As the biggest fight in history draws near, I managed to steal a brief quiet moment from Owen Roddy, Conor McGregor’s longtime striking coach, to talk about their incredible journey so far.
“The perfect camp” he calls it, which would make sense for a man who is known for performing at his best in the biggest moments.
“Every camp, you set these milestones, and Conor been knocking it out the park every time. Any body we bring in, he’s smashing. Anything we ask him to do, he’s killing everything - he’s the best version of Conor I’ve ever seen.”
Owen has seen a lot of versions of Conor McGregor - from the wild young kid from Crumlin who tore through opponents on the domestic scene, to the superstar who became the first simultaneous two-weight world campion of the UFC, apologising to absolutely nobody along the way.
Owen has been there every step of the way, helping to guide Conor, and his famed left hand, to their next target.
Conor’s rise has been meteoric. He’s captured the public’s imagination like little else in recent memory. Backed by hordes of fans across the globe, the fighting pride of Ireland has gone from relative unknown to one of the most recognisable - and divisive - figures in sport and popular culture.
It has been fascinating to watch, and incredible to see how “Mystic Mac” has called his shots every step of the way. He seems to posses a crystal clear vision of where he needs to be and what it will take to get there. Has it always been this way for “The Notorious One”?
“He had it from day 1.”
“Everyone says they’re gonna be a world champ but Conor was constantly setting little goals for himself and achieving them. That’s why he is where he is. That and the hard work. He looks at what it takes to achieve that goal and works his fucking arse off to achieve it.”
The stages, the stakes, even the sports have changed, but according to Roddy, the team’s attitude has not.
“We all go into camp together. With cardio, he just fucking laughs at everybody - he does twice as much as everybody else, and he’s still doing more. He’s got this obsessive mentality - nobody is going to out work him.”
“There is something behind Conor’s eyes. There is a bullet proof mindset, a bulletproof consciousness. You are not going to get inside his head.”
For most people, switching sports and dramatically limiting your offensive arsenal would call for dramatic changes to training, for Roddy, it’s business as usual.
“Everything has basically been the same, we just focus on only using the hands to get the finish. Which is basically what we do with Conor anyway.”
Photo Credit: Dave Fogarty
Fighting is fighting, as the Ballymun native knows all to well. (Roddy posted an impressive 11-4 MMA record, while blazing a trail for other Irish MMA fighters, like Conor, to follow.)
“You’ve got to use your weapons, lead your opponent into a position where he’s vulnerable and force him to make a decision. You make sure that he makes the wrong decision.”
It’s a simple philosophy, but one that’s served both coach and pupil well.
Make no mistake though, this is Team McGregor’s toughest challenge to date. His opponent, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, has appeared near invincible over his 49 fight, 21 year career, earning multiple world championship belts, and his place in the discussion of “the greatest of all-time” along the way, while posting an outrageous 49-0 record.
Coach Roddy isn’t phased though.
“Nobody’s perfect.” He says with a laugh.
“Everybody has patterns. Everybody has subconscious reactions. It’ll be about drawing them out.”
So hows it going to go down?
“Conor’s gonna crack Floyd. Floyd falls over, and we all jump into the ring.”
“Conor’s gonna crack Floyd. Floyd falls over, and we all jump into the ring.” Owen Roddy
Only time will tell if they can force Floyd to make the wrong decision on the night. Many are saying it is an impossible task. The fact is, though, Conor has already done the impossible.
Less than a year ago, after capturing his second UFC belt, doing what no man had done before - a feat many thought impossible, the rumours started swirling of a potential Mayweather vs. McGregor super fight.
They said it was never going to happen. They said it was a preposterous mismatch. An insult to boxing. They said it was impossible.
But then it was done.
“I never doubt what Conor says.” The coach says of his pupil, “Anything he says he’s going to do, he goes and does.”
Many people hear what Conor and his camp say and call them arrogant or cocky, others hear supreme confidence. It’s a very fine line, but Team McGregor have made a habit of walking the walk.
Coach Roddy has been there for every one of Conor’s fights and every round of his sparring since Conor was a teenager. He’s seen it all, been there every step of the way.
“It’s been mental. As soon as he conquers one obstacle, he’s onto the next one. To see him going from fighting in the little halls to fighting in MSG, it’s been a privilege.”
It’s all about the journey for Owen, who is busy enjoying the moment, but the significance of what’s going on is not lost on him.
“When it’s all said and done, in 20 years, I’ll look back and go ‘for fucks sake! Can you believe it?’. The McGregor era is gonna live on way beyond Conor, or me, or our kids, and kids kids. It’ll live on for hundreds of years. It’s an unbelievable thing to be part of.”
The significance of what Owen, Conor and the entirety of the McGregor camp is doing, is difficult to comprehend - for combat sports, for the nation of Ireland and beyond.
“It’s not only me, it’s not only the team, its not only Ireland for Conor - it’s the whole world. People like this only come every couple of hundred years.”
The McGregor effect has been palpable, and should he emerge victorious on the 26th? Buckle up.
“I go home, and I sit and wait for the text that says “this is what we’re doing” - I never know whats next, but you know what? It’s always bigger than the last. Whatever it is, it’s gonna to be part of another historic journey and another historic victory.”
Whoever you’re backing this Saturday, we’re fortunate enough to be watching something spectacularly unique unfold before our eyes, the Coach said it best -
“Whoever’s watching will have a memory of a lifetime, and it’s a memory that they’ll be very lucky to have."