Friday 20 April 2018

Conor McGregor's coach John Kavanagh reveals on Late Late Show the traumatic assault that led him to MMA

Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh
Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh
John Kavanagh. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

During his appearance on The Late Late Show, SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh revealed how a street fight as a teenager compelled him to take up MMA.

Kavanagh, who is the coach of UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor and many other of Ireland’s top fighters, spoke candidly to Ryan Tubridy last night and recalled an incident over 20 years ago that left him traumatised.

Ryan Tubridy gets taken down by MMA coach John Kavanagh. Photo: RTE
Ryan Tubridy gets taken down by MMA coach John Kavanagh. Photo: RTE

Deciding to intervene on behalf of a stranger who was being assaulted, the Rathfarnham native soon found himself on the wrong side of the exchange.

“I was in Rathmines, I guess I was 18 at the time, me and my girlfriend. We were with a crowd but we were left behind.

“We were walking down Rathmines and I saw a guy getting a bit of a pasting. We walked passed him initially and then I stopped and said ‘I can’t do this’ and I went back.

"Now, what would have been sensible would have been to just go into maybe the Garda Station which was only across the road but I wasn’t thinking that straight and I jumped in.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t end like the martial arts movies where you drop three or four guys and you walk off into the sunset. I was the one that got dropped. Thankfully the guy got up and he ran, which was the natural instinct, I wouldn’t have held that against him.

  "After that day there was physical scars, I got fairly beat up but it was the mental side of it, getting beat up in front of your girlfriend like that for a young man was very, very tough to deal with,” he explained.

Subsequently, Kavanagh became a shut-in, debilitated by the fallout of the incident. In time, he looked to mediums of self defence and eventually stumbled upon mixed martial arts and the nascent UFC.

Indeed, Kavanagh was the first Irishman to be awarded a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, a form of submission grappling which spawned MMA.

“There's just a humiliation that goes with, the physical side wasn’t all that bad, but the humiliation of being beaten up in front of your girlfriend.

“I grew up watching Bruce Lee movies and Rocky movies, it was always like the strong, macho guy could protect his woman and I wasn’t able to do that.

“I didn’t want to go out, it was at least six or nine months before I left the house after that. I went into depression I guess.

“I decided what was I going to do about this, was I going to live inside forever or do what? I started looking into martial arts, I started researching styles to learn how to defend myself and that’s how I came across the UFC, mixed martial arts."

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