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Dublin: 5°C Friday 5 March 2021

'The confusion over Aldo's drug test raised some eyebrows' - John Kavanagh

Conor McGregor’s coach brings us the latest from their camp.

John Kavanagh Our exclusive columnist John Kavanagh is Ireland's leading mixed martial arts coach. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

AFTER CATHAL PENDRED picked up another UFC victory over the weekend, I’ve just arrived back in Las Vegas to resume preparations with Conor McGregor and the rest of the team for next month’s featherweight title bout at the MGM Grand.

Cathal recorded a pretty comprehensive unanimous-decision win against Augusto Montano at UFC 188 in Mexico City on Saturday night, but the manner in which the fight played out came as a bit of a shock to us.

Montano has 15 wins, all by stoppage, and most of them came in the first round. He seemed to epitomise the Mexican spirit of always coming forward and throwing a high volume of shots. Due to the fact that we were subsequently expecting him to be slightly over-aggressive, I really thought that would fall into Cathal’s gameplan as Montano would be likely to give up takedowns.

But as it transpired, the guy spent 15 minutes running backwards. That really threw us off. Cathal was very frustrated after the first round, but I was able to give him a little bit of direction in the corner and — to his credit — he adjusted accordingly and dealt with it.

We were expecting to be on the back-foot so Cathal had to change his tactics mid-fight. He did that successfully, cutting the ring off much better in the second round and almost getting the finish. It was clearly two rounds to one in Cathal’s favour but he still hasn’t been able to go out and replicate the fight he had against Mike King in Dublin last year.

At the end of the day, however, he’s now 4-0 in the UFC — that’s the second-longest current winning streak in the division — and that’s not easy to do. We got the result on Saturday but perhaps not how we would have liked.

Cathal might have been harsh on himself afterwards and I quite like to see that in my fighters, if I’m being honest. I think it’s good to be self-critical so it’s not something I discourage. As always, we take away the positives and try to learn from the mistakes.

Cathal gets a very hard time on social media but the vast majority of stuff I saw was quite positive about him, because he did as much as he possibly could to make a fight of it. Nevertheless, he’s bulletproof when it comes to negative stuff on social media stuff. It has absolutely no impact on him.

He’s extremely driven and incredibly strong mentally, and he only invests his energy in things he can control. Obviously you can’t control what people say or write about you, but you can control your ability to work on an aspect of your game.

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Cathal Pendred makes his way to the octagon before the fight Cathal Pendred remains undefeated in the UFC after another win on Saturday. Source: Emily Harney/INPHO

Cathal has said that he’d like a top-15 opponent next when — and if, as is rumoured — the UFC return to Dublin in October, but that’ll be up to Joe Silva and the UFC. Personally I think he might be matched with the winner of a good welterweight fight that’s happening in Glasgow next month: Leon Edwards versus Pawel Pawlak. That make sense from a European perspective. With Cathal being a grappler and both of those guys strikers, I think that has the potential for a nice match-up.

With another win for Cathal in the bank, it’s on to the next one in the UFC for the SBG team. That just happens to be a featherweight world title bout on 11 July when Conor McGregor fights the reigning champion Jose Aldo in the main event at UFC 189 here in Las Vegas.

Last Thursday it emerged that there had been some confusion at Aldo’s gym in Rio de Janeiro. A Nevada State Athletic Commission official arrived to perform a random drug test, only for the sample to be discarded due to the NSAC representative not being in possession of a visa to work in Brazil. A Brazilian tester took another sample from Aldo on Friday instead, it seems.

I’d be lying if I said I was extremely familiar with the intricacies of how these things work, so I don’t know if what happened is a regular occurrence. But from what I’ve read, it seems to be quite unusual.

With all the confusion that followed, I’m just happy to see that the test was done a day later. However, having 24 hours’ notice does take away the random element of being randomly tested.

But it is what it is and, like I mentioned in relation to Cathal, it’s out of our control so we don’t put too much thought into it. But what I will say is that it raised a few eyebrows when we heard the news.

Has it negatively impacted Conor’s mindset ahead of the fight? I think you all know the answer to that. It’s business as usual here.

Conor was tested on 23 May when we went to attend UFC 187. He was pulled to the side on a moment’s notice — not 24 hours — and had both blood and urine samples taken. But again, we’re just taking care of our own affairs here in Vegas. We’ll let the Brazilians do their thing in Brazil.

I’ll check in with you all again next week to provide an insight into how Conor’s training camp has been progressing, but we’re already looking forward to the Irish invasion here in just a few weeks’ time.

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