Tonight, on the UFC’s ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi, Conor McGregor will enter the octagon for the first time in twelve months.
Cage side will be the Dubliners loyal MMA coach John Kavanagh, the man who has been there from the very start.
It’s no secret that Kavanagh shares a long and strong friendship with the current Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney.
Speaking to Eamon Fennell on Dublin GAA’s ‘The Hop Ball’ podcast, Kavanagh detailed how much of an aid Geezer, who is a BJJ brown belt, has been in terms of training.
Even McGregor, now a worldwide superstar has benefitted from the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain’s input.
“It was kind of at the same time that a bunch of fighters that I had, Conor’s an obvious one, he would have been 20 or 21, and he was just starting to get to a very high national level” Kavanagh explains.
“I met Kieran, and I’d no background in sports science or coaching at any kind of high level. I was able to lean a lot on him in the early days about structuring training, and his mindset”.
The owner of the SBG gym, where Geezer took his Armagh squad in 2019 for some pre-season training, speaks highly of the Mullaghbawn native, recalling their first meeting.
Around ten years ago now, the MMA guru admits to not knowing who the then Kildare manager was when he first set eyes on him.
“He booked a private lesson with me, and I’d no idea who it was. Well, I knew by the end of that hour trust me on that” Kavanagh laughs.
“I have a bit of a drill I do that makes people… usually it tires them quite quickly if they’re not used to it”.
“Even though they might be fit in other areas” Kavanagh continues, “it’s a wrestling drill that I know how to cheat on, but other people don’t if they don’t know how to do it so their usually very inefficient at it”.
“You’ll blow a gasket in five minutes, six minutes. I did it with him for just under forty minutes and then I said, “okay I’m done”.
“We very quickly just started training, I basically trained with him pretty much every day from that day on for the last decade. I certainly got a huge amount out of him”.
Coach Kavanagh is now known throughout the globe as Conor McGregor’s right-hand man, but that wasn’t always the case.
Kavanagh describes finding out just how famous Kieran McGeeney was in Ireland, when he joined Geezer at his first ever GAA game.
“I went with Kieran and at that time we were kind of getting known around Dublin. Conor had won a few national titles; a few guys were beginning to do well. The odd person would stop me” (as they recognised him).
“Then I went to a big game with Kieran McGeeney and I got to see what it looks like to be around an actual famous person. People were dropping onto one knee and tipping the hat”.