Coach: Conor McGregor technique ‘as sharp as ever’ ahead of Michael Chandler fight

Conor McGregor is rounding back into championship form.

In an interview with SevereMMA, McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh gave a positive appraisal of McGregor’s form heading into his comeback fight at UFC 303 on June 28 in Las Vegas. “The Notorious” is set to fight Michael Chandler in a welterweight bout, in what will be McGregor’s first fight since July 2021.

Though McGregor’s star power has allowed him to pursue other opportunities in the world of entertainment as he recovered from a broken leg suffered in a loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 264, Kavanagh said the former two-division titleholder rarely lets fighting stray far from his mind.

“He’s looking super slick,” Kavanagh said. “There are fighters that when they’re not fighting and after a while it’s difficult to explain to somebody and a lot of guys watching this that are 15 pro fights in, it starts becoming a job. It does. ‘My passion’ and ‘my love of this,’ it’s a job and it’s hard to keep the level of intensity. Even if it’s not physical, the level of mental intensity, of always thinking about training, always thinking about sequences, always thinking about techniques.

“That’s something Conor’s had naturally his whole career. So even though there’s times when he’s off filming, he’s doing this, he’s doing that, we’re still always having conversations back and forth, whereas some fighters are like, ‘If I’m not fighting, I don’t even want to look at shows. I’ll just get ready when there’s a fight coming up.’ And that’s really held to him because he’s come back on the mats as sharp as ever. Of course, we’ve got to get the rounds in and get the conditioning up to be ready for competition, but his technique is as sharp as ever.”

McGregor recently starred in the hit Amazon Prime release, Road House, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. A remake of the classic 1989 action film, the 2024 version of Road House received mixed reviews, but drew impressive streaming numbers and McGregor was one of the most talked-about aspects of the movie.

Kavanagh has been by McGregor’s side throughout the fighter’s rise to global notoriety and he isn’t concerned about him being spread too thin.

“I’ve always felt sorry for the other guys because let’s say he has 20 different areas that he needs to focus on,” Kavanagh said. “Martial arts will always be number one because he really enjoys it. It’s the most fun. Going through the paperwork on a really long, complicated property deal. Probably not the most exciting thing in the world. But for martial arts I feel like I have a trump card. I can always send him a highlight, send him a technique, talk about a guy that we have in here training for him, whatever, and I’ll always pop to the top of the list. So I don’t feel I have to compete with those things.

“Conor’s really good at compartmentalization, whereas training is realistically it’s maybe two one-hour sessions a day. That’s plenty of other time in the day where you can be focused in other areas. So when you’re in here, you’re on for the hour, you’re on for the 90 minutes, and then when you’re gone, you’re on for whatever it is you’re doing out there.”

When McGregor returns to action, it will have been almost three years since his most recent fight and over four years since his last victory. He defeated Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 in January 2020 before dropping a pair of bouts to Poirier.

Kavanagh predicts that McGregor won’t waste too much time reestablishing his reputation in his comeback fight.

“I said this from the start, I see similarities to the [Chad] Mendes fight,” Kavanagh said. “I’d be surprised if it can go two rounds. [McGregor] hits too hard, he’s too sharp. Is there going to be scrappiness and a few takedowns and stuff? Maybe. But every round starts on the feet and his ability to get back there is underestimated. So I’d be surprised if we see two rounds.”

Kavanagh declined to answer what opponents McGregor may be interested in following a win over Chandler, instead focusing solely on securing victory in his upcoming fight first. Should McGregor lose, Kavanagh doubts it will be the last fans see of him.

“I don’t think Conor will ever hang it up,” Kavanagh said. “One fight at a time. We have a really big fight coming up, a big challenge. Chandler’s a hell of a competitor and I’m looking forward to that challenge. We’re all looking forward to that challenge.”

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