Monday 25 September 2017

Six time All-Ireland champion reveals the important role he played in Conor McGregor beating Nate Diaz

Will Slattery and Mark McConville

Irish boxer Conor Wallace has a big future in the sport despite missing out on the Rio Olympics.

The 20-year-old from Newry is a six time All-Ireland boxing champion, having taken up the sport at the age of nine.

He has already targeted a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo games, and put his time to good use this summer despite not having the Rio Olympiad to look forward to.

Wallace was enlisted by Conor McGregor to help prepare him for his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202. Wallace's job was to spar with the Dubliner and mimic Diaz's style so that the Notorious could counteract the American inside the Octagon.

The Irishman spoke to Independent.ie about the amazing experience, revealing that he had to double check with Michael Conlan before believing that the opportunity to join McGregor's camp wasn't just a practical joke.

"I couldn’t believe it when I heard at the time," he says.

"I thought he [Conor McGregor] was joking, then I rang Mick [Michael Conlan] straight away and asked him if he was winding me up. But when I found out it wasn’t a joke I replied back to tell him I’d be delighted to go.

"I wouldn’t have been a great follower of the UFC or MMA but everyone in Ireland likes McGregor so if you don’t watch McGregor I don’t know what you’re at."

Wallace also revealed his exact role in McGregor's preparation, which obviously paid off as the UFC featherweight champion was both able to dish out incredible punishment and withstand it.

"Conor had his boxing days, days for grappling, strength and conditioning, cardio," Wallace says.

"A lot of different elements. We mainly did two sessions a day, it was well structured and I was mainly used on the boxing days. And when I wasn’t boxing with Conor I was sparring with the other lads, keeping myself ticking over and ready for the next session.

"For this camp it was structured for a specific opponent. He brought me in and you could see from the first spar the improvement as the spars went on. He was obviously watching the footage back and learning from it.

"I’m a lot sharper than Diaz, it’s plain to be seen. He’s slow and sluggish but it’s his fitness and toughness that wins him a lot of his fights. But I watched a lot of his footage, his big long one-two  and a kind of slap hook catching as the opponent comes in. So I watched the footage and tried to mimic him the best I could to help McGregor deal with it.

"I was there to do a job to help him. I would tell him the kind of shots that would work better to hit me with and the shots I was finding easy to hit him, so he could move out of the way."

Wallace also revealed how thankful McGregor was to have the Down boxer in his camp.

"He couldn’t thank me enough, myself and my coach Owen Murphy," Wallace says.

"Couldn’t thank us enough for the work that we had done. Because when people were watching the fight, it was more like a boxing match rather than MMA."

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