Inside Mac Mansion with John Kavanagh

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Peter Carroll spent a week at the Mac Mansion in the lead up to Conor McGregor UFC 189 title shot against Jose Aldo

John Kavanagh has been having a typically busy few weeks travelling between various destinations as Conor McGregor prepares for his UFC 189 title shot against Jose Aldo.

Catching the jiu jitsu black belt at ‘Mac Mansion’ just before he left for Cathal Pendred’s UFC 188 camp in Mexico, Kavanagh expressed his feelings on having two of his most prominent athletes having their own camps in different locations. Kavanagh claimed that there was nothing too difficult that came with his fighters preparing for fights outside of the main gym, especially when you consider his belief that two of his fighters will eventually compete against each other on one of the “big cards”.

“Two guys having camps in two different parts of the world is something that we’ve always anticipated at the gym,” explained Kavanagh. “We were always geared towards success and this kind of thing goes hand and hand with it. Conor being in Vegas and Cathal being in Mexico is great really, and it’s not a problem at all, especially when you consider that someday I’ll probably have two guys from the gym fighting each other on one of these big cards. I think it’s inevitable that will happen.

“All of these things have been planned for, they’ve been thought about so this is only one of the things that I can see happening as we have further success. Cathal is leading his camp, Conor is leading his and it’s inevitable really. These are guys who know the system – they don’t need me to be there everyday making sure they’re sticking to it. They know what has to be done, we do it so much at home that it just kind of carries on when I’m not there.”

Having joined the ‘Mac Mansion’ crew on the week of UFC 187, it was impossible not to notice how much the Irish featherweight had been utilised by the UFC in advertising the event. The ovation that McGregor received from the Brazilian fans on his entrance to the MGM Grand on the night, as well as the rapturous applause that filled the arena when his face appeared on the screens was something to behold from an Irish perspective. It seems a lot to have going on ahead of the biggest of his life, but Kavanagh believes the Dubliner is one of the rare fighters that is motivated by the various obligations he honours.

“He feeds off all of these things. Some fighters would shrivel under so much media scrutiny and attention. There’s a part in the Spiderman movie where one of the bad guys is getting hit with lots of green energy, but instead of hurting him it makes him stronger. That’s the way I see Conor when I think of the various obligations he has. They only make him stronger.”

Kavanagh also gave his insights into why it was important for McGregor to set up camp in Vegas ahead of his Aldo bout.

He said: “The setup we have out here is every fighter’s dream – to be able to isolate themselves and have absolutely nothing to do. He doesn’t have to worry about getting to the gym, he doesn’t have to worry about any family stuff – he’s only got one job to do. Everyone out here – we wake, we train and we sleep.”

There is no denying that everyone invited to stay at the Henderson estate is playing a big part in McGregor’s preparation. From the jiu jitsu players right up to chief sparring partner Artem Lobov, everyone is sharing a common goal.

“Everyone in the house is on the same page. There’s a page of rules written out somewhere around here and that’s geared towards us all being in the same mind-set too. Take a look through the food in the cupboards, you won’t find any processed food or refined sugar. Everyone here is eating right, even me, for ten weeks I’ve put myself on a strict diet. Everybody in this camp is going to be as physically and mentally prepared as they can be. There is no one here that is not in a championship mind-set.

“Every person we’ve got out here brings something to the table. There’s Roddy, he’s the original guy that was breaking into the international ranks when nobody knew about Irish MMA. Tom is here, he’s our first UFC guy and a major part of the history of the sport in Ireland. Artem has been in Conor’s corner forever. It’s been that same core group.

“You see a lot of different people chopping and changing, but we’ve had he same group for the last ten years. We all started from the same spot and now we’re sitting in a four million dollar mansion and we’re about to shock the world.”

Kavanagh highlighted the fact that public opinion has never been as split with regard to Aldo in a championship bout.

“Well I guess opinion is pretty much split down the middle now,” he said of UFC 189’s main event. “The fact that it is split like that is crazy though. The number one pound for pound fighter, he’s been unbeaten for a decade and nobody knows who is going to win it. Any other time he’s fought he’s been the heavy favourite.

“Now he’s going to fight a guy from a small team in Dublin and the planet is divided on who is going to win. That in itself is massive, but it’s going to get even bigger when they see what Conor does to him on July 11.”

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As well as Owen Roddy, Artem Lobov and Tom Egan there are a variety of younger prospects that have taken up residency in the Mac Mansion. Kavanagh discussed the impact seeing the fruits of McGregor’s labour on the entire group, but particularly the younger athletes in the crew.

“I think they call it blooding the hounds, but I should make it clear that I’m very against hunting,” he laughed. “Back in the day I used to have Conor around Owen an awful lot, before that I’d have Owen spend a lot of time around Dave Roche and then before that again, I would try to spend as much time with professional fighters as I possibly could.

“Now what better example could you have? James and Frans (Mlambo) are spending their time with some of the best guys in the world over here. They’re spending time with the best fighter on the planet as he goes through the best preparation on the planet. In the early days it was a bit harder to motivate the guys, but at 18 or 19 years of age, what better motivation is there than seeing what the fruits of your labour can deliver,” said Kavanagh.

Finally Kavanagh claimed that McGregor had improved a “great deal” during the camp while explaining the mind-set each of his fighters have as they enter a new camp.

“I always tell my fighters that if by their next fight they aren’t able to fight their previous self, then they didn’t train hard enough. All of my fighters, that’s always their goal. The opponent will always change or bring a new style to the table. Focusing on being able to destroy the previous versions of themselves pushes them, and it seems to work for all of my fighters. So yes, Conor has improved a great deal in this camp.”

@PetesyCarroll

Check out all the editions of Inside Mac Mansion here

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.