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Morning Report: John Kavanagh talks Conor McGregor’s return: ‘When the time comes, I’m sure he won’t be short of choice’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

2021 has been the worst professional year of Conor McGregor’s professional fighting career. In January, McGregor suffered his first knockout defeat in MMA when he lost to Dustin Poirier at UFC 257. Then, six months later, McGregor lost the rematch when he snapped his shin in half. Since then, McGregor has been rehabbing from his injury and by all accounts, his recovery has gone exceedingly well, which means that things are full steam ahead for 2022, at least, according to McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh.

“He’s going to be back in the gym, he’s going to be back on the mats now in the next couple of weeks with me,” Kavanagh told Submission Radio. “He’s doing a lot of strength training at the moment. The guys is jacked. I think he’s coming back as a middleweight (laughs). But he’ll be back on the mats with me now shortly and we’ll start off with combat sports training again. And, he’s getting some, um… I always have to choose my words carefully here, but look, we’ll start with drills.

“I actually joked with him, I said, ‘look, I’d rather if we just start off with some techniques, some drills, let’s see how you’re going’. And he’s like, ‘no, I’m going to do five by five, that’s what I’m coming back to do’. And I’m like, oh, great, you know, we’re straight into full combat training again. But, he’s very enthusiastic, very upbeat, very excited to attack 2022. And I’m not sure when he’ll be back, but he’ll be back.”

With a 2022 return in store for McGregor, the question inevitably becomes who he will face. A number of fighters have jumped out as possible opponents, including Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Chandler, and the ever-present trilogy fight with Nate Diaz as options. However, in recent weeks one fighter seems to have made a strong case for facing McGregor next: former featherweight champion Max Holloway.

In the lead up to his fight against Yair Rodriguez earlier this month, Holloway repeatedly said that a rematch between he and McGregor was a definite possibility (the two first fought back in 2013 with McGregor winning a unanimous decision), and that is a fight that Kavanagh says would be a good one to run back and that they could do it without the vicious weight cuts that they had for their first contest.

“The funny thing is, I think for guys at Conor’s level and Max’s level and those guys, I don’t even really know why they bother cutting weight anymore, you know?” Kavanagh said. “It’s almost like, just let them fight. Cause I’d imagine Max is probably heavier than Conor outside of fighting. I’ve heard stories of him getting up to really high weight. So, why would they agree to fight and then spend eight weeks trying to deplete themselves, trying to get them down to some weight class to fight for some belt?”

“Max has had a few belts, Conor’s had a few belts. So, they’ve done that. Push that to one side. I don’t know if that’s important anymore. Just have them fight at their weight, whatever their weight is. Just let them do it (laughs). Whatever weight they are, let’s go.”

Of course, Holloway may not actually be available for such a fight as he presumably has a trilogy fight with featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski looming. That’s fine with McGregor as the former two-division champion believes that he will be challenging for the lightweight title in his return fight. Having only won one fight in the past five years, the validity of McGregor’s statement remains to be seen, particularly given how log-jammed lightweight already is with contenders, but even if he doesn’t immediately challenge for the belt, Kavanagh says McGregor will be returning against a top opponent, regardless.

He’s not so much about warm-up fights,” Kavanagh said. “He seems pretty warm to me as it is. So, what will come, will come. He’s got a hundred opponents lined up it would appear. But let’s just get back training, let’s test the leg and test everything, and when the time comes, I’m sure he won’t be short of choice. Whoever he faces he’ll be highly motivated. It’s clear at this stage Conor has a few quid, he’s got a few dollars in the bank account. So, that’s not the motivating factor at this stage, his motivating factor is competition and to improve himself and to test himself against whoever it is.”

The lightweight title is currently schedule to be up for grabs next month when champion Charles Oliveira puts his belt on the line against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269. Should he win, both Poirier and UFC President Dana White have shown an interest in booking a fourth fight with McGregor.


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FINAL THOUGHTS

Just a heads up, there will be no Morning Report tomorrow. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday (if you’re stateside) and we will reconvene Friday morning.


EXIT POLL

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