MH: You fought Conor without gloves the first day you met and in your own words, ‘beat the shit out of him’. Was that a quick way to earn his respect?
JK: It was. Some people you can chat to and some you have to knock the shit out of (laughs). Back then I was a little bit more hot-headed. He got a bit upset and I got a bit upset so we solved it and we’ve been best friends since. There are smarter ways to achieve the same outcome but it did shortcut a few things.
MH: You’re charged with training one of the most charismatic sportsmen in the world. How do you stop that energy and chatter from becoming a distraction?
JK: I’ve never had to do that because his motivation and love has always been for training. The more outrageous he is the better because when he’s making such bold predictions I know he’s going to have to kill himself in the gym. He isn’t saying he’s going to edge past this guy or ‘I hope I do well’, he’s saying he’s going to destroy them inside a round. If you talk like that you’ve created your own motivation to train.
MH: Looking back now, how do you feel Conor handled himself against Mayweather?
JK: We went 10 rounds when people said he wouldn’t land a punch and he landed more than the legendary Manny Pacquiao. It was a hell of a ride, we gave it our best shot and fell short but the whole philosophy of my gym is ‘win or learn’. I would never tell somebody not to reach for the stars because they might fall short. Set yourself unrealistic goals because if you make it even halfway you’re probably going to be happy with the result.
CONOR MCGREGOR: NOTORIOUS is out in cinemas on Nov 9
To read the full interview with John Kavanagh, pick up a copy of the January issue of Men's Health, out Dec 4
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