One would be hard pressed to name a professional sport that is more “what have you done for me lately” than mixed martial arts. Even UFC boss Dana White has played the “yeah, but what about” game with top fighters (See: Costa, Paulo and Ngannou, Francis for recent examples).
With that in mind, it was a shock to see Artem Lobov defend Conor McGregor’s training camp by looking back on ancient history (in MMA terms).
“Absolutely, he would never leave them (John Kavanagh and SBG), he’s a loyal guy,” Lobov said on Just Scrap Radio. “But, the main thing is as well, hold on, guys, you mean leave the coach that helped him become the first-ever two-weight world champion? You mean that coach? The coach that helped him achieve something that nobody has achieved before. Is that the coach you want him to leave? Come on now. Yeah, this is a f--king tough game of course.”
Kavanagh helped McGregor reach those lofty heights during a stretch between December 2015 and November 2016. It was during that time that McGregor captured (but did not defend) the UFC featherweight and lightweight titles.
How long ago was that? Here is a list of UFC champions in December 2015:
Fabricio Werdum: Heavyweight
Daniel Cormier: Light Heavyweight
Luke Rockhold: Middleweight
Robbie Lawler: Welterweight
Rafael dos Anjos: Lightweight
Max Holloway: Featherweight
T.J. Dillashaw: Bantamweight
Demetrious Johnson: Flyweight
Not one of those fighters holds a current UFC title. Werdum and Johnson are no longer in the UFC. Cormier has retired. Rockhold is on a 1-3 run. Lawler is on a four-fight losing skid. Dos Anjos is 2-4 in his past six outings. Holloway is 2-3 in his five latest scraps, and Dillashaw lost his most recent fight and is coming off a two-year doping suspension.
Obviously, a lot has changed since December 2015, and that includes McGregor going 3-3 with stoppage losses to Nate Diaz, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Poirier. McGregor’s record since 2018 is 1-2 in MMA and 1-3 if you include his loss to Floyd Mayweather inside the boxing ring.
What Lobov sees as a positive of Kavanagh and company could just as easily be looked upon as a negative considering McGregor’s 1-2 run. Especially glaring was McGregor’s seeming shock at being kicked in his calf during the January 2021 Poirier contest.
There’s nothing wrong with loyalty, but when loyalty goes unrewarded in sport, it is almost always time to move on and look for opportunities to grow. What we’ve seen of McGregor as of late is the fighter and his team ignoring one of their favorite catchphrases — an expression Kavanagh himself used as the title of his 2016 book — “Win or Learn.”
McGregor lost twice in his past three fights. He has not learned.