For years the top of MMA coaching has been firmly in the grasp of the likes of Greg Jackson, Javier Mendez and Andre Pederneiras, but it is looking like there is a new Irish MMA coach on the radar and his name is John Kavanagh.
The owner and head coach of Straight Blast Gym (SBG) Kavanagh has risen seemingly out of nowhere to become one of the biggest European MMA coaches on the planet. With an array of talented students ranging in weight class and gender, Kavanagh is a new breed of coach who focuses on producing extremely well rounded athletes that are built to finish their opponents.
Without a doubt, Kavanagh’s most famous student is Conor McGregor. McGregor’s rise to MMA fame is nothing short of meteoric, having only two UFC fights under his belt; he is set to headline the UFC Dublin card this weekend. McGregor’s fighting style is completely unique mixing up everything perfectly, but where he really shines is on his feet. McGregor has unorthodox, yet devastating strikes while standing leading to 12 knockouts in 14 wins. Conor has been with Coach Kavanagh since his start in the sport, so he is the perfect candidate to look at to see the coaching skills John possesses. Many are looking to McGregor as the next big thing in MMA, and with a coach like Kavanagh, he has all the ability to get to the top.
Another of Kavanagh’s best students is stone-faced Icelander Gunnar Nelson. Nelson has come into the UFC with lots of hype as the next contender in the welterweight division. Undefeated with a 12-0-1 record, Nelson is an extremely talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt who has finished 11 of his 12 wins. With three UFC wins under his belt, Nelson is looking to break into the top ten in his division if he can get past underdog Zak Cummings this weekend. John Kavanagh himself has said the best thing about Gunnar is his ability to stay calm under pressure, and we have seen that in every one of his UFC fights. Nelson is able to fight without emotion in the cage, leading to near enough flawless showings so far. Nelson is definitely one to watch, and along with McGregor, he will be key in making Kavanagh one of the best coaches on the planet.
Kavanagh has a list of up and coming students that are making their way to the MMA big leagues. TUF 19 veteran Cathal Pendred is set to make his UFC debut this weekend against fellow cast mate Mike King. Pendred is a former Cage Warriors fighter who made a name for himself on the European circuit, most notably stopping UFC vet Che Mills. Pendred has extremely controlling wrestling skills that allow him to dictate the pace of the fight normally leading to a win by knockout or decision. With Kavanagh as his coach, Pendred is improving daily and is one to look out for in the future. Another TUF member Aisling Daly is set to fight on TUF 20 as a strawweight and If Daly wins the show, she will be Kavanagh’s first UFC champion. Despite being a relative unknown on the show, Daly has well rounded skills with five KO and seven submission wins. Holding a record of 14-5, Daly is one of the most experienced fighters on the show and fans around the world cannot wait to see her compete.
With such a diverse range of fighters at SBG, John Kavanagh certainly has the talent to coach his way to a coach of the year award, and with four of his fighters competing this weekend at UFC Dublin, we will see whether his coaching skills will pay off on game day.