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McGregor’s coach: The KO loss is in Poirier’s mind, no sports psychologist can erase that

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John Kavanagh feels Dustin Poirier is at a mental disadvantage against Conor McGregor at UFC 257.

Dustin Poirier’s first encounter with Conor McGregor six years ago was a forgettable one, to say the least. But these days, “The Diamond” isn’t looking to commit the same errors that left him planted face first in the canvas after less than two minutes of action.

“I was emotional in the first one,” Poirier said in a November interview. “I wanted to hurt the guy. This time I just want to outsmart him, just want to beat him. This is business. This isn’t any ill will towards the guy.”

But for McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh, the sting of that knockout loss still lingers in Poirier’s mind. He feels that gives them a mental advantage coming into the rematch at UFC 257.

“[Dustin’s] fighting a different animal than any of [his previous opponents],” Kavanagh told The Mac Life in a recent interview (transcript by MMA Mania). “Somebody with true one-punch knockout power that he’s already felt.

“I think you could spend a lifetime going to sports psychologists and talking to this person and that person. That’s not going to have been erased from his mind. He knows that he is facing somebody who can shut off his lights very, very rapidly. And now is a lot more powerful and a lot more experienced than he was even then.”

“So it’s a tough uphill battle for Dustin, but Dustin’s a phenomenal fighter, a great fighter and I know him and Conor, they’ve got certain agreements on charity things outside which is great. I think that’s what professional sports should be about anyway. But yeah, I’m really looking forward to this one.”

Fight cancellations due to COVID-19 have become the UFC’s new reality for 2020. It is something Kavanagh has thought about, including a possible opponent change. If that happened, he would expect an “easier fight” for “The Notorious.”

“I think in terms of opponent difficulty levels, Dustin would be at the top of that group,” he said. “So if one is replacing Dustin, there’s no nice way to say it, but it’s a slightly easier fight. Dustin is the best of those guys.”

UFC 257 happens on January 23 at the Flash Forum on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.