# UFC 194
Ryan Hall: 'The gulf between Conor and Jose on the ground is not what people might think'
The grappling ace has been training at SBG in Dublin.

Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor Cathal Noonan / INPHO UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and interim title-holder Conor McGregor. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

AHEAD OF HIS featherweight title unification bout against Jose Aldo at UFC 194 in Las Vegas on 12 December, Conor McGregor’s grappling ability has received the seal of approval of renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Ryan Hall.

They may be in opposition on the current season of The Ultimate Fighter — McGregor is coaching Team Europe while Hall is a member of Team USA — but the pair trained together last week in Dublin after Hall travelled from Virginia to get some work in at Straight Blast Gym on the Naas Road.

Hall, a decorated 30-year-old grappler and BJJ world champion, is now focusing on mixed martial arts and is hoping to secure a UFC contract via The Ultimate Fighter.

Many believe that although McGregor is a high-level striker, Aldo’s status as a BJJ black belt could tip the balance in his favour when it comes to the grappling exchanges in their highly-anticipated tussle at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

However, having rolled with McGregor during his time in Dublin, Hall says the Irish fighter’s ground-game shouldn’t be under-estimated.

“Not only did I get the opportunity to roll with Conor, but I was very impressed,” said Hall. “I think people don’t realise how much ability he has and I was pleasantly surprised by his level of skill and level of composure. Those things don’t always go hand-in-hand; sometimes you get someone who’s very skillful in one area but when you get them out of their comfort zone they’re not complete.

“But Conor’s a fantastic martial artist and I was very, very impressed. He trains very diligently and he puts in those hours. Jose Aldo is a fantastic fighter and a very high-level jiu-jitsu guy but the gulf between them on the ground is not what people might think. Not at all.”

RyanHall Luke Thomas Ryan Hall Luke Thomas

Hall was also glowing in his praise for Straight Blast Gym, which he believes is now one of the best gyms in the world. Under the guidance of head coach John Kavanagh, the SBG team includes Irish UFC fighters like Conor McGregor, Aisling Daly, Paddy Holohan, Cathal Pendred and adopted Irishman Gunnar Nelson.

“The intelligence of their approach to training is quite unique in the MMA world and it’s something I was very impressed with,” Hall said. “It’s absolutely one of the top gyms in the world today and I think that’s only going to continue going forward.

“I went over there just for training. I’ve been friends with Gunni Nelson and John Kavanagh for a while, and I was looking forward to getting over to train with the guys after we finished filming the show [The Ultimate Fighter]. I had a fantastic time.

“I felt that I learned an immense amount — not only in terms of new ideas, but also depth. Martial arts is not just about learning new ideas, but gaining a deeper understanding of things that you thought you already knew.

“People who approach the game with the intelligence and diligence of people like John, Gunni, Conor and coach Owen Roddy, you can learn so much from them”

Hall added: “Being in Dublin was incredible. I couldn’t believe how many people were dialled into the fights. I was shocked because quite a few people recognised me while I was walking around. It must have happened 30 or 40 times throughout the course of a week-and-a-half.

“I was really shocked. That’s something that doesn’t even happen at home. It was very different to what I’m used to. I’m looking forward to my next trip already.”

Gunnar Nelson will also feature at UFC 194, with the Icelandic welterweight set to face fellow elite grappler Demian Maia on the McGregor-Aldo card. It’s a fight Hall is thoroughly looking forward to and he’s backing Nelson to emerge victorious.

Hall: “I’m extremely intrigued about the match-up and I’m a big fan of both Gunni and Demian Maia. Demian has been a pioneer for jiu-jitsu and martial arts, and you could say the same thing about Gunni as well. That being said, I really believe Gunni to be the more complete fighter. He’s an excellent grappler but he can also be dangerous on the feet. I believe that will be the difference.

“If I were a betting man — which I am from time to time — my money would be on Gunni. I’ll be sitting back and looking forward to watching a fantastic fight between two of the premier grapplers in the world, period, but certainly in MMA. I can’t wait to see how it goes.”

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