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Coach: Conor McGregor aiming for Poirier trilogy, will actually train for MMA this time

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While preparation for the second fight against Dustin Poirier didn’t yield the desired results, the SBG Ireland crew hope to rectify matters by shifting course.

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Former UFC dual champion Conor McGregor arrived in Abu Dhabi ready to make a statement against former interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, but ended up on the wrong end of a highlight reel sequence for the ages instead.

There’s no shame in that - all greats have setbacks and adversity to overcome. Yet the strangest part of this was the revelation following the fight that McGregor and company did not appear to prepare for calf/leg kicks in the lead up to the fight. The result was Conor walking around with a cane post-fight and suffering the effects well after the event.

That defeat isn’t deterring Team McGregor, as they’re aiming at another crack at Poirier. Only this time, they’re going to make a substantial adjustment.

In an interview with BT Sport, McGregor’s main coach John Kavanagh pointed out what kind of focus they hope to bring in a trilogy fight against The Diamond.

(Transcription courtesy of BJPenn.com)

“It definitely has an effect, would it have had enough of an effect to change that fight? I don’t think so. Fair play to Dustin and Mike (Brown) and the guys,” Kavanagh said of Conor McGregor’s loss. “Even when he was getting clocked, he got hit a couple of times hard but he still didn’t start getting into a trading war or try and gas himself out trying for takedowns. He had this plan, that he had the check hook and they had had the calf kick and they were just going to keep doing it and hope it would work, and it did.

“I don’t think any amount of pre-fight shenanigans would’ve changed that or any interview requests or any screaming fans,” Kavanagh continued. “We have to fix that technical detail, which it’s not like having to fix everything, it’s fixing a small enough area. Get that back into the whole game, not going in with a sort of with a boxing mentality, going in with an MMA mentality.

Yes, Brown and the rest of the crew at American Top Team found the recipe to dismantle McGregor’s much-praised striking game and show Poirier’s evolution from their first encounter. What isn’t clear is what precisely was the boxing or MMA mentality adjustment. Not to be reductive or condescending here (especially as a non-fighter), but this was an MMA fight that they were ostensibly preparing for, not a boxing match.

There was clearly an intent for McGregor to face Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao next, but attempting to showcase a boxing-centric game against a complete fighter like Poirier proved to be absolute poison. Of course, that’s assuming that McGregor’s camp didn’t prepare for leg kicks for this specific reason.

It ends up being a scenario where the worst possible plan was implemented against the worst kind of opponent in an attempt to angle for a massive boxing match. It also could be considered as looking past Poirier, for obvious reasons. It should also be noted that while Kavanagh is the owner and head coach at SBG Ireland, he’s openly stated in the past that McGregor runs his own training camps and decides what gets done and what doesn’t.

That plan clearly didn’t bear the kind of fruit they’d hoped for, but Kavanagh and company are remaining optimistic about another rematch for later this year, but not too far down the line. He’s also hopeful that there can be a live audience available as well:

“Conor was always famous for his movement, his ability to change stances, his bounce as he would say. We got to bring that back. It’s there, it’s under the hood, it’s not skills that have to be learned or relearned, they just have to be re-ignited,” Kavanagh concluded about McGregor’s training for Poirier. “We have already started that process. So, wouldn’t it be great to do it again in the summer, maybe in Vegas in front of 20,000 screaming people if we can get the world back open again.”

Some places in the United States are opening access for large events (mostly against scientific consensus). While no fight has formally been announced yet, it’s not unreasonable for this to be the next move for both fighters and summer might be a good time for them to run it back.

If and when that happens, we’ll see if the adjustments pay off.