Conor McGregor and coach John Kavanagh are not best buddies: ‘I’m his coach and he’s my athlete and I kind of like it like that’

By Russell Ess - October 31, 2016

Despite having a very tight and close relationship with each other, UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor and his long-time coach John Kavanagh are not even close to being best pals.

Conor McGregor John Kavanagh

Kavanagh, one of the pioneers of MMA in Ireland recently spoke with Paul Kimmage of the Independent on how he prefers to keep his relationship with his fighters on more of just a professional coach and fighter affiliation.

PK: When is the last time you had a row with him?

JK: A row?

PK: Yeah, you’re obviously around each other a lot.

JK: I don’t think we row. I don’t have to chase him about going out because he’s not like that. He has his blowouts every now and then, but you see…how do I word this? I don’t want it to come out wrong if he reads it… I wouldn’t be super-friendly with Conor. We wouldn’t go to a match together. I don’t go to the cinema with him. I don’t go for meals with him, or it would be very rare. I’m his coach and he’s my athlete and I kind of like it like that. He had a party last Saturday in Dublin, but I wouldn’t go to that. When he has his after-parties at the fights, I don’t go to them.

PK: Really?

JK: No.

PK: That’s interesting.

JK: The last one, Orlagh begged me to go – and we walked into this nightclub and it was nuts. I said: ‘I’m going home.’ And I turned and walked out. I’m just not into that. I like having a bit of separation from my fighters – I think there should be. You’re not their mate, you’re not their drinking buddy, you’re their coach, and sometimes you have to give them tough messages.

PK: Sure.

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Kavanagh goes on to say that both he and McGregor are fascinated in learning new aspects of martial arts, even from places far outside of of any gyms or fight videos.

JK: We’re both obsessed with technique – and this will sound weird – but he might send me a video of two gorillas fighting: “Look where he’s after grabbing him! Could we do that?” So that’s where our minds are at, and those are our conversations. I certainly don’t have to chase him to work – he’s a workaholic – if anything, I’m toning him down. So we don’t row.

PK: What about his timekeeping?

JK: I’ve accepted that’s how he is.

PK: But is that something you should accept? Surely, when you’re dealing with people and you say ‘I’ll be here at this time’ you have an obligation, out of respect to those people, to adhere to that?

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McGregor has been notoriously late for some media obligations. However, holding the position as coach, Kavanagh keeps everything in order with “The Notorious” as far as training and gym schedules go.

JK: Well, I’ll put it this way – I wouldn’t put up with him doing that to me. I don’t care that he shows up late for press conferences; if I’m meeting him to train at 2pm, he’s here at 2pm. So there’s a difference with that. And I would call it very different if he wasn’t respecting his training partners.

PK: But it’s OK for him to shite all over everyone else?

JK: (Laughs) That came across the wrong way. Sometimes the UFC overwork him – now he gets the benefits with that, but it’s one of the reasons I stepped away from managing him, because poor Audie does be all over the place with his time-keeping and stuff.

Do you think it’s better or worse for a coach and fighter to have a very close social friendship? Share your thoughts on if you think there are more benefits to limiting social interaction between a coach and fighter versus building a closer bond as really close friends.


Conor McGregor John Kavanagh