Morning Report: John Kavanagh still wants Diaz trilogy for Conor McGregor but ‘very confident’ Khabib rematch would be different

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Over the last few months, the UFC’s lightweight title picture has finally started coming into focus. At UFC 242, Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his title against interim champion Dustin Poirier. After that, Tony Ferguson is the presumptive No. 1 contender for the belt, with Justin Gaethje waiting in the wings. That leaves only Conor McGregor as the odd man out in the lightweight title picture, insofar as the sport’s biggest star could ever be considered out of title contention.

McGregor is on the sidelines by choice. “Notorious” is negotiating with the UFC and still trying to figure out what fight makes sense for him to come back to. He’s previously said he wants whatever fight will get him back to the title the fastest but while McGregor is trying to angle for the Nurmagomedov rematch, his coach would prefer they settle affairs with Nate Diaz.

“I always loved the Diaz trilogy,” McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh told Ariel Helwani yesterday. “I’ve kind of said that from the start. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Nate looks in the fight that’s coming up [against Anthony Pettis]. That would be just, as a fan, very exciting. Justin Gaethje kind of reminds me of that similar style, you know he can take a tremendous amount of punishment and keep coming forward. Honestly if it’s Conor excited, and motivated, and pushing himself hard, it doesn’t really matter all that much to me. Anybody in the UFC at the level that Conor McGregor would be fighting are good opponents, they have different challenges. If you’re going to put a gun to me, it would be the Diaz trilogy. That would be for me.”

McGregor and Diaz have a storied rivalry in MMA. However, Diaz is currently set to fight former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in a welterweight bout at UFC 241. Diaz has also said he’s not interested in a third fight with McGregor, though if push came to shove, most expect he would relish a third fight with his lucrative foe. The two have a way of bringing out the best in one another, which is partly why Kavanagh is so keen on the fight: he wants to see a motivated Conor McGregor.

“I really want to see him motivated,” Kavanagh said. “You probably saw the Tony Robbins interview where he spoke about losing that for a bit. This is a game where it’s full-on, it’s full-contact, it’s dangerous. When he won the second belt, when he beat Eddie [Alvarez], he achieved everything he set out to achieve. He was very wealthy, he was world champion, so you’ve got to take some time and think what’s going to motivate you to do it anymore. He said himself that that became a bit of a problem, you know, what is it? Is it get another belt, is it make some more money?”

Fortunately, Kavanagh says McGregor has gotten past that rough patch and fallen back in love with the sport of MMA, which has him excited for whatever challenge is next.

“I think what has come back around, it’s the love of the sport,” Kavanagh continued. “He loves doing it, he loves training, he loves competing. And legacy. That he’s remembered being one of the best, if not the best ever. So that’s what has really come back to him since the beginning of the year and that’s what I wanted to see. He’s obviously a very well-known student of mine but he’s also somewhat like a kid brother, so I wouldn’t want to see him doing something just for the sake of doing it and maybe getting hurt or whatever because he’s not fully there. Now he absolutely is. We’re having a lot of deep conversations about technical sequences and training regimes and so on, it really reminds me of his rise and to see that again is exciting.”

Of course, McGregor has always been his most motivated after a loss. Following his submission defeat to Nate Diaz, McGregor lobbied aggressively for the immediate rematch and was granted it by Dana White. He similarly has tried to get an immediate rematch with Khabib, but with less success given the level of domination of the bout. But despite how the fight went, Kavanagh says he’d be very confident in a rematch there as well, and they wouldn’t need a tune up fight to get ready.

“I think for 99.9 percent of people, yes [you should get a confidence boosting win first],” Kavanagh said. “But there is absolute confidence that I have in him and he has for himself. So I don’t think it’s as important. It’s a very unique person, a very unique character. Almost anybody else, I would say yeah. For Conor, no. Actually, recently watching the fight and I would be very confident in a rematch. I would be.”


Assumptions. Dana White: ‘I’m assuming’ Tony Ferguson is next in line for Khabib vs. Poirier winner.

The One. Dustin Poirier explains why he will be the one to finally defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Reacts. Derek Brunson reacts to Elias Theodorou being released from the UFC following their fight.

Hype. Adam Borics: Aaron Pico is ‘very talented’ but ‘maybe the hype was too much for him’.


The MMA Hour.

Monday Morning Analyst.

The rise of women’s MMA.

Chael Sonnen fight night.

Darrion Caldwell’s fight night. Darrion is not pleased.

Ricky Hatton on Paulie’s bare knuckle debut.


The Co-Main Event. Discussing the big Bellator weekend.

Anik & Florian. Previewing the UFC’s first card in South Carolina.


Julie Kedzie keeping y’all correct.

Respect.

Kelvin wants to box.

OSP getting caught with the sponsor post.

Elias was at the Raps parade.

The man can grapple.

Gonna be good.


Eric Spicely (12-4) vs. Deron Winn (5-0); UFC Greenville, June 22.


Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.


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