Coach: Conor’s style born from fear of head trauma

Monday, January 09, 2017

UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh spoke recently with Mark O’Regan for Ireland’s Sunday Independent about the dangers of head trauma in MMA.

“It’s a concern of every fighter,” said Kavanagh. “At that level of fighting the risk is very real. But I think you can add on two hands the number of clean head shots Conor has taken in ten years of pro-fighting. His style of fighting answers that, because his style is not brawling. He doesn’t step in the pocket and exchange punches.

“His style is in and out – he’s very defensive. That style was born through not wanting to lose and not wanting to take head shots, and not wanting to damage the software.”

Kavanagh conceded that any fighter taking part in a combat sport could develop CT, but stressed the critical role of education, and was hopeful about the future.

“We can reach that lofty goal of this being the first generation with no incidents of CTE,” said the coach.

Some fighters employ with fierce pride an exciting but dangerous style of fighting that is heavy on brawling exchanges.

“The fighters probably aren’t going to like me for this one but my biggest problem is guys playing it safe,” said Liddell on Inside MMA back in 2013, as transcribed by MMA Mania. “I understand it from a coach’s standpoint and a manager’s standpoint, I understand why you want to play it safe and win every fight. I get it. But do I want to go watch a guy beat a guy for four rounds and then in the fifth round not do anything?

“You want to be worth more? Go out and fight. Have fun. Knock people out. Submit them. Beat them. I don’t care. Just try and finish a fight.”


“That’s one of the reasons I retired. If you stuck around the way I was fighting I would have had to start playing it safe. I went out on my shield and that’s the way I liked it. I fought that way my whole career and I didn’t want to bore people for my last three of four fights.”

There does not need to an either or with excitement and safety. McGregor has developed an evasive style, that minimizes punishment, and he is the biggest PPV draw in league history. However, while McGregor’s coach estimates the fighter has taken just one clean head shot per year for a decade, the same cannot be said for the amount of head trauma he has delivered. Mixed martial arts is a hurting game, and fighters should seek out as much education on the subject as possible.