It's no surprise that UFC champions are usually affiliated with some of the most highly-regarded MMA camps in the world. For former two-division champ Conor McGregor, it's a completely different story.
From his humble beginnings to his eventual rise to superstardom, Conor McGregor stayed loyal to SBG Ireland, a Dublin-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA academy. No doubt John Kavanagh and his team did a phenomenal job as they helped the Irishman ascend to the highest peak of two different weight divisions.
Conor McGregor's legacy is already more significant than most fighters in UFC history. If he decided to retire today, he would still go down as one of the greatest fighters to have stepped foot in the Octagon. And for that, SBG Ireland deserves the utmost credit and praise.
But one thing John Kavanagh and his crew failed to achieve is putting Conor McGregor on track for a successful championship run. He never defended the UFC featherweight title after capturing it from Jose Aldo in 2015. The result was the same when McGregor claimed the lightweight strap against Eddie Alvarez the following year.
Granted, some of Conor McGregor's periods of absence from the octagon are due to his shenanigans outside of the cage. He also spent a long time away from the UFC when he decided to try his hand at boxing against the legendary Floyd Mayweather in 2017.
Judging by Conor McGregor's performances since becoming a UFC champion, his strengths and weaknesses have remained largely the same.
His loss to Nate Diaz in 2016 can be attributed to his poor conditioning. McGregor ran out of gas late in round two and was submitted by his opponent. Meanwhile, his failed quest to dethrone Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018 exposed that McGregor's wrestling defense is still his biggest Achilles heel.
In his most recent fight against Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor – one of the most feared strikers in the UFC – was knocked out and beaten at his own game.
Would Conor McGregor have been better off if he had joined an esteemed MMA camp?
As great as McGregor is, you can't help but wonder if he would have had an even better career had he benefitted from the tutelage of a legendary trainer.
Head coaches like Greg Jackson, Trevor Wittman, and Firas Zahabi have made a name for themselves by producing championship-calibre fighters and helping them maintain prolonged title runs. No disrespect to Kavanagh, but it's not difficult to imagine a more polished version of McGregor had he trained in a top MMA gym.
Let's explore which MMA camps would have been a good fit for the Irish megastar:
Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn are two of the sport's most well-respected trainers, and for good reason.
Their Albuquerque-based Jackson-Wink MMA gym is home to longtime UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and has seen former UFC titleholders BJ Penn, Anthony Pettis, Frank Mir, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Johny Hendricks and Rashad Evans all train there.
Without a doubt, Conor McGregor would have learned so much from a group of coaching staff that has trained world-class wrestlers such as Jones, Evans, and Hendricks. With Jackson's brilliance in crafting a game plan and Winkeljohn's talent as a striking coach, McGregor could have been absolutely unstoppable.
There's no better way to overcome a deficiency in wrestling than to seek the services of the best wrestling coach in the world. If McGregor wanted to go that route, he could have trained with coaching extraordinaire Mark Henry of the Ricardo Alemeida Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
RABJJ is also no stranger to UFC championship talent. The New Jersey-based camp is home to former UFC lightweight champions Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez. The former was dethroned by McGregor at UFC 205.
American Kickboxing Academy
It may be called the American Kickboxing Academy, but the gym isn't limited to training strikers. In fact, it has been the home of two of the UFC's greatest wrestlers, Daniel Cormier and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Aside from the recently-retired Cormier and Khabib, ex-UFC titleholder Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Gray Maynard are some of the most notable alumni from the academy.
It would be very bizarre to live in a world in which Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov are teammates. However, Leandro Vieira, Daniel Cormier, and Bob Cook would definitely have addressed the holes in McGregor's ground game.