Wednesday 28 September 2016

EXCLUSIVE Conor McGregor: I've trained in Vegas, but the grass is greener in Ireland

Tom Rooney

Published 20/10/2015 | 13:22

Conor McGregor after his feather weight bout victory over Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas
Conor McGregor after his feather weight bout victory over Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas

Conor McGregor’s meteoric rise to arguably the biggest star in mixed martial arts has seen him travel the globe many times over, but the UFC’s interim featherweight champion says when it comes preparing for combat there’s no better place than Dublin.

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After his victory over Dennis Siver in Boston last January earned him a shot at Jose Aldo’s featherweight title, McGregor was retained by his employers stateside as means of promoting the fight as only he can.

His obligations included an unprecedented media tour with Aldo, which took in eight cities across three continents in just 11 days. What’s more, his unique shtick made him a staple of US television, so he was rarely seen on Irish soil.

To prepare for ultimately scuppered bout with the Brazilian at UFC 189 in July, McGregor relocated to Las Vegas for a ten-week fight camp with his entire SBG team, where they lived out of the now infamous Mc Mansion.

Conor McGregor with Hector O hEochagain and John Kavanagh, Conor's trainer at the Wright Venue in Swords. Picture: Arthur Carron
Conor McGregor with Hector O hEochagain and John Kavanagh, Conor's trainer at the Wright Venue in Swords. Picture: Arthur Carron

After beating Aldo’s replacement Chad Mendes to clinch the interim featherweight crown, the 27-year-old remained in Las Vegas for an additional six weeks to film The Ultimate Fighter series, as he coached Team Europe against Urijah Faber’s American charges.

He’s now firmly settled back home in his beloved Dublin, and training has been ratcheted up into overdrive at Team SBG ahead of his unification fight with Aldo on December 12 at UFC 194 in Las Vegas.

Speaking exclusively to independent.ie at last night’s The Takeover Q and A; Powered by Reebok at the Wright Venue, McGregor was adamant that he is the best possible version of himself when he can rely on home comforts and the stability of his long-time gym.

“I train better, I eat better, and I sleep better," he told independent.ie. "The air is better, the food is better, the butter is better and the drink is better. This country is unbelievable and I’m happy I travelled away to a lot of places and realised what I had at home; a lot of people don’t get that.

“They don’t understand what they have where that are. They look elsewhere and that’s not the way to approach something. I’ve been elsewhere, and this place is a beautiful place; this city, this air, the food (is better).

“Spending time in Las Vegas, it’s a crazy climate, and it’s a rough climate to try and prepare for a fight in. The food is not great, but it’s in lights and people feel like the grass is greener on the other side. It’s not, and the grass is pretty green over here,” he said

Of course, the UFC is in Dublin this week for Saturday’s show at the 3Arena where Donegal’s Joseph Duffy will take on Dustin Poirier in the main event- both of who are former opponents of McGregor incidentally.

Three of the Crumlin native’s SGB teammates - Paddy Holohan, Cathal Pendred and Aisling Daily – are also in action.

He says the ethos of humility put in place by founder and head coach John Kavanagh has been pivotal in all of their successes to date. And, even as the academy’s membership has swelled of late, nothing has changed.

“That’s the way the gym is; there’s no egos, he enthused. “There’s a sign on the door that says ‘leave your shoes and egos here.’ Everyone is equal and there to better themselves. Even the mothers who sit on the side and watch their kids study the game, they’re trying to better their kids’ lives.

“It’s always a good atmosphere in the gym, I feel. It wasn’t always like that because we didn’t have a big set up like that. Now the gym is open at 6 o’clock and closes at 10 at night, and its full 24/7. I love that gym dearly and with all my heart.

“In my gym you are taught how to train correct and to show up and learn. Everyone that’s around the gym is safe, controlled and ego free. That’s why we all grow the together, that the results speak for themselves and that that belt is sitting right there,” he said.

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