The first sign that omens for Conor McGregor 2.0 are good is in the media. All week, he has opened himself up to the broader international media outlets rather than a focus on his own Mac-life media production company and the obligatory Ariel Helwani set piece. In the run up to UFC 246 the bigger media organisations have been able to join the party too. The UFC embedded series has also seen him featured prominently. The clicks have been shared around.
The Mcgregor narrative for 2020 is one of reset. Unlike previous occasions when he has intimated this mindset, there is very much an aroma of truth to his words and mindset in the lead up to this Cerrone event. The most obvious indicator of this lies in his very specific plans post the Cerrone fight.
During the Helwani Interview, he laid out in detail a post fight routine heavy on detail. First he plans a short celebratory toast with friends and family at a Las Vegas after-party. The following morning he has scheduled some engagements promoting his McGregor Fast fitness project. And after that back into training for his next fight.
It’s an organised timetable and probably the best barometer of a mind reset to a 2014 type place. After the Khabib Nurmagomedov defeat he was at a Cowboy’s game in Texas promoting his Proper 12 whiskey brand within 48 hours. A successful marketing campaign that seemed to go on for months, but obviously this was not a project plan that had the UFC or MMA at it’s beating heart.
McGregor made somewhere north of $50 million dollars in that Khabib fight in 2018 and indicators are that if he breaks through the 2 million pay-per view number he stands to gross $80 million dollars plus this time round. Detractors pointing to a waning of the McGregor star need only talk to Dana White.
” Everything with Conor is pointing to business as usual”
White estimates tickets sales are close to an $ 11 million dollar gate for UFC 246 and early pay per view buys are up close to the Khabib fight.
One of the noticeable features of the McGregor camp this time is the addition of Phil Sutcliffe from the Crumlin boxing club. A component of McGregor post the Mayweather fight is a subtle but increased closeness to his alma mater – the Crumlin Boxing club. The club where he first began his journey in combat sports.
All the old team are still in place with John Kavanagh still holding the title of head coach of Team McGregor. The addition of Sutcliffe adds another string to his bow and I would expect to see a marked sharpening of McGregor’s striking, timing and angles on Saturday night.
The McGregor camp for the Khabib fight had it’s troubles, with McGregor himself confessing that too defensive a mindset was brought to the occasion. By all accounts communication lines had broken down somewhat, a situation that developed overtime rather than any explosive incident in particular being the root of it’s cause. Nevertheless it had the potential to fracture or even a break the most famous fighter/coach relationship in Irish combat sports. However loyalty isn’t just a word to Conor McGregor.
In his own analysis of the Nurmagomedov defeat he was quick to point out where things got away from him. To take ownership of the blame. Over the interim period, admirably, he has leaned into the team that helped shatter the glass ceiling of the UFC with him. Sutcliffe is a welcome addition though. The core of his training partners have always been a good mix especially the addition in recent years of Dillon Danis. A controversial figure in his own right but one offering a specific set of high level of skills on the ground.
So UFC 246 is a big night for John Kavanagh too. Arguably as big a night for his career as it is for Conor’s. Kavanagh has been the Number 1 side-beneficiary of Conor McGregor’s meteoric rise in the sport. SBG gyms and commercial opportunities mushroomed for him over the last 5 years. Over time this has brought it’s own problems within the Irish MMA community. Undoubtedly though, his control on the domestic Irish MMA scene has been near total in the interim period. SBG gyms have clear and advantageous paths into International MMA promotions and competitions at amateur and professional level. Bellator, the best example, on the European MMA scene which has given Irish fighters access to viable professional fight careers.
The overriding sentiment I have about it is Good luck to him. You have to make Hay while the sun shines. But you do actually have to make hay.
Most of the world MMA promotions expect results.
That he hasn’t produced another domestically trained, Irish MMA world champion in either the UFC or Bellator in that period is a millstone he would want to remove from his neck sooner rather than later. At the moment Conor McGregor is his only viable route to more glory in the UFC. Since the initial wave of Irish MMA stars that broke through with Conor, there has been no second wave of Irish fighter taking the UFC by storm. Camp Kavanagh has very much leaned into Bellator in the last couple of years, so maybe the UFC door isn’t as open as it used to be.
At any rate Kavanagh is back in the UFC lime-light again with his most famous son. A win and an active 2020 fight campaign by McGregor will help raise all Irish ships but none more so than John Kavanagh’s.