Tonight atthe MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, Conor McGregor will break all sorts of UFC records when he tackles Chad Mendes for the UFC interim featherweight world title.
The Dubliner has exploded onto the Irish sports scene due to his fighting ability inside the octagon, and his charisma outside of it. However, mixed martial arts was not the first type of combat ‘The Notorious’ engaged in. Instead it was boxing, and Phil Sutcliffe Sr.’s Crumlin gym where the southpaw first laced up a pair of gloves.
Speaking earlier this year to The42.ie, Sutcliffe Sr. explained McGregor’s early dalliances with the sweet science – “He just joined the club like any other child, he was a couple of years here and he did very well. He was a tough young fella, not a bad mover, and he always packed a wallop. Even as a kid, he packed a bit of a dig.”
Commending the work ethic of the Dublin 12 fighter, Sutcliffe continued – “He trained hard. When he set his mind to something, he trained hard. Like anyone coming into a boxing club he was only learning,” adding that “he was always tough, a good listener, trained very hard, and he was never a problem in the club. He was kind of an ideal clubman.”
The two-time Olympian also hypothesised that McGregor could have made it big in boxing had he not switched codes, claiming that “if he stuck to the boxing, with his dedication and his attitude towards training, he could have been senior champion one day,”
Also speaking to The42.ie, another of Ireland’s top boxing trainers, Paschal Collins, was similarly complimentary towards McGregor. Whereas Sutcliffe Sr. honed him in his early years – Collins has gotten up-close and personal with the adult McGregor, who has often sparred in Collins’s Celtic Warriors Gym
Analysing the Straight Blast Gym fighter, the 2014 BUI Trainer of the Year remarked that “his biggest strength is his timing but my god, he’s got serious power.” Collins elaborated that “that’s not something that was put in from strength and conditioning and weights — that’s something that you’re born with. It’s not about being bigger and stronger. It’s about timing, and he times the shot perfectly.”
Collin’s also praised the technique of the two-weight Cage Warriors world champion, saying that “he does things in the ring with a punch – he throws a punch and at the last second, he can maneuvre in such a way that a jab all of a sudden becomes a hook at the last second, something that looked impossible to do.”
Indeed, Ireland’s Freddie Roach believes that, as a trainer, he can learn from the unorthodox 26 year old saying that “he shows me certain moves that he does, or maybe a stance from kung fu or jiu-jitsu, and I’m looking at him and thinking that if you incorporate that into boxing, you might get more power into your right hand because you’re working from your legs a lot more – I’m learning from him and hopefully he’s picking up a few things from me too. He’s a breath of fresh air to come to the gym.”
Like Sutcliffe Sr., Collins was also highly impressed with the dedication of the 145 pounder saying – “He thinks outside the box, he goes off and he sees something and he’ll practice, practice, practice and he’ll pick it apart and make it better.”
Collins also believes that McGregor has the potential to make an impact in professional boxing if he were to switch back, claiming that “watching Conor spar in the gym with Stevie Junior and one or two other lads, I actually said that if he was to go back boxing as a pro, I think he’s capable of winning a world title. Absolutely!”
While a sizeable minority may actively dislike McGregor for his brash trash-talk, the best boxing trainers in the country have certainly been impressed by McGregor’s fighting ability – which is high praise indeed.
McGregor-Mendes can be seen live tonight at approximately 4:45am via BT Sports 2.