ONE OF THE biggest challenges I’ve faced while coaching Conor McGregor was trying to get him to embrace the art of grappling. To love it.
I couldn’t inspire him to do so, but Joseph Duffy did. Conor’s last defeat was against Duffy — you may have heard about it — by submission in November 2010. Conor wasn’t completely new to jiu-jitsu then, but he certainly had a new approach to it after that fight. He really lost himself in grappling afterwards.
Once Conor devotes himself to something, it’s scary the level of focus he can bring to it… no matter what it is. It’s not something I’ve seen many other people with the ability to do. Conor is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu now, and he’s given hell to every black belt he’s trained with.
When Conor lost to Duffy, he was doing jiu-jitsu, but doing it almost begrudgingly. Because he had to. But afterwards, within three or four months, he was doing it because he loved it. Trying to get Conor to love it was always the challenge, but eventually he developed the same love for grappling that he had for striking.
It’s now four-and-a-half years since that loss. In that same time-frame, BJ Penn went from doing no jiu-jitsu at all to winning the black-belt World Championships. Gunnar Nelson made similar progress. You can make big leaps in that kind of period...
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