Behind the big shows, knockouts, submissions and interviews one thing remains consistant, hard work. Check out these excellent photos by Ciaran Maher of an MMA session at SBG Concorde recently.
Quick announcement for our SBG Concorde members - Blue Belts & above.
SBG founder Matt Thornton will be coaching the gi-only BJJ Master Class on Friday 7th August between 7 and 9pm. This is free of charge and not to be missed. Be there.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada was the jam-packed venue, this Saturday night, for UFC 189 – the UFC’s headlining event of the annual international fight week. On paper, this card was undoubtedly the best of the year and, in practice, lived up to all the hype
In the main event, the interim featherweight title was on the line as Irish superstar Conor McGregor took on American wrestler Chad Mendes with champion Jose Aldo nursing a rib injury back in Brazil.
Coming into the fight lots of the talk surrounded whether McGregor’s kicking would be on show but that was quickly put to bed as he swung with a spinning back kick to the body right out of the gate. McGregor then threw a high knee but Mendes caught it and, to many people’s wishes, put the Irishman on his back. Mendes landed one shot on the floor but McGregor immediately popped back up before stuffing the next wrestling attempt.
McGregor then attacked the body with kicks and punches while eating a couple of Mendes right hands along the way. With a minute on the clock, a straight left from McGregor stunned Mendes before he attacked the body again – a clear plan on his part. A couple of headkicks from McGregor were on point after that but Mendes quickly got back into it with a lovely takedown. McGregor rose his feet relatively quickly but when he stood up blood poured from his eye due to a well placed Mendes elbow.
A huge right hand from Mendes midway through the round was his best shot of the frame from the American but McGregor ate it without blinking and fired back with a couple of straight shots down the pipe. More McGregor body shots followed that but Mendes managed to get him to the floor again and this time held him down. The Team Alpha Male man was able to pass guard but McGregor established a half guard after a brief period of side control before a guillotine attempt in the final seconds of the round from Mendes fell short.
As they came out for the second round McGregor beckoned Mendes on and attacked the body again with hard kicks before stuffing a takedown from the California man. A hard right hand from McGregor found its home as they got back into range and was quickly added to with a right which got Mendes circling away in terror. McGregor landed one more kick to the body but Mendes closed in on him again and got a tremendous double leg takedown.
On the floor Mendes controlled well and hit McGregor with two stinging elbows immediately. McGregor answered back with a series of elbows of his own from the bottom but Mendes landed with more strikes from both hands. As the round went on, McGregor didn’t look like getting off of his back but he did manage to drive some more cutting elbows right into the top of Mendes’ head. Mendes put more downward pressure on after that which slowed the action although two big shots did keep him scoring.
With a minute left on the clock Herb Dean warned Mendes to keep working and he did just that as he passed McGregor’s guard and latched onto a neck. The guillotine never really looked on for Mendes and it did nothing more than give McGregor and opportunity to stand up – which he duly took.
The first strike in the newly vertical fight was again a body kick from McGregor and when he followed it up with a straight left and an uppercut Mendes looked in big trouble. Another straight left had Mendes swinging back hard and trying to take the Irishman down but McGregor dodged all the advances and swooped in again. This time Mendes could do nothing but cover up as he ate a right and left hook against the fence before exiting stage left.
McGregor wasn’t letting him go, though, and cut off the space by landing with a combination of strikes and a kick to the body which had Mendes out on his feet. Another body kick had Mendes a sitting duck and when McGregor landed a huge left hand right on the chin Mendes went down to the canvas. With nine seconds remaining in the round McGregor had no time to waste and landed four blows to the grounded head of Mendes before referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight.
For McGregor, it was a tremendous winning performance which came after being put on his back multiple times. A fact which makes the upcoming title unification with Jose Aldo an even more mouth watering prospect.
Here's a fantastic new documentary by BT Sport showing the beginnings of Conor McGregor at SBG and his rise through the UFC Rankings. Tonight, Conor fights Chad Mendes for the UFC Interim Featherweight title, no better way to get ready for the event than learning about what led to this day. Enjoy!
John brings you another expert tutorial. This week, it's the lateral drop. Pay attention, and don't try this at home!
The Nevada State Athletic Commission could stop this fight against Aldo on weigh-in day — the day before the fight. That’s when the pre-fight medicals are done. Aldo might still want it but the doctor can say no if he doesn’t believe he’s fit to compete. Then it’s basically out of the hands of Aldo, ourselves and the UFC. Enter Chad Mendes.
Mendes has been asked to make weight and he’ll be there, so it could be him stepping on the scales instead of Aldo for all we know. That kind of thing happens often at small regional shows, but this is for a UFC belt. That’s no big deal for us, though. It’s kind of exciting, to be honest. Who’s going to be on the scales when we turn up to weigh in? We won’t know until the day itself.
For most people, switching between two different types of opponent like that would be an absolute nightmare. But it would be hypocritical of us to complain about that and allow it to have an impact, so we’re staying true to our regular philosophy when it comes to opponents. And I believe Conor will end up fighting both of these guys at some point anyway, so what difference does it make?
Ultimately, a man with two arms and two legs will be standing across the octagon from Conor on 11 July. Whether that man’s name is Jose or Chad, nothing changes for us. I’m confident that Conor has the solution to both problems. At this level of mixed martial arts, I believe a fighter should be ready for any opponent at the drop of a hat.
It was UFC president Dana White who called me and asked how we felt about Chad Mendes stepping in to fight Conor for the belt. Conor was sleeping at the time so I walked into his room and told him it could be Mendes instead. He opened one eye, said ‘They’re all the same’ and then went back to sleep. That’s as far as any negotiation went.
What did we do when the news about Aldo’s injury broke? We went to the TUF gym, as usual, and Conor had what I believe was his best sparring session since we’ve been here in Las Vegas. Instead of expending our energy on speculation and rumours, we continued as normal and 24 hours later things were back on track.
If Aldo was going to be out, the options were to postpone the fight until later in the year or bring in a different opponent. Both were discussed, but Conor is driven by competition. The UFC mentioned a September date but I knew realistically that if Aldo’s rib injury was bad, September wouldn’t be realistic. At best it would be October.
That would leave Conor on the sidelines for nine months. Some fighters are satisfied to sit out for a year when they’ve got a title shot ahead, but that’s not something we wanted to do. Maybe people think we’re crazy because if Conor lost to a replacement opponent then that guy would overtake him in the running for a title shot. We don’t look at things that way. I believe Conor is ready for whoever the UFC put in there and we have to be able to back that up by accepting all challengers.
People will assume that we’re going to be introducing a lot more wrestling to our training sessions now, given the calibre of Chad Mendes in that department, but our preparations actually aren’t going to change at all. I was pretty convinced that Aldo was going to play a wrestling game anyway. There’s a reason why most of Conor’s fights end in first-round knockouts and Aldo’s go to a decision.
On top of that, it’s an MMA fight. We’re MMA fighters, not kickboxers, so we cover all areas of mixed martial arts. We have wrestlers, grapplers and strikers here. This training camp hasn’t been geared towards an orthodox Muay Thai fighter. The aim of the camp has been to make Conor better than he was in his last fight. And we’ve achieved that.
The opponent never matters and Cathal Pendred is further proof of that. He’s been harassing the UFC about getting a fight at short notice — I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had offered to step in for Aldo! — so he’s another example of somebody who’s secure enough in their skillset to take on any challenge. Cathal has stepped in to fight John Howard and he’ll be arriving in Vegas in the next couple of days. It’ll be great to have him here.
It’s the very same for Gunnar Nelson. His fight was actually changed while he was asleep. He woke up late that day, I told him he had a new opponent and instead of asking who it was (Brandon Thatch), he just said ‘Oh, okay’ and then went about making his breakfast. I’m very proud of the guys for being like that.
It’s a bit of a throwback to the early days. My first ever fight was in England and the opponent just didn’t bother showing up. They found a guy in the audience who was a good grappler so I fought him instead. It’s one of the lessons of MMA to make sure you don’t get too obsessed about who you’re facing, because it could change on the scales.
AFTER CATHAL PENDRED picked up another UFC victory over the weekend, I’ve just arrived back in Las Vegas to resume preparations with Conor McGregor and the rest of the team for next month’s featherweight title bout at the MGM Grand.
Cathal recorded a pretty comprehensive unanimous-decision win against Augusto Montano at UFC 188 in Mexico City on Saturday night, but the manner in which the fight played out came as a bit of a shock to us.
Montano has 15 wins, all by stoppage, and most of them came in the first round. He seemed to epitomise the Mexican spirit of always coming forward and throwing a high volume of shots. Due to the fact that we were subsequently expecting him to be slightly over-aggressive, I really thought that would fall into Cathal’s gameplan as Montano would be likely to give up takedowns.
But as it transpired, the guy spent 15 minutes running backwards. That really threw us off. Cathal was very frustrated after the first round, but I was able to give him a little bit of direction in the corner and — to his credit — he adjusted accordingly and dealt with it.
"We were expecting to be on the back-foot so Cathal had to change his tactics mid-fight. He did that successfully, cutting the ring off much better in the second round and almost getting the finish. It was clearly two rounds to one in Cathal’s favour but he still hasn’t been able to go out and replicate the fight he had against Mike King in Dublin last year."
At the end of the day, however, he’s now 4-0 in the UFC — that’s the second-longest current winning streak in the division — and that’s not easy to do. We got the result on Saturday but perhaps not how we would have liked.
Cathal might have been harsh on himself afterwards and I quite like to see that in my fighters, if I’m being honest. I think it’s good to be self-critical so it’s not something I discourage. As always, we take away the positives and try to learn from the mistakes.
Cathal gets a very hard time on social media but the vast majority of stuff I saw was quite positive about him, because he did as much as he possibly could to make a fight of it. Nevertheless, he’s bulletproof when it comes to negative stuff on social media stuff. It has absolutely no impact on him.
He’s extremely driven and incredibly strong mentally, and he only invests his energy in things he can control. Obviously you can’t control what people say or write about you, but you can control your ability to work on an aspect of your game.
Cathal has said that he’d like a top-15 opponent next when — and if, as is rumoured — the UFC return to Dublin in October, but that’ll be up to Joe Silva and the UFC. Personally I think he might be matched with the winner of a good welterweight fight that’s happening in Glasgow next month: Leon Edwards versus Pawel Pawlak. That make sense from a European perspective. With Cathal being a grappler and both of those guys strikers, I think that has the potential for a nice match-up.
With another win for Cathal in the bank, it’s on to the next one in the UFC for the SBG team. That just happens to be a featherweight world title bout on 11 July when Conor McGregor fights the reigning champion Jose Aldo in the main event at UFC 189 here in Las Vegas.
Last Thursday it emerged that there had been some confusion at Aldo’s gym in Rio de Janeiro. A Nevada State Athletic Commission official arrived to perform a random drug test, only for the sample to be discarded due to the NSAC representative not being in possession of a visa to work in Brazil. A Brazilian tester took another sample from Aldo on Friday instead, it seems.
I’d be lying if I said I was extremely familiar with the intricacies of how these things work, so I don’t know if what happened is a regular occurrence. But from what I’ve read, it seems to be quite unusual.
With all the confusion that followed, I’m just happy to see that the test was done a day later. However, having 24 hours’ notice does take away the random element of being randomly tested.
But it is what it is and, like I mentioned in relation to Cathal, it’s out of our control so we don’t put too much thought into it. But what I will say is that it raised a few eyebrows when we heard the news.
Has it negatively impacted Conor’s mindset ahead of the fight? I think you all know the answer to that. It’s business as usual here.
Conor was tested on 23 May when we went to attend UFC 187. He was pulled to the side on a moment’s notice — not 24 hours — and had both blood and urine samples taken. But again, we’re just taking care of our own affairs here in Vegas. We’ll let the Brazilians do their thing in Brazil.
I’ll check in with you all again next week to provide an insight into how Conor’s training camp has been progressing, but we’re already looking forward to the Irish invasion here in just a few weeks’ time.
Irishman Cathal Pendred took his record inside the UFC’s octagon to 4-0 tonight with a unanimous decision victory over Augusto “Dodger” Montano at UFC 188 in Mexico City.
“Dodger” lived up his nickname and moved away from Pendred for most of the first round, causing the Irishman to throw his hands up in the air and ask his opponent to engage. After the round ended referee Herb Dean warned Montano that if he kept on refusing to engage he would have a point taken for timidity.
At the start of the second round Montano landed a right hand behind the ear and dropped Pendred momentarily but the Irishman pushed forward and secured a takedown. From top position he landed ground and pound and had the Mexican in danger with an unorthodox neck tie before Montano was able to get his neck free.
The third round was pretty uneventful with the high altitude seeming to have taken it’s toll on both fighters, moreso Montano. The Mexican fans voiced their displeasure at the lack of engagement by booing during and then again as the horn sounded at the end of the fight.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28 in favour of SBG Ireland’s Cathal Pendred.
Tom Egan drives the team van towards the UFC training center as the "Mac Mansion" crew get ready for their daily session. Artem Lobov is riding shotgun. Featherweight title contender Conor McGregor took off beforehand in his Ford Mustang along with his long-term girlfriend Dee Devlin, with a view to meeting the others at the infamous TUF gym.
Owen Roddy is reliving the visit of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Henderson estate earlier that day with Frans Mlambo and Joey Breslin in the back, and everybody is getting in on the fun. Egan seems the most affected by the meeting with his childhood hero. His accurate impressions of the Austrian begin a debate about which of the cult hero’s movies they will be watching later.
James Gallagher and Lee Hammond are constantly going back and forth, a big burst of laughter breaks the pitter patter of their conversation every few seconds. "Arnie" is a bit before their time but Roddy and Breslin assure them that they will get their education based on tonight’s viewing back at the mansion. It’s a toss up between Predator and Commando.
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