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Coach Kavanagh: Conor McGregor would ‘have to convince me’ to join his next camp

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The UFC superstar may find himself without his longtime coach for his next fight, depending on the caliber of the opponent and the importance of the bout.

After defeating Eddie Alvarez via TKO in the second round at UFC 205 back in 2016 – to win the lightweight title and become the UFC’s first ever double-champ – coach John Kavanagh asked Conor McGregor to consider retiring from mixed martial arts. “Right, you’re done. All the best. Enjoy the rest of your life,” Kavanagh recounted, speaking to Joe Rogan years later about his conversation with McGregor.

To his mind it seems, McGregor had achieved every meaningful goal in MMA. He had created a legacy as the first UFC fighter to hold two belts at once. He had made a pile of money. And he had the chance to walk away relatively un-damaged by a sport with a well earned reputation for chewing up athletes and spitting them out. But, if that was the hope, clearly the message didn’t take.

McGregor returned in 2017 to box legendary champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., netting tens of millions of dollars on his way to a 10th round TKO loss. And he returned to MMA in October of this year, to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, once again losing — this time by submission. After the fight, McGregor was quick to look toward a possible rematch with Khabib. In a post on Instagram, reflecting on the loss, he even suggested he’d take a top contender bout to get there.

“I will be back with my confidence high. Fully prepared. If it is not the rematch right away, no problem. I will face the next in line,” McGregor wrote on social media.

However, when he does return – and if it’s not for a truly meaningful fight – it sounds like McGregor may do so without Kavanagh in his corner. In a recent conversation with Ireland’s Independent.ie, McGregor’s longtime coach reflected on the conversation he had with McGregor after his Alvarez win, saying he’d need “a good ‘why’” to join the ‘Notorious’ superstar for another fight camp.

“Honestly? I don’t know. Will he fight again? I don’t know,” Kavanagh explained, speaking of McGregor’s next bout. “I know him as a person and know that coming off two losses - even though one was boxing - will be hard for him. But he’s 30, two kids, and has a big whiskey deal that’s making him more money than fighting ever did. Would you get up in the morning to be punched in the face? I don’t think so. But he’ll probably call me tomorrow and say: ‘What did you say that for? I’m fighting in March.’ So I don’t know.”

“Well, he would certainly have to convince me to go again,” Kavanagh added, when his 2016 retirement conversation was brought up.

“Yeah, I love him. I love the whole journey we’ve had but I’d need a good ‘why’. It might be Diaz again because he promised that fight. It might be a rematch with Khabib. But if it was just: ‘Well, they want me to fight that guy’ I think I’d say, ‘I wish you the best.’”

Kavanagh also noted that in his fight with Nurmagomedov, McGregor was hit with a punch, “that he has never been hit with in his career. And even superman slows down at some stage.”

Convincing a prize fighter, especially one who has seen the heights of success that McGregor has experienced, to hang up their gloves is never an easy proposition. For many, the rhythms of training and preparing to fight dominates their day-to-day lives, and separating from that seems inconceivable. That could mean that while McGregor’s time in the cage hasn’t come to an end, his time with Coach Kavanagh may have.