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28th Aug 2018

Chael Sonnen believes there’s a false narrative surrounding arguably Conor McGregor’s greatest weakness

He may have a point

Ben Kiely

Chael Sonnen has a bit of hot take on Conor McGregor

We know, we know. Pick your jaw up off the floor and recuperate from that ‘shocking’ news because this hot take might actually hold water.

For a long time, it was thought that wrestling was McGregor’s biggest weakness. Then he battled through adversity and rendered arguably the best wrestler in the UFC’s featherweight division unconscious. Chad Mendes may have come into that short notice fight off the couch, but McGregor went in on literally one leg.

Wrestling was then replaced by jiu-jitsu as McGregor’s perceived Achilles’ heel. While this aspect of his game has yet to be tested by a specialist such as say, a Brian Ortega-like fighter, he has beaten Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts such as Jose Aldo, Dustin Poirier and, of course, Nate Diaz. Plus, praise from Eddie Bravo and Dillon Danis have kind of put this argument to bed for now. Until it finally gets properly tested, it will always remain a theory.

The consensus greatest weakness of McGregor, for a few years now, has been his gas tank. The popular theory is that we have about seven minutes of peak McGregor before a noticeable drop-off begins. Past instances support this hypothesis.

Energy management

After lighting up Diaz for two rounds in the rematch at UFC 202, there was a drastic momentum shift in the third as McGregor appeared to gas out. McGregor came back superbly in the fourth, but the final round was a different story. In the closing seconds, Diaz threw a clearly bolloxed McGregor to the canvas. It ended with McGregor on his back with Diaz in the top position.

He also cited ‘energy management’ issues for his losses to Diaz and Floyd Mayweather. However, Chael Sonnen isn’t buying that theory, as he explained on his YouTube channel.

“When you talk to Conor’s former opponents, they all talk about that pace too. There’s a narrative out there about his conditioning. That largely came because of his fight with Nick (sic) Diaz where Conor said, ‘I ran out of energy.’ He said that. I just don’t know that it’s an accurate assessment meaning that Conor was in poor shape or if you should also look at the intangibles.”

Other factors at play

McGregor is deservedly lauded for his mental strength, but he is, after all, human. Sonnen simply believes that other factors may have contributed to him gassing out in the past.

“One, he was surprised. So when you have an adrenaline dump or some kind of a frustration, it’s going to cause some stress which is going to cause fatigue. And also, he was up two weight classes. He was a 145 lber back then. Passed up 155 went all the way up to 170. When you have those bigger guys, you’re also going to run out of energy faster.”

“That narrative was expanded upon after he fought Floyd Mayweather for a half hour and he said, ‘Yeah, my problem was that I ran out of energy.’ So so many people came out with this, ‘Oh, Conor’s not in great shape.’ They did not take into consideration the stress of being in an event where he’s a sizeable underdog, his first time in the sport against the greatest to have ever done it and still did it for a half hour.”

Throwing gasoline on the inferno

Sonnen feels that McGregor perpetuated this perceived weakness with his comments. However, he believes that it’s a ‘false narrative.’

“I would just tell you that even though Conor helped add fuel to the fire which was, ‘I didn’t have enough energy,’ which created what I believe is a false narrative that he has cardio and lung issues. I don’t think that’s true, I think he was in a ridiculously hard environment where fighters will fight for years and years and years. Three rounds. Years. 10 years of three round fights. Maybe in their career, if they have a high enough level of success they’ll even be signed for a 12-round fight. He had none of those things and fought for 30 minutes. So I just suggest to you that I don’t know that narrative is accurate.”

“The Nate Diaz fight two weight classes up – yes, you’re going to get tired faster. The Floyd Mayweather fight, he went out there and did it for half an hour. You’re going to get tired. I think that’s false and I think that, in many ways, is going to decide this.”

He could be onto something. Another point worth noting is that we haven’t seen McGregor competing since the Mayweather fight. Still, in the prime athletic years of his career, and with a full training camp for a 12-round boxing bout under his belt, there is every chance that McGregor has improved his cardio since his last fight.