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This Saturday at UFC 178, Conor McGregor (15-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC), the number nine ranked featherweight in the organization will fight Dustin Poirier (16-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC), ranked fifth, in the biggest test of the Irish MMA fighter’s career to date. McGregor has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity during his three-fight career with the UFC. The brash fighter is close to Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta and even our own executive editor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a fan.
The 26-year-old Dublin native is as renowned for his mouth as much as he is for his prowess in the Octagon, but McGregor, who is trained by John Kavanagh out of the Straight Blast Gym in Dublin, has been able to back up his opponent bashing and belittling with winning performances thus far. McGregor made an impression when he stopped Marcus Brimage after 67 seconds in his UFC debut in April 2013 in Sweden. American fans saw him in the flesh for the first time in August 2013 in Boston when he dominated Max Holloway en route to a unanimous decision. He tore his ACL in the fight, but after rehabbing his knee, he helped sell 9,000 tickets in record time for UFC Fight Night 46 in Dublin on July 19. He headlined the show and stopped Diego Brandao in the first round. M&F caught up with “Notorious” to ask how he gets in the right mindset to take on whatever awaits in the Octagon come Saturday night.
Muscle & Fitness: How was your training camp?
Conor McGregor: Everything is going on as it always does. I’ve been in the gym learning and improving. I’ve had back-to-back fights. I only fought a few weeks ago, so I’m in super condition right now both in body and in mind. I have been out in Las Vegas for a week or so getting accustomed to the time difference and the weather and just enjoying the sunshine as well. It has gone perfectly, could not have gone better.
How important is visualization in your fight preparation?
I visualize as much as possible. Daydreaming is a powerful thing. I visualize being backstage, I visualize my hands being wrapped, I visualize them calling my name, making that walk, the music coming on. I visualize coming face-to-face with my opponent. I visualize the shots landing, I visualize the eyes rolling back in his head. I visualize these things and then I go out and execute them.
Do you have any rituals or habits you adhere to on fight week?
For me, rituals are superstitions and that to me is another word for fear. If you need to do something to get you ready, if you wear a certain pair of pants or if you have a favorite gum shield, all these things are different words for fear—fear manifesting itself in a different way. I can do anything in the lead up to the fight, anything can happen in the lead up to a fight, but I still go in and perform.
How do you manage fear?
As a kid you growing up I was in the gym every day. Feeling those nerves, those butterflies in my stomach before I went into the gym, that was when I started dealing with those feelings. Now I am a veteran of it—now it is an addiction. Now I am chasing that feeling. This is what I do and I do it better than anyone else.
How do you and John Kavanagh prepare mentally for the challenge that awaits?
I just talk about things with my coach. Talk about how we are better than these people, how we move different, how we train different and how our approach is different. We embrace that. I keep in touch with my coach. We don’t sit down and have a therapy session, we just talk a lot.
You are coming off a hugely successful win and a memorable show at UFC Fight Night 46 in Dublin. Now, you are fighting Las Vegas, the HQ of the UFC, for the first time and on your first PPV card. How do you handle that pressure?
To me this is no pressure, this is a dream come true. This is exactly what I wanted, exactly what I worked for, and exactly what I predicted. If anything, the Dublin show was more pressure because I was in my hometown. I am veteran of this game. I have fought all over the world in many different organizations, and making that walk is just another walk, and when that [Octagon] door shuts, it’s just another door shutting. I do this every day, and I am comfortable in uncomfortable situations. For me it’s not about handling pressure; I handle my business inside and outside [the Octagon].
How do you visualize your fight going with Dustin Poirier on Saturday night?
I believe that we will both come forward. I will crack him one or two. He will panic, he might rush in, I will crack him again, and then the fight will be done. I don’t believe he has many shots left in him and I don’t think he can take many of my shots. I will hurt him in the first couple of exchanges and then I will begin to play, to experiment. I am going to come out of the gates, spinning, flying through the air, and I will crack him with something that will put him down, and I believe it will be a first round stoppage.
Check out the Countdown to UFC 178: Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor: