John Kavanagh sat down with Joe Rogan recently, discussing Conor McGregor’s loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov. While most coaches keep their cards close to their chest, especially coming off a devastating loss, the SBG Ireland head opened up and explained their game plan coming into the UFC 229 main event.
“I kinda expected round one, for sure (Khabib is) going to get a takedown. The goal of round one was to get out of it, still having energy,” John Kavanagh said at the JRE MMA Show. “We didn’t want to put a huge amount of effort into trying to get back up in round up. It seems to happen many times with his other opponents, and they were kinda going back to the stool really tired.
“So round one, make him pay, do our best on the way in. Fight as hard as we can, but if we do end up down, which it was against the fence — I figured it would be there — try to stay seated up. If we ended up on the ground, just play guard until the bell. Accept it will be a 10-9 round.”
“For round two, again, same plan. Do as much damage as we can, but if we end up on our back, don’t put a huge amount of effort in trying to getting up. He’s an absolute master at re-grounding people,” he explained. “That turned out to be a 10-8 round. He got some good shots, and obviously he landed that great right hand. So that was a bit more than what we hoped for.
“Round three, things started turning a little bit in our favor. We did a lot better at keeping it in the middle, defending the takedowns.”
According to Kavanagh, the plan was completely different from what most pundits expected. They wanted to conserve energy and be more efficient early, before turning it up on the latter rounds where Khabib could slow down.
“I think at the beginning the consensus was Conor knocks him out in the first, or Khabib takes over from two on. For us to win the third round was probably a bit of a surprise to people,” he said. “But the Iaquinta fight, if you look at that, from round three and on, he wasn’t able to hit any takedowns.
“We hoped that we could have a go in round three, we can defend the takedowns a lot easier, and start landing our shots. That did happen for round three. Not as well as we planned, not as well as he hoped.
“Then round four, he hit another great takedown, made a mistake giving up the overhook. Exposed the back, and that was all she wrote.”
Much like his other losses to Diaz and Mayweather, McGregor immediately wanted a rematch with Khabib. According to Kavanagh, his star pupil was especially “disappointed” about being knocked down in the second round, as McGregor “hates technical mistakes.”