CONOR MCGREGOR is notoriously good at punching people in the face.
The charismatic Irishman has become a phenomenon in the UFC not only for his larger-than-life character but also his vicious skills inside the octagon – most namely his striking.
The vast majority of McGregor’s UFC wins have come via stoppage from punches – though he outpointed Nate Diaz to gain sweet revenge on Saturday, cutting the American to ribbons in the process – no surprise as Conor developed a solid base as an amateur boxer before he moved into mixed martial arts.
He walked into the Crumlin Boxing Club at the age of 12 and his first trainer, Phil Sutcliffe, spoke to Boxing News about what McGregor was like in those developmental stages.
“He was just like any other kid who walked into the gym wanting to join a boxing club, he had to get his parents’ permission first,” he told us.
“He trained very, very hard, he was one of the kids you never had to shout at, he was very focused. He wanted to be a good boxer and he was getting good, he was progressing well. He won a few novice titles and boxed on plenty of shows to learn his trade but before he became a Junior he found another love and packed it in.
“He started doing grappling and wrestling and mixed martial arts, a lot of kids took to it. I wouldn’t say it’s as tough as boxing, it’s more animalistic when you’re on the ground. He started moving towards it when he was 15 or 16 and he was telling me he couldn’t come to the gym on certain nights because he was doing grappling or wrestling, I wasn’t very impressed because I didn’t like the sport. I thought it was very barbaric, when you’re allowed to hit someone on the ground with your elbows and your knees like a street fight.
“Conor’s been able to take it to a new level and he has that style which gets people following him, especially in Ireland but around the world as well.”
McGregor predominantly fights from a southpaw stance while fighting, though Sutcliffe claimed his former charge was taught how to switch-hit in the ancient Dublin gym.
“He was always very dedicated, he tried to practice, practice, practice. He worked on his uppercuts, his long right hand, he’s able to switch [stance]. We teach all our kids to switch,” he said.
“You saw how he knocked [Jose Aldo] out, the shot over the top, perfect punch, perfect timing – that’s a Crumlin punch.
“Most of the things that are bringing him along are Crumlin punches. His stand up boxing, his elusiveness, his timing, how he’s able to read his opponent, he’s been taught that since he was a kid, we teach that here. The stance, the timing, the reading.
“He was always confident, he was never afraid. He was elusive, his elusiveness was extra special.”
While the Crumlin gym continues to struggle to keep its doors open, Sutcliffe speaks about McGregor with pride and hopes that the youngsters who fill the club today can follow in Conor’s trailblazing footsteps.
“The kids need an opportunity and Conor got that opportunity and he took it with both hands. The UFC have seen the character he has, he’s been well drilled and well looked after and it’s paid dividends.
“If he stuck to boxing he could have gone to the Olympics, who knows? It’s two different things. Boxing is a very disciplined sport.”