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Morning Report: John Kavanagh says Conor McGregor had ankle injury in training camp for UFC 264

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UFC Fight Night Glasgow Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

For the third time since live crowds came back to UFC events, fans were greeted with the sight of a fighter with a broken limb.

This time, it was Conor McGregor, the most famous and bankable UFC fighter in the promotion’s history. But as shocking and tragically familiar as the sight of McGregor’s limb folding against the canvas was at UFC 264, his coach questioned whether it came entirely out of the blue.

In a video chat with UFC broadcaster Laura Sanko, Kavanagh said McGregor sustained an injury to his left ankle in training camp for his trilogy with Dustin Poirier and said a scan he underwent before the fight may have indicated damage to the limb that could have been exacerbated by a blocked kick just before the fateful sequence.

“Little bit of that ankle injury had been aggravated during the camp,” he said. “We’d gotten a scan on it. Did that have a small part to play in weakening it? I don’t know. ... We were [with] Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a pretty famous orthopedic surgeon here in LA. We were with him a couple weeks ago to get a scan on the ankle.

“They say, you think when you look at an MRI or a CAT scan, it’s perfect. But they say it’s like listening to an engine. A very skilled mechanic can maybe pick up something off it, but it’s not till you open it up that you see it. There might’ve been something in there. It would seem unusual that a young, healthy, fit man could wrap his foot around an elbow without there have been something there before. But you can sort of play those guessing games all day long.”

Kavanagh, the co-founder of Wimp to Warrior, said part of McGregor’s preparation for the fight was rediscovering the tools that had produced success for the former two-division UFC champ, which included the teep kicks he used to expert effect in earlier fights. Of course, McGregor said his focus on a potential boxing match with Manny Pacquiao left him focusing mostly on his hands prior to a disastrous knockout loss to Poirier at UFC 257, so his work for UFC 264 was on being a well-rounded mixed martial artist.

There was a specific way Kavanagh wanted McGregor to execute the teep, and that was to thrust it straightforward in a spearlike motion. But in a heated exchange during the first round, the coach said it was delivered “more in a karate style, flicking from the knee,” and McGregor’s leg wrapped around Poirier’s elbow.

“You can watch it back, and that’s clearly where the fracture happened,” Kavanagh said. “He very aggressively threw that kick, Dustin shelled with the lead hand, and the foot wraps around the [elbow] in a similar fashion to where poor old [Anderson] Silva and [Chris] Weidman, they wrapped around the shin – [McGregor] wrapped his shin around the elbow.

“He stands back on it, and you can see the bone almost protrude through the skin. I don’t know how he didn’t fall there. But he comes in then, they exchange crosses, they both miss with their back hands, he goes to step back on it, and that’s when it’s that horrifying fold underneath.”

Kavanagh was “bitterly, bitterly disappointed” in the way things played out given McGregor’s early performance. In his mind, the ex-champ was doing exactly what he needed to do to take control of the fight up until the point where the injury took place.

“I thought energy looked good, technique looked good,” he said. “A few adjustments in between rounds, and I thought we were well on track to getting possibly a finish, or at least keep the rhythm going for the rest of the fight.”

Instead, McGregor wound up on the canvas as medical professionals swarmed around him, put his leg in air cast, and Poirier was declared the winner of the fight and the trilogy that had served as a referendum on the Irish star’s viability as a pay-per-view headliner and future champion.

What happened next caught many by surprise and muted the outpouring of sympathy that followed other horrific injuries inside the octagon. Propped up against the fence, McGregor unleashed a stream of invective that prompted Poirier’s wife to flip him off inside the octagon.

The way Kavanagh sees it, the interview never should have taken place.

“His foot is literally hanging down,” he said. “It’s a clean fracture of the fibula and tibia. You can only imagine the rush of hormones, the pain, it was on fire, and someone sticks a microphone under your face. ... Let’s say I was pretty miffed at the idea of shoving a microphone in someone’s face at that moment.”

But Kavanagh was resolved to move on and continue the camp’s theme of setting and completing 24-hour goals that he said helped McGregor build back into a fighter that was firing on all cylinders. In light of what happened, he said that was the only way to proceed with so much uncertainty in the future.

The famed coach didn’t want to speak for his longtime charge. McGregor, after all, was still in surgery at the time he was giving the interview. At the same time, he couldn’t see McGregor letting the ending of UFC 264 stand as the final result of his trilogy with Poirier.

“Credit to Dustin,” Kavanagh said. “He won. It’s an unfulfilling end to the night. ... It doesn’t feel properly finished. ... It’s hard to imagine him not wanting to come back and do this again.”

From the sound of things, Poirier feels the same way, and the UFC is happy to give it another go.


TOP STORIES

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Defiant. McGregor addresses Poirier’s claim he cheated during the fight.

‘Ironman’ dead. Hours after signaling a guilty plea on two charges of child porn, MMA vet Travis Fulton apparently committed suicide.

Takeaways from UFC 264. Where Poirier’s win and McGregor’s loss leaves the division, and did Herb Dean make the right call in Sean O’Malley vs. Kris Moutinho?

Congrats. Khabib Nurmagomedov a winner once again.


VIDEO STEW

A doctor breaks down McGregor’s broken leg.

A very special guest takes stock of UFC 264 with MMA Fighting’s Jose Youngs.

Quote of the year candidate in this post-fight speech.

And not so great (but also amazing he could even talk at this point).

Former UFC lightweight Josh Thomson says inactivity caused McGregor’s injury.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Can’t argue with that.

Cold.

Yikes.

“Durninho” wants credit.

Now spell his name right, please.

Everyone loves a comeback story.

Everyone needs a hobby.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.


Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Charles Oliveira
    (336 votes)
  • 71%
    Dustin Poirier
    (824 votes)
1160 votes total Vote Now