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McGeeney: 'I’ve seen Conor McGregor progress into something unreal over the past five years'

The Armagh boss and the UFC star are training partners at SBG.

inpho_00885052 UFC interim featherweight title challenger Conor McGregor.

HOW GOOD IS Conor McGregor’s grappling?

The world should finally get its answer this weekend, but one man who already knows is Kieran McGeeney. The Armagh senior football manager regularly rubs shoulders with the UFC star at the Straight Blast Gym on the Naas Road in Dublin.

McGeeney trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at SBG, where he’s been a member since 2009. Since then, he and McGregor have often rolled together on the mats, so McGeeney has first-hand experience of what Chad Mendes is currently preparing for.

Mendes and McGregor are scheduled to fight for the interim UFC featherweight title this Saturday night in the main event at UFC 189 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas.

McGregor has embarked on an impressive five-fight win streak since making his UFC debut just over two years ago, but he has yet to face a wrestler of the calibre of Mendes. Many fancy the American to halt the Irishman’s rapid rise thanks to his background as a two-time NCAA Division One All-American wrestler. If the grappling side of McGregor’s game is a weakness, nobody in the UFC’s featherweight division is more likely to expose it than Chad Mendes.

Most of Kieran McGeeney’s interest in mixed martial arts is limited to BJJ, but he’s seen enough from McGregor in that department to suggest that it’ll take something special for anyone to overcome him.

inpho_00831730 Armagh senior football manager Kieran McGeeney.

“Conor probably didn’t work as hard on the grappling side of the game at the start because he’s such a good striker, but I’ve yet to see anybody give him trouble on the ground. And that’s the only way you can rate a person,” said McGeeney.

“You could understand if someone said he was down a few times, but I’ve yet to see that. Even if you get him down, it’s a split second before he’s up. He’s got really good movement which he’s worked hard on. He’s an awesome fighter and an awesome trainer.”

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McGeeney has been impressed by McGregor’s remarkable progress in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and although he usually only tunes in to watch MMA when his SBG colleagues are involved, the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain is as keen as anyone to see McGregor get his hands on a UFC belt on Saturday night.

McGeeney said: “I’ve seen him progress into something unreal over the past five years. I hope he does it and I wish him all the best. People think all he does is talk, but I’ve seen fellas who train hard and Conor is up there with the best of them.

“His personality and character is part of the overall game. It’s a big part of the fight scene in terms of generating numbers and things like that.

“All I can say is that my interactions with Conor have all been first rate. He wouldn’t pass you in the street without shaking hands and saying hello. He’s always got the time and it’s the same in the gym; there’s no airs or graces.”

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