John Kavanagh: Mendes will start shooting from the dressing rooms

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John Kavanagh will see the culmination of his life’s work on Saturday night as one of SBG Ireland charges, Conor McGregor, contends for the UFC’s interim featherweight championship.

“For me personally, this night has been a long time coming,” said Kavanagh. “I’ve been involved in this sport for half of my life. There is a video that’s just come out of me when I was about 23. I’m getting ready for my first fight. Clive Staunton found this video and I don’t remember this at all but it’s like video diaries, it’s interviews and there’s footage of me warming up with Dave Roche.

“That was weird to see. I couldn’t remember any of it. Clive found it in his attic when he was cleaning or something. There’s a guy we know that works in TV and he’s going to digitize it and make a little documentary out of it.

“When I watched it I was looking at myself moving around and it was so bad! Everything I was doing was wrong, but I was only 23 and I had only started when I was 19. You’ve got to understand, someone who has been training for four years now is a lot different than me back then. There were no online video tutorials back then and the sport wasn’t televised at all. Learning was a lot more difficult back then. So yes, this is the culmination of all of that work, now let’s go and do the damn thing!”

Although Kavanagh has been living in Nevada in preparation for the camp, he has been getting some reports about the impact his ‘Notorious’ student’s title shot is having back home. Sinead O’Connor, one of the country’s most established musicians, is even getting pumped up for the big night where she will sing the Irishman into the Octagon during his walkout.

“We’ve been out of the country for a long time now, but obviously we’ve been getting some updates. Dana White came over to the house yesterday and Sinead O’Connor rang him to say that things were going in crazy in Ireland. She was saying that she was so excited to come over and be a part of it. Come on! This is Sinead O’Connor we’re talking about.

“She’s getting pumped up for this. She’s been a mega star her whole life and she’s getting excited about this and talking about the impact that the fight is having back home. That’s crazy. It puts things into perspective, I do reminisce a bit but I always focus on the task at hand. It’s a party atmosphere but we’re here for business. A big part of it is making the weight on Friday, but the most important thing is getting out there on Saturday and winning,” explained the SBG head coach.

Chad Mendes believes he has a real chance of out striking the Dublin KO artist on the night, but for Kavanagh, there is a massive disparity between the featherweight duo in the striking department.

He said: “Let me steal a phrase that I heard on Embedded. Urijah Faber said that Conor ‘knows just enough wrestling to get himself in trouble’ – Chad knows just enough boxing to get himself in trouble. It’s a black belt and a white belt. A white belt can know some of the techniques in jiu jitsu, they can be able to perform them. Then you watch them with a black belt and you see the difference. On the feet, that’s the disparity.”

With the support that McGregor currently boasts, it’s hard to see if his star could shine any brighter. Even Kavanagh can’t fathom McGregor’s popularity going on to a new level.

“Can it get bigger? I don’t know. I think it’s going to keep on rising. There obviously going to try an even bigger build up for the Aldo fight if indeed, he wants to fight again. We’ll just keep riding the wave, flowing with it and enjoying it.”

James Gallagher announced that he is turning professional after an injury ruled him out of the IMMAF. Having taken a win against a notable opponent in the first round of the competition, all signs point towards a big stage in the future for the ‘Strabanimal’ according to Kavanagh.

“I’m sick over it. I just heard about the guy he fought today. He had 34 wins in amateur MMA. He’s on a scholarship for MMA, he’s 8-0 in boxing or something like that and he’s a gymnast. For James to go out and make him look like he did nothing, I know we’re going to be sitting here at an event someday for James.

“Frans Mlambo went out today and knocked out an American Top Team star. Tyron Woodley was there coaching and cornering him. We’re doing alright for a little country.

“I recently heard one very informed Irish MMA journalist refer to James as Conor’s protégé and that kind of summed up that guy’s knowledge. Leaving that aside, for James it’s kind of like that Rory MacDonald story – he’s a guy that started training MMA from the get go. He’s been living with me since he’s 15 and he has a special mindset.

“You can’t teach that to people. People like him, Frans Mlambo, Sinead Kavanagh, Gunnar Nelson and Cathal Pendred – they have the mindset and all I have to do is help them with the skillset. The things is, if you’re a nervous guy and you don’t like competing, I can teach you all the technique in the world but you still have to do it.

“You have to enjoy the build up, the weigh ins, the warm up and the walk out. If that’s not great fun for you, it isn’t for 99.9999 per cent of people, but if you’re one of these very rare people that can excel in that situation and you have the proper technique, then you can go as far as you want to.”

Speaking about what is likely to happen when the action goes down in the MGM Grand, Kavanagh believes Mendes will want none of McGregor on the feet and the jiu jitsu black belt also claimed that he believes ‘Money’ “will start shooting from the dressing rooms.”

“It’s hard to say if Conor will get to answer the wrestling question because I do believe that Mendes will start shooting from the changing rooms. If he is smart that’s what he’ll do. It is questionable how smart they are, but we’ll have to see what happens.

“Every fight people ask me what round and that’s getting a bit tiring for me so now I just say we’re prepared for everything. The last few fights have been fun, but for the guys who train with Conor on a daily basis, we know what he is capable of. It’s almost like an anti climax.

“For Conor, he’s going in against some very novice kind of guys, and he just hurts them very quickly. I’m here to see Conor get pushed. I want to see how he deals with these different situations because now it’s like the fight is over as soon as he walks out. Is Chad the guy to bring that out of him? We’ll have to wait for Saturday.”

Finally, Kavanagh spoke of his great relief when he doesn’t have to worry about what McGregor does to his opponents.

“It’s so relieving for me when I corner him in a fight because I don’t have to worry about his opponent’s safety, that’s in the referee’s hands. I am always worried about his training partner’s safety. He doesn’t mean it, he’s not trying to be nasty but he is devastating.”

@PetesyCarroll

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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.