A former SBG fighter, Myles Price, who spent many rounds sparring Conor McGregor before the Dubliner rose to superstardom, says he’s now helping Khabib Nurmagomedov prepare to fight “The Notorious” in their all encompassing lightweight title clash at UFC 229.
Price, who was a national lightweight champion during his time at SBG, detailed why he left the Irish gym a number of years ago and revealed that he had a somewhat fractured relationship with McGregor during his time at the facility.
“I’ll be honest with you, I never really got on well with Conor within the gym because me and Conor sparred a lot. At the time, Conor was taking fights at lightweight,” Price said on the latest episode of Eurobash.
“I understand the hierarchy within gyms. Even here at AKA you have heated spars, but afterwards we shake each other’s hands, we talk about what we can work on and develop as training partners or as a team.
“Basically, with Conor, he’s quite narcissistic. He’ll see you as competition. He’s not very nice to be around in the gym. If you’re giving him hard spars, he won’t see you as a friend after a while.”
The Team Ryano fighter admitted that he got some strange looks when he first walked into AKA with Nurmagomedov gearing up to face his former training partner.
“Of course, I got a lot of looks,” Price recalled the first time he walked into AKA to train ahead of UFC 229, “ But I’m the type of guy that can see things from an outside perspective; I have good self awareness. I expected it to happen before I went in, regardless of what was said between me and Javier [Mendez] about coming over and where I came from, the guys on the team were obviously going to be suspicious.
“It wasn’t actually awkward. I went in and they were piss-taking more than anything else, even the Dagestanis. Even now when I walk into the gym they’re saying, ‘SBG, McGregor team!’ What’s up?’ — it’s crazy! We train with each other on a daily basis so they know the craic. They know I’m not going over there to (spy on them).”
Nurmagomedov and his manager, Ali Abdelaziz, were among the first people that welcomed Price to the San Jose gym.
“One of the first guys that came over to me was Khabib. He came up and said, ‘What’s up’, he knew who I was and he knew what the craic was.
“Another one of the first people I talked to was Ali, his manager. He was such a welcoming guy, a lovely fella and really down to earth. He said, ‘We’re all martial artists, we’re all a family. I manage Joe Duffy, a fellow Irishman. I know what the story is, we just have a dislike for Conor McGregor’. I said, ‘That’s probably something we have in common to a degree’.
“It was surprising how welcoming they were when I got talking to them. I’ve become a part of the family at AKA,” he added.
Price claims that he was blown away by the physicality of the Russian when he first trained with him:
“It’s like having a wet blanket on you in every single session. When I jump in and do my session with Khabib, it just feels like there is no stopping him, he just keeps coming at you. When people commentate on his fights, it’s [very accurate] when they say it’s a shock when you feel what he feels like at first. I imagined what it was going to be like, but that was a whole other level of pressure. It’s calculated, it’s smart, it’s vigorous — it just keeps on coming at you over and over again.
“His stand up has gone through the roof,” Price said of Nurmagomedov. “He’s going to have some tricks up his sleeve on Oct. 6th, that’s all I’m going to say.”
As for Thursday’s highly-publicized press conference, Price believes McGregor was being “irrational”, which he thinks could be a good sign for “The Eagle” as he gears up for his first title defense.
“What I took from it was: Conor looked very emotionally invested. He couldn’t sit still for two seconds — it was an irrational press conference on his behalf. He wouldn’t let Khabib talk, he couldn’t take a deep breath, he was moving around a lot. It’s seemed like an over the top reaction and for me, an emotional reaction like that is bad. If he comes across emotional like that, it’s only a good thing for Khabib,” Price explained.
“Khabib was calm, he was collected and you could see that Khabib was not going to react to any of his b*llocks. He was fully prepared for it, he stayed calm, he put the microphone down when he needed to because there’s no point in fighting fire with fire with Conor. If you get emotionally invested back into him then he’s won that battle — you’re on the level he wants you to be at.
“[McGregor] kind of said a lot of things that were out of line too that took some rationality away from his persona. That will dribble into his performance on Oct. 6. He’s still a human being. At the end of the day, when we’ve seen Conor crack and underperform, it’s when he’s been emotional.”
Based on his training sessions with both men, and McGregor’s showing at the press conference, Price is anticipating a Nurmagomedov victory at the T-Mobile arena.
“I don’t want to seem biased because I’m over here training with Khabib, because I have a lot of respect for Conor as an athlete. He’s an amazing athlete, there’s no doubt in the world about that. Anyone that questions that is very foolish because I’ve felt him in spars, he’s extraordinary, he’s a hard worker and when he’s mentally on point he performs extremely well,” he explained.
“My feelings have completely changed since I came over here because I’ve added training sessions and feeling what Khabib is like to my opinion. Khabib is a very good athlete, he’s a dangerous athlete and he can take a shot too. Everybody takes shots in the gym, but in my opinion, Khabib is very hard to hit at the moment. He’s a grinding, hard wrestler and his conditioning is on a completely different level now. Most importantly, his psyche is very strong. He’s very strong mentally and that’s what the deciding factor is going to be in this fight. Anyone that hasn’t taken Conor personally, emotionally or that hasn’t attached themselves to Conor has done well or beaten Conor. That’s what Khabib is doing now. Forget where he’s at physically, because psychologically is where he’s going to win the battle.
“If I had to make a quick [prediction] now, I’d probably say round three or round four, Khabib TKOs him. Just ground pound, taking him down, beating on him and the referee stops it.”
“Magic” has recently signed a contract with Bellator, and the Kilkenny native thinks it would be fitting for him to fight a SBG fighter, Peter Queally in particular, given the tension between SBG and AKA ahead of UFC 229.
“I potentially think it would be a great marketing matchup for myself and Peter Queally, or Dillon Danis, because it would all come full circle. Why wouldn’t we fight? I was meant to fight Peter Queally, I think it was twice now, and he pulled out twice. He didn’t give my team any reason as to why he pulled out. I’d like to fight him because of that, to be honest,” said Price.
“I understand when people pull out of fights sometimes, but when you don’t give myself or my camp a reason…and he’s Conor’s teammate so why wouldn’t he fight me? He’s quick to go on Instagram to call out the champion, but people tend to forget that he lost to Joe McColgan not so long ago, who was 1-0. Don’t get me wrong, Joe McColgan is a beast, he trains a lot with [Team Ryano] as well. I feel like people forget about that, the Irish fans or whatever fans he has on social media. I think that would be a great matchup.”
Check out the latest episode of Eurobash podcast below. MMA Fighting’s Peter Carroll is joined by UFC veteran Neil Seery and Off The Ball’s Niall McGrath to discuss all of the recent developments on the European MMA scene. The Myles Price interview begins at 18:20