Chris Van Heerden recently sparred with Conor McGregor, with video of the session being leaked to the public a couple of weeks ago. The former IBO welterweight champion spoke about working with Conor, and said that he always wanted to prove to himself that MMA fighters can't just easily step into a boxing ring with lifelong professionals.
"That was the first time I’ve ever laced gloves up against an MMA fighter," Van Heerden told Submission Radio. "And Conor McGregor’s got about 15 pounds on me, so he’s bigger than me. But the argument was for myself. I wanted to answer a question personally for myself, that’s why I did it."
"Because the argument was that I wanted to prove to myself that no MMA fighter, in a stand-up game, will be able to handle a stand-up professional champion boxer in a stand-up game, because this is what we do for living. And I wanted to prove to myself that I can go with even an MMA guy like Conor McGregor – which is the biggest name in the UFC at the moment – and I wanted to prove it to myself. So that was the first time I did it."
Van Heerden says he sparred with McGregor on two occasions. Part of it was seen on the video that reached the public, but he also has more footage on his personal phone.
"Well the footage that leaked out – I only afterwards found out, I saw it was all over the internet. I was like, how did this get out? Cause I had no idea that this footage was taken with the sense of getting it out there. So people have got to understand, sparring is sparring. We’re not in there to kill each other. And then again, I just came off a one-month holiday (and went) back in the gym. (It was the) first time I laced up gloves."
"And I’ve got footage on my phone that would probably shock everyone, but I was happy. I was happy because I knew I was in control every round and I was happy with what I wanted to feel."
"Once that footage got out, people were forming opinions. And I’ve got sparring footage where you can clearly see I’m the professional boxer and not Conor."
He also went on to critique Conor's actual boxing skills, saying that he could conceivable shore up a few things to improve as a boxer.
"Can Conor McGregor box? Yes. He can. I was shocked at how well he could handle himself in the ring. You can immediately see that Conor’s got a boxing background and that he knows how to use his hands. Yes, Conor can fight."
"It’s the important things that showed, like the footwork, the balancing of the feet, crossing the feet, where he places his feet, his defence – the small things that a boxer is so focused on and Conor McGregor lacks, and it was easy for me to capitalise on mistakes like that."
"I would honestly say, if Conor McGregor can focus on his stand up game on boxing – let’s say he can get a two, three-month training camp where he can mainly focus on his boxing ability and polish some skills, some small mistakes, Conor can shock a lot of boxers out there by just what he might do."
Listen to the entire interview above. Van Heerden also states that while he has huge respect for McGregor and says he can surprise some pro-boxers, Mayweather will be able to end the fight whenever he wanted to.