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UFC News: John Kavanagh explains how McGregor almost quit after suffering a loss

Adithya Pai
582   //    03 Nov 2016, 18:01 IST
‘Broke bum’ transforms into The Notorious one.

At present, it’s hard to imagine the world of mixed martial arts without Conor McGregor. With the birth of The Notorious one, now the sport seems to be complete. But to reach that level of super-stardom certainly wasn’t easy for the Irishman.

McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh recalls the time he had to literally pick the champion up, in order to make McGregor pursue his dreams again.

Coach Kavanagh spoke to Paul Kimmage of The Independent, about the time he had to motivate The Notorious one to get back into the gym after suffering a loss. Here’s what he said:

“I used to run these little shows in Good Counsel (the GAA club) down the road and I’d give the guys tickets to sell and give them a commission or whatever. So he had a bunch of tickets and all his mates were there, and he was ‘the name’, the rising star, but he was fighting this skinny little Lithuanian fella, who just ran through him. I keep saying it – fighters don’t mind getting hurt, but they hate being embarrassed, and that was an embarrassment for him.”

John Kavanagh says McGregor had disappeared with the money he owed him after losing a match. According to him, the Irish superstar had already spent the money.

“I had no interest,” Kavanagh stated. 

“I had a lot of other guys coming through. Tom Egan was better than him; Owen Roddy was doing great; Ashling was starting to do well. I don’t put negative energy into chasing people who are not in the gym: if you’re not here, you’re not on my mind; if you are here, I’ll give you everything. So I wasn’t ringing him.”

Only the fighters, who were present in the gym on a regular basis, would get the necessary attention from the coach. So Kavanagh didn’t bother about McGregor or the money he owed.

However, when McGregor’s mother approached Kavanagh, he realised that he had more purpose in life than just training. He had to motivate his disciples to pick themselves up during hardship.

“His mother was worried. Her name was Margaret – my mother is Margaret too – and it was one of the first times, maybe the first time that a parent had reached out to me. It got me thinking: ‘Maybe I have a bigger role here than punching and kicking. Maybe I’m doing a bit more for them than I thought.’ And I guess I started to realise that a lot of people get into fighting for the same reasons I did – it’s not for the fighting, they are dealing with something in their childhood.”

So he finally decided to pay McGregor, a visit on his mother’s request. McGregor was distraught, but Kavanagh advised him not to worry about the money he owed and gave him a little inspirational speech.

So we had a conversation that I’ve had with a couple of guys since: ‘You don’t want to be the guy in your 40s saying ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ with a pint in your hand at the bar. You’ve got potential. Use it. Do it. Don’t worry about the ticket money – scratch it off, I don’t care.

Later, McGregor had returned to training, but he was still far away from earning a decent paycheck. The grand master recalls the struggles The Notorious one tried to tackle:

“Well it wasn’t easy – he was on the dole, earning €100 a fight and training at the height of winter in a cold gym. Now I don’t care how passionate you are, but there are always going to be periods of thinking: ‘F**k this! What am I doing here?’ And he was going through one of those periods. He was a two-weight world champion in ‘Cage Warriors’ and I couldn’t get him a sponsor for a tub of protein. His annual earnings for that five-year period was something like €1,500 a year! There was no money and I was running out of ideas. The UFC was a closed shop. There were no opportunities and he had one foot out the door.”

But finally Conor McGregor transformed into the biggest superstar in the history of mixed martial arts, and now will fight Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, when he tries to be the first fighter to hold UFC titles in two divisions. 

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