If you haven’t been living under a rock this weekend, you might have seen that Conor McGregor was defeated by Nate Diaz at UFC196. This was an impressive victory for Diaz since he took the fight on an 11-day notice.
Heading into the fight, a lot of publicity surrounded McGregor’s movement coach, Ido Portal. Ido used many different tactics to try and prepare McGregor for a fight well above his normal weight class. A quick browse of Instagram or Facebook will show Mr. Portal and Mr. McGregor engaging in animalistic crawls, wrist mobility drills, and whipping a pool noodle around simulating a multitude of strike and dodging patterns.
This is not the first time an athlete enlisted the help of a “movement coach.” However, due to the social media connection with this fight, it was one of the more publicized moments in training history.
The training looked flashy, innovative, and had caught the eye of millions. Was this going to be the next big key to athletic performance?
Well if you watched the fight, the answer was a strong, unwavering…. No.
Since the fight ended, I have received countless texts and emails from old clients, fellow trainers, and just intrigued friends wanting to know my take on if I thought Ido’s training was effective. The internet has blown up with people mocking Ido Portal and saying that McGregor wasted too much time with his “movement coach.”
First off, we didn’t have 24/7 access to Conor McGregor’s training. Based on Instagram and other social media, it is easy to think that McGregor’s training was heavily focused with Ido as his guide. However, I fail to believe that McGregor’s team allowed him to just participate in the bits we get to see in a 15-second Instagram clip. A training camp for a fight is very comprehensive.
Looking at Ido’s body of work via his Instagram page, it is clear to see that he has great body control, body awareness, and overall artistic motion. One could definitely argue that these are attributes of great fighters.
So why didn’t this translate to a knockout performance by McGregor?
It has been said that McGregor’s camp involved minimal contact sparring. It also looked as if McGregor’s training involved many slow, relatively low resistance based movements. Based on previous testing, McGregor has the VO2 max of a midfielder in soccer. He can cover a lot of ground and recover quickly. McGregor has also been documented as able to complete 23 strict pull ups in 30 seconds. One area where McGregor scores a little bit lower is his punching power. His power was definitely adequate for the 145 lb weight class but was much more sub-par when reaching the 170 lb weight class.
Even with the lesser punching power, McGregor still caused Diaz to experience some pain early on in the fight. Landing a few body blows and shots to the face had Diaz in a more defensive fight.
Then it happened. Diaz connected on a solid blow that took McGregor by surprise. The pool noodle never hurt that badly.
Fear quickly crept in and McGregor stayed away from the body of Diaz. McGregor tried for some kicks and scratched for an answer before Diaz applied the choke to win the fight.
What went wrong?
I strongly believe that McGregor had minimized contact and resistance heading into the fight. Minimizing these two variables proved costly. It is easy to seem quick, strong, and agile without an outside force. However, once Diaz made his mark, physiological alarms went off in an instant for McGregor. Fight or flight started to kick in. This time the body chose flight. The minimized contact proved costly for McGregor’s mental state after that first blow. He couldn’t handle being hit. Although he had great power without external force, his blows were lest effective against the mass of Diaz, compared to 145 and 155 lb fighters. Diaz was able to absorb McGregor’s blows and each attack carried a little less zest compared to the first. Not only did McGregor lose his mental state, he lost his physical strength and power over time. I believe a better balance of resistance training would have alleviated the power drop off over the course of the fight. Maintaining strength and power for longer could’ve worn Diaz down faster. It would’ve also allowed McGregor not to fatigue as quickly under the external load he was fighting. It is often said in the strength & conditioning world that fast guys get slower but big guys don’t get smaller over the course of an athletic endeavor. This proved true again during the fight. The resistance of another fighter fatigued McGregor much faster than what his own bodyweight would in training. This effect could’ve been minimized by a more balanced programming. Also, minimizing contact definitely keeps the body fresh; yet, it turned out to be costly in the mental department.
In the future, balancing the flash with “old-school” strength will help McGregor find his way back to the light. Portal’s methods definitely have a place. However, McGregor’s team did not balance his training properly for this fight, leaving him completely exposed.