Conor McGregor details injury, strategy issues that plagued him in Khabib Nurmagomedov fight

Damon Martin
MMA Weekly
Conor McGregor launches kick at Khabib Nurmagomedov UFC 229 weigh-in
Conor McGregor launches kick at Khabib Nurmagomedov UFC 229 weigh-in

Conor McGregor still hopes to avenge his last loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov after identifying a myriad of problems that plagued him in their first fight when the met this past October at UFC 229.

McGregor claims that he suffered an injury just over two weeks out from the fight that prevented him from being able to do proper conditioning, which then led to an abysmal weight cut in the days leading up to the event.

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According to the former two-division champion, the injury occurred in training when he threw a front kick that led to an injured foot but he had no intentions of dropping out of the fight, even if that may have been in his best interest.

“Two and a half weeks before my last fight, I threw a front kick at a shooting Moldovan wrestler. When he shot and I threw the front kick, I threw it at his belly and my two toes, the baby toe and the toe next to it, bent back like this and stuck in that position. My doctor had to come into the cage had to stretch it and break it back into place and my foot swelled like a balloon,” McGregor told motivational speaker Tony Robbins on his podcast in early April. That was two and a half weeks before the last fight. I wanted to compete and I wanted to get in there.”

“Obviously the injury — the injury itself led me to, I had to half my work. I couldn’t road run anymore. I wasn’t [fully prepared]. My weight was too high. So when you’re cutting weight, if I can’t get my weight down because of injuries or what not, I have a more intense weight cut. So I was severely dehydrated. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours before the weight cut.”

While McGregor brought up the injury, he says that it’s no excuse for the way he performed because he still stepped into the Octagon that night intending to do harm to Nurmagomedov in order to get the job done.

Unfortunately things only went from bad to worse for McGregor once Nurmagomedov surprised him with an overhand right that knocked him to the mat and it was seemingly all downhill from there.

“But these are all nonsensical excuses that I don’t give a f—k about. I don’t give a s—t,” McGregor said. “That’s why I walked in there hands down — ‘ding, ding, ding’ — and walked forward to him and he went running away around the cage. He got lucky with that overhand right, dropped me, well he didn’t really drop me. I landed on the hand but I kept my vision. My vision was clear. Backed away, jumped up, landed shots back and then we engaged in a fist fight and he took me down again.

“After landing such a significant shot, let’s fight now. Instead, he was afraid and he grabs a hold of the legs.”

McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh has also stated in the past that the they came after Nurmagomedov with the wrong approach heading into the fight and that ultimately hurt them when it came to executing the kind of offense that the former lightweight and featherweight champion typically generates.

Instead, McGregor says he was constantly preparing for the threat of the takedown because the undefeated Russian is so well known for putting his opponents on the mat and then absolutely mauling them on the ground.

“My whole approach in that camp — the injuries, the non-commitment, even the game plan, the tactics — I attack, I am an attacker and my attack defends. In this camp, the entire focus was defend, defend,” McGregor explained. “So every round we would start in the training, I’d have my back against the fence. I’d have my back on the floor. I would always put myself in a vulnerable position and as the camp went on, we just became defensive, defensive. That’s never been what I do.

Khabib Nurmagomedov submits Conor McGregor at UFC 229
Khabib Nurmagomedov submits Conor McGregor at UFC 229

“It still irritates me to this day because the training partners I train with are heavy people. Like I said that Moldovan wrestler I broke my foot [against] is like a horse. He’s literally like a f—king human horse and I’ve got an American Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion who trains with me, he was like 200 pounds. They’re big, big, boys but I was always on the defensive with them.”

McGregor says in the aftermath of that performance, he went back to what helped him become the first ever simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history and he’s seen immediate results.

“Since the fight, I’ve gone back to training with them and I went with my internal dialogue,” McGregor explained. “Not the external dialogue, the dialogue of ‘I can’t grapple with this man and he’s a Russian sambo guy and he’s wrestled bears since he was a kid’ and all this bulls—t. That’s external. I let the external infiltrate my internal and it filtered into the fight.

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“But after the bout, I went back and trained with these people and attacked and I mauled them.”

With a different mindset and approach to the fight, McGregor hopes he gets another shot at Nurmagomedov down the road so he can attempt to produce much different results than the last time.

“At the end of the day, I landed the final blow of the night, right on his brother’s eye socket. Although the match didn’t go my way, the fight went my way and trust me when I tell you, Tony, this war is not over,” McGregor said. “If this fight does not happen again, if it does not get reset, it’s on them. They’re running away. I’m here for the fight and here for the rematch. I know the errors, I know the lapses in commitment that I’ve had in that bout. I know my mindset, there was a lot of external things.

“So I’m just here waiting to continue to grow and see where we can get with this situation with the UFC and see can we get this fight again and let’s go again.”

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