IT likely wouldn’t have mattered at the end of the day because of the extreme difference in skill level and experience, but Conor McGregor and his team made several key mistakes in their preparation for fighting Floyd Mayweather.
There was what the Irishman was prepared to admit, what he chose to ignore — and what you hope his coach will put his hand up and own up to.
In contrast, the gameplan Mayweather produced with the help of his father played out to perfection as he schooled his 50th opponent, leaving McGregor facing some harsh truths.
Just like he did in round two of his first fight against Nate Diaz and in rounds three and four of their rematch, McGregor hit a wall midway through the fight.
It’s immediately obvious when the UFC star begins to tire, his breathing becomes heavy, he stops planting his feet when he throws his shots and his output drops significantly.
Mayweather all but handed his opponent the opening three rounds (even though only one of the judges gave McGregor all three) before pouring on the pressure from round four onwards.
“The first three rounds I actually got a little overeager because I was like, ‘This is actually very easy,’” he told reporters. “Then his composure started to shine through, I started to throw shots and instead of having the success like I was having in the early rounds he was catching them on the gloves, catching them on the elbows and the fatigue set in and that was it.
“I don’t know what it is because it’s certainly not from not working hard enough because I f***ing work hard. I work hard. I work my ass off. I think it’s just a mental thing I need to figure out.”
Whether McGregor did enough road work (boxing language for distance running) and sparring is a question only his team can answer.
But there were revelations in the southpaw’s post-fight press conference which suggested he may have been underprepared.
“One of the main things in camp was (making the transition) from five rounds to 12 rounds. That was obviously the main f***ing thing, I had to experience that 12-round fatigue,” McGregor said.
“With all my sparring partners, when I’d do the 12 rounds there was always those middle rounds where I’d get to say six and I couldn’t see the finish line and I’d say, ‘F***, I’ve got so many more rounds left.’ And I couldn’t see the finish line. And then when I got through them, I got to 10 — certainly 11 and 12 — I’d say, ‘Right, there’s only six minutes left’ and I could dig deep and then I’d get that second wind.”
It’s easy for McGregor to claim he could have come back strong if he’d survived the 10th, but he’d done nothing to suggest he could turn back the tide in the 18 minutes beforehand.
Many boxers spar for a lot longer than 12 rounds in camp too. If he was stopping at 12 every time (again, only his team can answer this), he may have sold himself short.
But McGregor appeared to be thinking it was a mental issue, not physical.
“You can say what you want, I put in so much work for this,” McGregor insisted. “I worked my f***ing ass off. Like I really properly worked my ass off. But if there is something I need to get over, it’s to figure out why there’s these dips in the middle area of a fight. It’s happened to me a few times. I just need to figure it out and keep pushing … we compete, get better and come back.”
This went unspoken in the aftermath but it can’t be ignored. All McGregor’s talk of smashing through Mayweather’s guard — and Dana White’s declarations his star hits like a truck — proved wrong.
Mayweather was not rocked once. If anything McGregor landed hurt him at all, he didn’t show it. The retiring legend said after the fight McGregor’s power wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before. “If it was, I wouldn’t have kept coming forward,” he said.
Jose Aldo, Eddie Alvarez and countless others will tell you a much different story about McGregor’s striking — and it may have been that he just didn’t land the right shot against one of the best defensive fighters in history.
But he looked completely impotent in the later rounds — perhaps another example of why his cardio has to improve.
McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh gave this prediction of how Mayweather would approach the fight: “I think he has his classic hand position, Philly Shell hand position, and he’ll feint and throw a jab or something, Conor will walk forward, (Mayweather will) back up, and he’ll (Mayweather) aim to just pot-shot, cover up, cover up, pot shot, clinch, pot shot, and just try to get through the first couple of rounds.”
That’s exactly what happened in the first three rounds as Mayweather looked to avoid any punishment and sapped energy from his opponent.
But as the American had promised before the fight — and McGregor noted afterwards — he began marching forward and the Irishman had no idea how to deal with the pressure.
“You came in hands up to your forehead, head dipped in on your chest and you fought that kind of fight,” McGregor said. “I didn’t anticipate that. Three gameplan changes in the fight. That’s what a true champion does.”
Team McGregor, despite all coming from MMA backgrounds, had opted not to bring in a boxing coach to prepare their charge because they thought the boxing world had little to offer given Mayweather was undefeated.
But they made a big mistake in not having McGregor spend more time preparing for an aggressive fighter — especially given Mayweather had promised to fight this way — and the 29-year-old admitted as much.
“I’ll also look to prepare and adjust for a fighter that comes in with his forehead first and his hands up,” said McGregor, when asked what he’ll do differently. “In camp, I had one sparring partner that fought like that but everyone else fought in that traditional ‘Philly shell’ style or even more light on the feet or back against the ropes. But I only had one sparring partner that actually pressed forward — he had a bit of weight on me. I only sparred him for the first six rounds and then I’d move on to someone else. I can’t help but feel the way the fight panned out — when Floyd adjusted and adopted that style — if I’d have had more of him in the later rounds in sparring I would have been more prepared for that feeling. And I wouldn’t have wasted shots on the guard and on the gloves.”
The most encouraging part of all of this is McGregor and Kavanagh have shown an ability to learn from their mistakes and come back stronger. They just won’t get another chance at Mayweather.