Thursday 27 April 2017

Conor McGregor's world-renowned trainer puts our reporter through her paces - how did she get on?

Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh
Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh
Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh
Conor McGregor with coach John Kavanagh
Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Amy Mulvaney

Amy Mulvaney

What exactly does it take to become one of the world’s greatest MMA fighters?

I went for a training session with Head Coach of UFC champion Conor McGregor, John Kavanagh's SBG Gym in Dublin to find out exactly how one of Ireland's most successful modern athletes get in fightings shape- and it's as hard as you imagine.

When you think of McGregor, strength, power and determination come to mind. The intensity of preparation for a fight is obvious to see in any MMA fighter, on television or in the flesh, with their bodies toned and ripped to within an inch of their muscle.

It’s no surprise then, that training with John Kavanagh, one of the top MMA coaches in the world, would be an exercise in all these traits.

Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien

In an hour-long session, as part of Lucozade’s Made to Move sessions, Coach Kavanagh put me through my paces from the very first tick of the clock.

And if you thought he would hold back given my lack of physical prowess, you were wrong.

I'd like to think that I have a somewhat decent level of fitness, but it took literally two minutes of warming up to realise how wrong I was.

Each demand that Coach Kavanagh shouted was not to be ignored and it was clear that everyone in the room understood that without saying a word.

Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh
Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh

When he said "run backwards," we ran backwards. And fast. When he said, "do push ups", we dropped to the floor and began. There’s no time to waste when training.

From frog jumps to crawling like a gorilla on the floor, my heart rate went up within less than a minute and didn’t slow down for the rest of the session.

After warming up, Coach Kavanagh showed us a few moves that a fighter would use in The Octagon. He explained the importance of grabbing someone tight around the waist, giving you the power to flip them around so you’re standing behind them.

From there, with a nudge to the back of the knee, they collapse to the floor, leaving you in the perfect position to put them in a chokehold until they tap out.

Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien

As someone who has never been physically violent in my life, I found it quite a struggle to channel the strength to perform the moves on someone else for fear of hurting them.

Needless to say, once Coach Kavanagh demonstrated the moves on me, I felt very different.

Once they’re done correctly, you can only hurt them in the way you intend to. However, I did forget the "tap out" rule, which nearly resulted in a very different, less jovial, end to the session.

I did not stop moving for an entire hour and by the end of it, I was both exhausted and exhilarated. The high intensity of the session left every muscle in my body quaking, yet I felt strong and satisfied that I survived training like an MMA fighter.

Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Independent.ie’s Amy Mulvaney pictured during a training session with SBG Gym owner John Kavanagh. Picture: Kyran O'Brien

Little did I realise, this back-breaking session would comprise of just one of Conor's many training sessions per day, Coach Kavanagh later told me.

"I’ve some guys in the gym who do four or five hours a day everyday, and I’ve some guys who do four hours a week," he explained to Independent.ie.

"It’s different intensity levels, but I’d rather somebody do two hours a week than no hours. So yeah, fighters train a lot, but the average person? Just come in and do what you can.

"A typical training routine for Conor McGregor, say, would be training twice a day, we’ve a lunchtime session and an evening session. The afternoon session is skills and then in the evening we go hard on cardio.

"We get three days on, one day off. Three weeks on, one week off, and we do that for about three months in the lead up to the fight."

While not everyone can become a UFC World Champion, anyone can become a fighter, explained Coach Kavanagh.

"Anybody can fight to a certain level, but not everybody can be a UFC World Champion. That’s the same as saying ‘Anybody can play football, but not everybody is going to play for Liverpool,'" he added.

"There’s different intensities for different people, but I would certainly say as a sport or an activity, it’s over all shapes and sizes, men and women, young and old.

While I won't be changing my career path into The Octagon anytime soon, I'm happy to know that I have the skills to at least bluff my way through using my new moves, should I ever need them.

But I don’t think I’d be trying them out on McGregor himself anytime soon.

To learn more about Lucozade Sport’s 'Made To Move Sessions', go to Lucozade Sport Ireland’s Facebook Page LucozadeSportIRL Or @lucozadesportie on Instagram

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