Watch: Conor McGregor put through gruelling rounds of sparring with multiple opponents
Published 30/07/2016 | 13:55
In exactly three weeks time Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will resume hostilities in a five round welterweight contest at UFC 202 in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.
Just a little over five months will have elapsed between their two bouts, but oceans have passed under MMA’s bridge in the interim.
For one, lest we forget, their initial rematch was pulled from UFC 200 after McGregor refused to fulfil media obligations for the event and then put a significant pothole in the digital highway by informing his social media followers that he had retired.
Just weeks beforehand, shockwaves were sent through the sporting world and beyond after the death of Joao Carvalho at an event in Dublin’s National Stadium, where McGregor was in the audience.
Other, comparatively trivial, developments have also occurred. The UFC was sold for a seismic $4bn and, inside the cage, the narrative has progressed.
Rafael Dos Anjos, the man McGregor was supposed to face at UFC 196, is no longer the lightweight champion, having been ruthlessly dethroned by Eddie Alvarez.
Of course, as a late replacement for Dos Anjos, Diaz handed the Dubliner his first promotional loss on a night he was meant to be vying to become the first man ever to concurrently hold titles in two different weight classes – an airtight rear-naked applied by the Californian would force McGregor to tap in the dying embers of the second round.
UFC 200 also threw up its share of talking points, namely Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar both testing positive for banned substances, and Jose Aldo winning the interim featherweight title against Frankie Edgar to set up a mouth-watering potential rematch with McGregor at Madison Square Garden in November.
Both McGregor and his coach, John Kavanagh, have described the loss to Diaz as a watershed moment in their joint careers.
Still intoxicated with the euphoria of unseating Aldo last December, a distinct hubris infected their preparation for the grizzly veteran and he duly made them answer for it.
McGregor, getting to forego any sort of weight cut due to the fight being contested at 170lbs., abandoned his usual diet and regime in the week of the bout and, by the midway point of the second stanza, he was evidently exhausted.
Such discrepancies, they say, will never be repeated and, for the first time in his near decade career, McGregor is tailoring his training camp to the specific strengths of an opponent.
Larger sparring partners have been drafted in, namely decorated Irish amateur boxer Conor Wallace who, like Diaz, is a long, rangy southpaw.
Wallace came on the recommendation of Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, and has travelled to Vegas with McGregor.
Previously, the Crumlin man sparred with former intercontinental welterweight champion Chris van Heerden, another lanky lefty.
Diaz is a well-versed and potent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt so the 28-year-old has called on Dillon Danis (above) to supplement his normal grappling preparations.
Kavanagh has predicted that McGregor will dispose of Diaz in the fourth round which, at face value, is quite strange.
McGregor has never been beyond the third in his entire career, while only one man, Josh Thompson, has beaten Diaz by TKO or KO.
One thing is clear, McGregor has more at stake than Diaz, given that consecutive losses would seriously hamper his marketability