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Conor McGregor is not a fan of routines. The first double champ in the organisation’s history has always done “what the fuck he wants,” enjoying a loose, instinctive approach to his training routine for a majority of his mixed martial arts career.
People are so caught in a routine, doing the same things over and over. I want to be an expert in different fighting styles, new training methods, new ways of thinking.Conor McGregor: Retirement, UFC Fighting and How He Became the Notorious | Men’s Health
In his ideal world, the UFC superstar prefers his training to be spontaneous and free-flowing. “For me, I notice with other people, they have a set time — you need to be in the gym at 12, 12 to 1:30, then they go off and do something and come back at a set time. I don’t do that,” he said in a 2015 interview with Men’s Journal.
“I train when I feel like training. I operate on my own time. In the early days, I had regimenting, but I did not like it. Sometimes you go to the gym and you don’t feel like going to the gym. You’re not going to learn something in that time because your mind is not there, and you’re also risking injury.”
For the most part, this approach worked for him. In his first 7 UFC fights, McGregor destroyed all but one of his opponents within the first two-rounds, including a record-breaking knockout of reigning featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, in 13-seconds. The knockout still stands as the fastest finish in UFC championship fight history.
Training to me isn’t about a set time at the gym — I move at all times of the day and night. I feel it when I need to train and I do what I feel like I need to do. I don’t get obsessed with one style or one skill. Seems like people get obsessed about times and numbers and weights and that — I’m obsessed with winning. I eat, sleep and breathe training.CONOR MCGREGOR ON THE TRUTH IN TRASH TALK, CUSTOM SUITS AND HIS KNITTING CIRCLE | ASKMEN
But then Nate Diaz came along and changed everything. Due to a last minute drop out from Rafael dos Anjos, who McGregor was supposed to challenge for the lightweight title, the UFC veteran and triathlon-enthusiast stepped in on 11-days notice at UFC 196. Instead of fighting at the planned 155-lbs, the two would battle it out at 170-lbs, a 15 pound jump in weight class for McGregor.
The fight started out well enough for McGregor. The Irishman battered Diaz around the Octagon for the first round, landing the legendary left hand on his opponent’s chin seemingly at will. But mid-way through the second way round, the tide started the turn.
McGregor was beginning to fade, while Diaz only seemed to grow stronger with each punch he took on his bloodied face. Then, a beautiful jab-cross combination from Diaz landed flush on McGregor’s chin. A failed takedown attempt by the Irishman. A mad scramble on the ground for dominant position. A locked up rear-naked chokehold. Then it was all over.
Diaz stood up, blood gushing down his face, and gave the camera his iconic double bicep-flex. Thanks to his famous stamina and near-unbreakable chin, Diaz had weathered the McGregor hurricane and won the biggest fight of his life.
After the loss, McGregor sat down and re-evaluated everything in his training routine. “I slapped the hell out of him for eight minutes,” he said after the fight. “I didn’t lose on skill; I lost on stamina. My greatest strength is my work ethic. And my greatest weakness is my work ethic. Leading up to Diaz, I was fucked up from overtraining.”
Looking back at the Diaz fight, McGregor realised that not having to go through the dread weight-cut was actually a detriment to his performance. Instead of implementing a disciplined diet to make the required 155-lb weight limit, fighting at 170-lbs gave McGregor an excuse to eat everything in sight, giving him energy to train non-stop, which eventually led to overtraining, just days before the bout.
In an interview with ESPN, McGregor explained the results:
I think in the last fight [against Nate Diaz in March], I mismanaged my weight. I was working with my nutritionist for the lightweight title fight to make 155 pounds. I was on track. Nine days out from the fight, I’m in phenomenal condition, and then the weight got changed [to 170] and all of a sudden I’m 10 pounds below and I’m like, I don’t need this diet because I need to eat up to the weight. So I threw that out. I disengaged from that. I started eating two steaks a day, two breakfasts. I’d have a coffee and some cookies with that, please, also. I’d be in the gym six to eight hours on fight week. I’ve got bags of energy. I can do this all day. But it came back and bit me in the ass. My body went into shock. I overtrained and then mismanaged the weight, and it came back to bite me on the ass.Conor McGregor on the ‘three ways to beat a man’ | ESPN
During preparations for his rematch against Diaz at UFC 202, McGregor threw out the free-flowing playbook that had worked so well to date, and implemented a rigorous structure to his training routine.
“We’ve introduced much more structure for this camp,” Artem Lobov, McGregor’s training partner, told Sky Sports. “Previously we trained whenever we felt like it, but I feel as though, with more structure, I can see the improvements already.”
To help improve his endurance, McGregor also added new cardio training to his routine, “I have gone back into my cardiovascular training — hit the road, on the bike, on the treadmill, on the rowing machine — putting miles on the clock that, I feel, will improve my game overall.”
The training camp for UFC 202 came with a hefty price tag. “With gyms, cars, transport, flights, accommodations – I’d estimate we’re talking a $300,000 camp here,” McGregor told ESPN. “This is a big, big expense – but what I make is big. So, in the bigger picture, it’s rather small.”
In the end, the $300,000 bill was worth it. McGregor’s endurance and game-planning for the bout against Diaz was noticeably improved, and he went on to win the 5-round war via a close decision, setting him up to capture the lightweight title at UFC 205.
Conor McGregor’s training routine & diet
The 2018 fight camp against Khabib Nurmagomedov an exception, McGregor has adopted a more regimented training routine compared to his earlier days. For his 2020 comeback fight against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246, the former champ stuck to two sessions a day, in the late-morning and evening, with planned sessions and programs.
“The training camp is structured way better,” said Owen Roddy, McGregor’s striking coach. “The last camp was just a bit sporadic. We didn’t know what time we were training at. Sometimes it was very late at night, sometimes it was early in the morning and nobody really knew.”
“We’re training at 11 and 7 every day. We’re doing strength and conditioning, whether it’s in the morning or evening, and then doing a technical session and it’s perfect. And you can see that’s reaping the benefits and rewards already from that.”
On McGregor’s specific training routine, head trainer John Kavanagh broke typical sessions for Irish news website, the Independent, “Training sessions are typically based around perfecting his skills in mixed martial arts, including pad work, kicking, jiu-jitsu, and lots more.”
“The training we do is light to medium, but a lot and often. We’ve never had the approach of training super-hard; you just get too tired and burn out. We prefer intelligent, light training, where your brain is always switched on, over mindless heavy training. Otherwise it’s too hard to stick at it.”
Some people seem to think MMA training is all about lifting weights and sparring. They don’t realize fighting is a mental exercise. The most important thing is mindset – it’s my belief that makes me stronger than any opponent.Q&A With Conor McGregor: UFC 202 | Muscle & Fitness
For his strength and conditioning, McGregor likes to stay away from traditional weight lifting, opting for more balance-oriented exercises. “It’s always a mix. But for strength and power, I use a lot of free weights,” he explained to Muscle & Fitness.
“I use them to build strength and balance at the same time with exercises like single-leg deadlifts and pistol squats. I do moves that utilize the full body, and bodyweight for power – dead hang pullups, muscle-ups, burpees, handstands. Handstands with leg raises and lifts are great for core and balance as well.”
To fuel his training, McGregor typically eats clean, sticking to quality protein, fruits and veggies, with lots of water. Although he generally stays away from most carbs, he’ll add sweet potato and butternut squash to his diet.
He described a typical meal plan in an interview with Ask Men:
My diet is usually pretty consistent whether I’m training for a specific fight or not. I don’t like to mess too much with it. I try to eat healthy all the time. I don’t eat takeaways. I drink mostly water or coconut water. It’s important to stay hydrated — first thing I do in the morning is stretch and drink water. I eat good meat — chicken, salmon, some steak — and a lot of quality greens and some fruits like bananas. I eat eggs — an omelet with my Americano for a late breakfast or brunch. I don’t eat a lot of carbs — if I do it’s something like sweet potatoes. Getting enough protein is important when I train, to help build muscle and recover, so I’ll supplement with protein shakes.Conor McGregor On The Truth In Trash Talk, Custom Suits And His Knitting Circle | AskMen
McGregor’s training routine & diet for UFC 257
In preparation for his UFC 257 bout against Dustin Poirier, McGregor got ready to cut back down to 155 lbs, a weight class he hasn’t fought in since 2018. For the bout, the former champion spent the first weeks training in Portugal, before returning to Ireland for the final stages of the fight camp.
According to Colin Byrne, a former pro cyclist who McGregor enlisted to be part of his fight camp team, the Irishman’s training routine in Portugal featured daily double sessions. Mornings were dedicated to specific training – boxing, wrestling grappling – with Kavanagh, Roddy boxing coach Phil Sutcliffe Sr. or wrestling coach Sergey Pikulskiy. Evenings were reserved for strength & conditioning.
The 10-week training camp was done in cycles, three days on and then one off, three weeks on and one week off. On the weeks off, McGregor did active recovery workouts like rock climbing, yoga, movement drills, fishing and the occasional mitt work session.
By his side for the entire training camp was Tristin Kennedy, a nutritionist who has been working with McGregor for the past two years. “It entails seven-days-a-week work,” Kennedy told ESPN. “Obviously, you get time off and things like that. But it entails daily nutrition plans, supplementation guides, cooking, being at all his training sessions, observing, taking data – the more data you take, the better.
Kennedy described a typical daily meal plan for McGregor, which includes protein like chicken, fish, beef, eggs; complex carbs; herbs like basil and oregano. The nutritionist is focused on optimising McGregor’s diet from a macro level (good proteins, fats and carbs), as well as a micro level – getting all the right vitamins and nutrients into his body.
Breakfast: Oats with eggs and sauteed green leafy vegetablesBest shape of his life? How a nutritionist is helping Conor McGregor prepare for UFC 257 | ESPN
Morning snack: Fruit and herb salad with organic honey
Lunch: Chicken breast with rice and asparagus
Midday snack: McGregor FAST vanilla whey protein shake with nut butter
Dinner: Irish lamb stew with potatoes
Evening snack: Homemade McGregor FAST chocolate whey protein balls and organic tea
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