An Interview with John Kavanagh
SBG Ireland’s Head Coach talks to Bloody Elbow
In just two days’ time, fighters from the now world famous SBG Ireland gym will be competing on another UFC card. Conor McGregor headlines the UFC Fight Night Boston card on Sunday night, and is joined by teammates Paddy Holohan and Cathal Pendred. All three are students of SBG Ireland’s head coach, John Kavanagh. In advance of Sunday, Coach Kavanagh spoke to bloodyelbow.com about MMA, coaching and his team’s rise to success. You can read the full interview here.
In the space of a year, SBG Ireland has seen a huge surge in growth – opening a brand new facility, and rising from between 80-90 members, to over 400. In the twelve years previous, Kavanagh had never once been able to break through the one hundred member mark. Today Kavanagh is in charge of over 30 coaches and full time staff managing the operation. It’s the kind of growth that might lead people to the false assumption that such success is possible in an instant, something Kavanagh puts quickly in perspective:
It kind of feels like an overnight success story, but it’s not. I get brought into schools over here to do a little motivational speaking and so on, and I say to them, ‘It took me 12 years to become an overnight success.’
The huge increase in MMA’s popularity in Ireland, and the impact made by SBG Ireland at UFC Fight Night Dublin last year, make it seem that names like McGregor, Daly, Pendred and Holohan popped up overnight. Kavanagh reminds us that these athletes have been training with him for seven, ten or even twelve years, before the bright lights of the UFC, and SBG Ireland’s spacious new location. They are part of a strong core at SBG, one that allows the team to maintain a family vibe despite such rapid expansion:
One day he’ll (Conor McGregor) be on a leg of a huge media tour and the next he’s in the gym teaching a beginner how to do an armbar. It’s very much a team effort here. You could say we’re a family here, all of us. Everybody is trying to help everybody get better. Obviously that handful has moved onto a bigger platform with better money, but they’re here trying to help their teammates achieve that same level of success.
John Kavanagh goes on to dispel other myths associated with MMA and fitness – SBG Ireland shuns cryogenic chambers and flotation tanks in lieu of simple mats, pads and an endless enthusiasm for a sport his team grew up fascinated by, and instead of nutritional supplements, Kavanagh recommends a simple, natural diet. SBG Ireland’s success story is not one of an incredible talent’s meteoric rise to superstardom, nor one of discovering a super-secret new system to get fit fast, but one that proves strong relationships based on teamwork, effort and a tireless curiosity, over time, will eventually achieve their shared goals.
Be sure to read the full interview here, and don’t forget to watch Conor McGregor, Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan this Sunday night at UFC Fight Night Boston! Good luck to the whole SBG Ireland team!