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John Kavanagh: ‘Forget the cut to 145lbs for now… an April lightweight title fight is next’

The latest from Ireland’s top MMA coach.

unnamed (4) Celebrating last weekend's win at UFC 194 with Conor McGregor. Source: INPHO

LIKE WE HAD said before the fight, we were going to see one of two approaches from Jose Aldo last weekend: either he was going to rush in and over-react to Conor’s set-ups or turn into a panicked wrestler and initiate a grappling match. As it happened, he went for the first option and Conor did his thing.

In my head, it seemed like he fell in slow motion. My initial thought was: Hang on, he’s probably okay and will go immediately to guard here. Is he faking it? It all happened so fast that my thought process didn’t make sense. Before I could work it out, the fight had been stopped and everyone in the corner just started screaming.

With Conor’s left hand, it is almost as if he’s cheating. He just needs one shot to finish any fight. With his timing, his accuracy and his raw power, I don’t think there’s any fighter who can take it.

Afterwards, Conor and I had our first chance to take it in when we were brought in for the post-fight medical exam. Even after a 13-second KO of the dominant world champion, Conor managed to find room for criticism of his performance. He wasn’t happy about being hit by Aldo’s left hand: “I should have stepped off to the side.”

As Conor was then being dragged in every possible direction for interviews, I did as I always do after a fight: went back to the changing room with my fianceé, Orlagh, lay down on the floor, closed my eyes and tried to reflect on the significance of it all.

It was a very emotional night because Gunnar Nelson had lost earlier in the evening and Artem Lobov had a disappointing result as well 24 hours earlier. I reminisced for a while with coach Owen Roddy, recalling the day Conor first joined the gym and stuff like that.

Untitled Source: Instagram.com/OrlaghHunter

I arrived back from Las Vegas yesterday and will be at the RTÉ Sports awards ceremony tomorrow night. Conor is up for Sports Person of the Year but he won’t be back from the US in time so I’ll be there instead — just in case there’s another award to be collected.

As for the civic ceremony in Dublin, we only heard about it online the other day just like everybody else did, because there was no direct contact made. To be honest, even though we appreciate that it’s a great honour, it’s not something we’re massively keen on.

The funny thing about Conor is that while he relishes competing in front of people and he has no problem with press conferences and that type of thing, he’s actually not very comfortable with standing there with everybody screaming at him and taking pictures. I don’t think he’ll be into it so I can’t see it happening.

It might sound odd but he’s actually a person who really enjoys solitude. He’d prefer to be on his own. Even at this stage, all he wants to do is come home without much fanfare, get back into training and prepare for the next one. Saturday was great, it was a good win, but by Sunday that box was ticked. It’s time to go again.

Last weekend’s fight is now history, so I would appeal to Conor’s fans to show respect to Jose Aldo, who has been a great champion for many years. The fight was big, but it’s just sport at the end of the day. I know the build-up can sometimes make it seem bigger than that, but it’s not.

John Kavanagh Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

It was great to see so many fans on both sides getting behind their guy before and during the fight, but once the contest is done and dusted, the winning side should focus on praising the winner. Don’t spend any energy on slagging off the loser by sending horrible messages to him or his family.

Being badly knocked out like that is not a pleasant experience. Aldo needs time to recover from that and with what he has achieved in the sport at this stage, that’s the least he deserves.

It was the same after Ronda Rousey’s loss to Holly Holm. That’s a young lady who was kicked in the head, knocked out and embarrassed in front of the world. Use your energy to tweet congratulations to Holly Holm instead of creating a meme to ridicule Ronda.

What’s next for Conor? The lightweight belt. We’re going to take a little break from that cut down to 145lbs, even though this was one was the easiest so far. But in saying that, ‘easy’ is a relative term. It still requires a level of discipline that 99.9% of people wouldn’t have, never mind be able to compete as well the following day.

So the next step will be winning the title in the 155lbs division. The current champion, Rafael dos Anjos, defends the belt against Donald Cerrone tomorrow night. Regardless of who comes out on top, we’ve been given the green light to fight the winner.

We believe that’ll be in April but I’m looking forward to this weekend’s fight too. I’ll be watching eagerly to see who it is. I’m expecting a close fight but if I was to bet — which I won’t — I’d say Rafael dos Anjos will win it.

If Frankie Edgar wants a shot at the featherweight title or Aldo wants a rematch, we’re fine with that too. But they’ll have to wait, because that lightweight belt is next on the agenda.

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