s famous quote about being “formless, shapeless,” able to adapt to any situation. And that is what Kavanagh believes people who are quick to dismiss McGregor’s chances are missing — that McGregor may be inexperienced in a classic boxing sense, however his adaptive skillset and experience across combat styles is different than anything Mayweather has come across before, and his fundamentals can still be applied effectively inside a boxing ring.
“I often say this to people,” Kavanagh explained, “that if you look at various martial arts, there’s a lot of different martial arts, but take a Kung Fu master and a Wing Chun master and you put the two of them in a pair of speedos, make them have an MMA fight in a cage — it looks like two guys who don’t really know how to fight fighting. And the point being, that in a lot of those circumstances, you just don’t have the delivery systems, the fundamentals of fighting ingrained in them.
“Conor has nothing else ingrained in him. That’s all he’s been interested in for the greater part of his life. ... Someone told me before, the art of striking is putting yourself in a position where you can hit but can’t be hit, and that’s all [McGregor is] interested in. That’s the only thing that motivates him day to day. I’ve actually been on the end of a few [sparring sessions] for this training camp, so it’s fascinating to see him do it, and it’s what’s going to happen. Okay, the rules are the Queensbury rules of boxing, but we’re going in to do something a little bit different than what failed (against Mayweather) 49 times.”
Kavanagh echoed McGregor’s confidence on Monday, predicting either a first- or sixth-round stoppage for the Irishman, depending on how Mayweather approaches the fight.
And despite the glee seemingly flowing out of Team Mayweather, Kavanagh believes the boxing world is in for a seismic shock when McGregor validates the original message he sent his longtime coach back in the summer.
“There was just something so definite about it,” Kavanagh said. “And then his take on the fight, that he wasn’t going to go in as a boxer, he was going to go in as a martial artist if you want to say, as a fighter, as a mixed martial artist, and be able to do sequences and techniques and attacks that are fully within the rules ... there’s nothing within the rules to say we can’t do the things we have in mind, so we’re just going to go in and enjoy it as well.
“We’re going to have fun with this. This is sport, it’s a great event, it’s going to be one of the most-watched events of all-time maybe, everybody has an opinion on it, and I’m very honored to be playing a part in it.”