It’s still not clear what’s next for Conor McGregor, following his submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. But, recent comments his head coach John Kavanagh made about the massive bout, bolster the argument an immediate rematch with the lightweight champ shouldn’t come next.
Since the highly anticipated bout, and post-fight brawl, went down, there’s been a ton of talk about who McGregor will take on next. Due to the ugly, post-fight incident, there’s been many calls for the UFC to book an immediate rematch. Many of those voices, however, seem to be coming from more mainstream circles, as, a lot of observers from within the MMA world have noted the fight wasn’t that close. So, when you consider that, coupled with the fact Tony Ferguson’s won 11 straight and deserves a shot, there’s also been push back against an immediate rematch.
So how does Kavanagh factor in this? Well, recently the SBG leader spoke with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. While discussing Conor’s performance against Khabib, and the fact it marked the first time in over two years the Irish star had competed in the Octagon, Kavanagh said this (quotes via MMA Mania):
”If I could go back, maybe the mentality was a little too defensive,” Kavanagh said. “Conor’s a very offensive fighter and when his time to land was there – and we did have opportunities – it wasn’t there the way it was in the Eddie [Alvarez] fight, for example. The Eddie fight was off a big training camp for Diaz 2, which was off a big training camp for Diaz 1. So we had a lot of cage time.”
”This one, like you said, it’s almost two years out. I said I didn’t think ring rust would play a part, but I have to be honest, when I look at it now, when I replay it in my head, I do feel like it played a little bit of a part. He didn’t quite get his shots off like he normally would. I thought defensively he did quite well defending a lot of takedowns, especially in round 3. But Khabib is amazing, amazingly effective MMA fighter. His style is suffocating, it’s relentless, and he does it better than anyone else.”
Now yes, some will argue that McGregor has now chipped off any ring rust, on account of training and fighting at UFC 229. So why not run it back with Khabib?
Well, pushing aside the meritocratic arguments, Kavanagh’s comments bolster the view that what would be best for McGregor, is to take some time, and attempt to get his feet back under him against someone else. Would the Irish star be that better prepared for Khabib and his galaxy class grappling in say, four months time? While having the additional pressure that a second, consecutive loss to Khabib would be a catastrophic setback?
McGregor pushed for an immediate rematch with Nate Diaz in 2016, and proceeded to even the score. But, even the biggest McGregor supporters would likely concede Nurmagomedov’s skill set, versus Nate’s, presents a bigger challenge to Conor. Further, McGregor faced Diaz after an epic, 2015 campaign, which saw him score three straight wins. Not after a two year gap from MMA.