John Kavanagh: Poirier vs McGregor Should Be For The Title
It has been over six years since Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier first fought, but Coach John Kavanagh believes the outcome of their first fight will play a crucial role in the rematch next month at UFC 257.
McGregor beat Poirier at UFC 178 via a first round TKO, establishing himself as a top contender in the featherweight division. The two fighters have accomplished a lot since then, with the Irishman winning the UFC featherweight and lightweight titles. ‘The Diamond’ has also gone on to win an interim lightweight title, but he is eyeing the undisputed gold in the division.
No Mind Games
‘The Notorious’ is known for his ruthless trash talking, and it was evident in their first fight that Poirier got visibly irritated with the verbal attacks coming his way, and recently admitted that he was fighting for vengeance.
Speaking to The Mac Life, Kavanagh said that no mind games will be needed in the lead up to UFC 257, because he believes the rematch is going to be an uphill battle for Poirier, having been finished in under two minutes the first time around.
“He’s fighting a different animal than any of [his previous opponents],” Kavanagh said. “Somebody with true one punch knockout power that he’s already felt. I think you could spend a lifetime going to sports psychologists and talking to this person and that person — that’s not going to have been erased from his mind. He knows he’s facing somebody who can shut off his lights very, very rapidly and now is a lot more powerful and a lot more experienced than he was even then.
“It’s a tough uphill battle for Dustin, but Dustin’s a phenomenal fighter, a great fighter and I know him and Conor, they’ve got certain agreements on charity things outside which is great. I think that’s what professional sports should be about anyway. But yeah, I’m really looking forward to this one.”
Since their first fight, Poirier has fought thirteen times inside the UFC Octagon, five times more than McGregor. The American has also been the more active fighter in recent years, and Kavanagh looks forward to seeing how the two styles match up the second time.
“There’s nothing to be said when you’ve really badly hurt someone like that so fast,” Kavanagh said. “It’s not like it was a decision win or some sort of argument to be made or it was a bit back and forth and Conor got a shot off, it was a bad night for Dustin. It was very one-sided and when you look at some of the shots he’s absorbed — now he’s a bigger man now, and there’s maybe some argument he can absorb more shots now but he’s fighting a bigger man as well. If you remember back to the fight, the opening hook kick just whistled by his head.. a couple of inches lower that might even have outdone the [Jose] Aldo fight.
“Look they’ve both matured physically, age-wise they’re in the thirties now with families, Dustin’s had a couple more contests than Conor has in the Octagon, but Conor’s never stopped training and has obviously had a boxing match and done other stuff. It’s interesting to see how the styles meet up this time.”
McGregor Looking Sharp
The Irish superstar last fought in January at UFC 246, stopping ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in just 40 seconds. McGregor’s plan was to stay active in 2020, but that was not possible due to the coronavirus outbreak. But he has been putting in the hours in training, and Kavanagh believes that his guy looks the sharpest he has ever seen him.
“He is the most timiest and the most sharpest I’ve ever seen him,” Kavanagh stated. “He’s almost kept up this training camp for the year. 2020 was supposed to be his season, but it seems to have been his training season. Thankfully he kept his head down in that area, and I hesitate to use the word training camp as that’s usually 6 or 8 weeks, as this has been 12 months, really. It’s peaking at the right time, in the last weeks I feel the intensity has been brought up.”
A lightweight bout between Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker is being targeted for UFC 257, possibly as a backup for the highly anticipated main event. If the fight with Poirier were to fall out due to unfavourable circumstances, Kavanagh believes a replacement fight will be “slightly easier”.
“I think in terms of opponent difficulty levels, Dustin would be at the top of that group,” he said. “So if one is replacing Dustin, there’s no nice way to say it, but it’s a slightly easier fight. Dustin is the best of those guys.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA after successfully defending his title against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. Considering that, Kavanagh does not understand why Poirier vs McGregor is not for the lightweight title.
“I don’t really get why this one isn’t for the title, if I’m being 100 percent honest?” Kavanagh said. “Maybe this is Dana, a little carrot towards Khabib … ‘Do you really want him to….’ I don’t know. I know there’s these types of games going on, I don’t involve myself in it. But this to me, it feels like it’s for the belt. I guess at the very least the winner of this will be offered a title fight. But who would that be against? It’s a bit of a strange scene in front of us, which makes it interesting.”
How do you see Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor playing out?