What I Learned From Training With Conor McGregor


WWN was granted exclusive access to Conor McGregor’s training camp in L.A.

Training with the UFC behemoth, we gained a unique insight into the man behind the take downs and learned a great many things:

The first thing I noticed upon entering the gym was the silence. McGregor and his trainer John Kavanagh were very much in ‘fight’ mode. With the bout against Jose Aldo just weeks away the focus and concentration were etched into McGregor’s eyes as he watched reruns of Seinfeld.

“Conor enjoys the premise of selfish sociopaths ensconced in a New York city way of life,” trainer Kavanagh whispers in my ear, careful not to break McGregor’s focus, “we also based a lot of his pre fight persona on Kramer, which I think is pretty evident”.

After several hours in silence, watching Seinfled (McGregor never laughed, not even during the ‘Soup Nazi’ episode) it was time to move on to the next exercise, and it was my first taste of one on one combat with McGregor.

I was enlisted as his sparring partner and with no previous UFC or fight experience, save for a first round knockout to Peter Horan in a ferocious fight in Junior Infants (where a 4-year-old learned to eye-gouge I’ll never know), I was almost certainly going to die.

However, to my relief, it would be a different type of sparring.

“Right now, the physical stuff is taking a back seat,” Kavanagh explained, “this is day one of Conor’s trash-talk boot camp, so he’s going to throw some insults your way and you throw some back”.

‘Relief’ is certainly the word, although I was well aware that McGregor’s tongue was chief amongst his most deadly weapons.

At this point I hadn’t exchanged a single word with the fighter, his steely glare now fixed on my face, I was a ball of nerves.

“You mouldy headed cabbage,” McGregor shouted in my face. It was a modest start, he was clearly still warming up. But, the hits kept coming.

“You’re only a butcher’s testicle. I’ll dismantle you like a poorly constructed piece of IKEA furniture,” the hits were beginning to take their toll, I was sweating and beginning to doubt I’d amount to anything in life, such was the effectiveness of McGregor’s trash-talk. It was time to lob one of my own insult grenades.

“Your tattoos are not really my style,” I barked back, but true to his near impenetrable defence, it failed to land on the Dubliner.

“Did you hear the one about the journalist who got in a slagging match with the Notorious? No, of course you didn’t because he was a meaningless piece of baby seal excrement,” McGregor said hitting his stride, I fell to my knees and begged him to stop.

“Like baby seal excrement, you are a liquidy substance which displeases me any time I lay my eyeballs on it, be gone with you”.

Kavanagh wisely jumped in before any permanent damage was done, McGregor, clearly riled, paced the floor of the gym for several minutes throwing insults at himself in the mirror, it was dedication personified.

In an effort to calm me down, Kavangh told me of a new strategy they were working on the Aldo fight.

“No has ever tried it before, show him there Conor”. And with that McGregor began to do something extraordinary, he punched out with his foot, and then kicked with his fist. It was life changing to witness. Over and over again, the combination of fist kick and foot punch mesmerised me. I pleaded with McGregor to teach me, and reluctantly at Kavanagh’s suggesting he did.

Next was to a nearby tailor.

McGregor’s stamina, the stuff of legend, was something to behold. The man, machinelike, tried on over 217 bow ties and cravat combinations. It was clear Jose Aldo couldn’t keep up this sort of pace. He was a 28 bow tie/cravat combo man tops. After over 5 hours of suit fittings, it was now time to wind down. But what does a man who lives on the edge do to bring himself to a calm?

“He’s mad for Road Dahl,” Kavanagh explained as he tucked McGregor into bed, “would you do the honours?”

I was indeed honoured, leafing through the pages of the BFG, I found the dog eared pages, and began reading with Conor, the veneer of a fighting machine slipped away and was replaced with a sleeping man who just fucking loved the BFG.

“Did you know they’re making it into a movie, Spielberg and all,” I said, McGregor’s eyes lit up but Kavanagh was livid.

“Christ, you have him all jazzed up now, he won’t sleep tonight. Thanks, thanks for nothing,” an enraged Kavanagh bellowed.

I was shown the door, but I took with me some life lessons, and an insight into what it takes to be the best of the best. And I could now take my vengeance of my Junior Infants nemesis Peter Horan, he’ll never see that kick from my fist coming.