Peter Carroll spent a week at the Mac Mansion in the lead up to Conor McGregor UFC 189 title shot against Jose Aldo
Owen Roddy was the first bona fide MMA fighter Conor McGregor ever met when he walked into John Kavanagh’s Harold’s Cross gym back in 2006. ‘Rowdy’ would go on to pave the way for his SBG teammates with his assault on the international scene, but he still remembers the day that McGregor first popped his head into the MMA gym.
“Him and Tom came in together,” remembered Roddy. “I think I was moving around a bit with Conor and I remember thinking ‘this guy is really good.’ After one exchange I was taking him down straightaway. He was very confident and sure of himself, even back then.
“I can remember we had a chat after training and I told him that I was preparing to fight someone in a couple of weeks time. He couldn’t believe it, he was saying ‘you actually get in there and do this?’ He thought I was crazy. He went off then and he didn’t come back for a while. When we moved from Harold’s Cross to Rathcoole, that’s where he really started to put in work.”
McGregor took some spells away from the fight game on his ascent, something Roddy claimed he done himself at the height of his powers. Considering his teammate’s two losses in the sport, Roddy claimed he saw a completely different fighter emerge from McGregor’s loss to Joseph Duffy in 2010.
“I went on the missing list a few times myself. A couple of years ago I did it and then I bumped into John one day at a jiu jitsu competition. He was asking me what was up. I remember at the end of the conversation he said ‘get back down to the gym on Monday’, and I panicked and said I would be there. I haven’t gone away again since then.
“Conor only kind of done it once, that was after the loss to Sitenkov. He had been training for a long time and then I think after the loss he wanted a break for a little bit. He took a good few months off and then he came back. Then when he lost to Joe Duffy, we saw a big change come over Conor. He was back in the gym on Monday. After that there were these huge improvements week after week.
“The change in his mentality was unbelievable. He beat himself up after the first loss in front of his family and friends. We were talking about him like he was the next big thing back then. I remember telling his father as much after the fight.”
Roddy, Kavanagh’s original SBG trail blazer, spoke about how it feels to have gone from training in “a shed with the roof caved in” to the infamous Henderson mansion.
“It’s mad to think about how far we have come. It’s like we live in a little bubble, myself, Artem and John are kind of getting used to the circus that comes along with these fights now. We’re at the top of the game, there is no place left to go after here.
“Cage Contender, we thought we were doing well then. Then with Cage Warriors we were winning belts. When Conor wins this belt it’s going to be amazing. For John especially, to take someone to that level is going to be an amazing achievement. Even for us, we went from training in a shed with the roof caved in to a million dollar mansion in Las Vegas. It’s crazy.”
It wasn’t just as easy as packing a bag and heading to the airport for Roddy. A father of two children and head coach of his own gym, Primal, Roddy explained the situation he left behind him and how his fiancé, Kellie, was the main reason that he made the trip in the end.
“For me, if I didn’t have a fiancé that’s so supportive, I wouldn’t be able to do this. I told her that Conor wanted me to go over for the camp and I didn’t know if I was able to do it with everything at home. It was Kellie that was saying ‘this is it.’ She told me I had to do it, it’s Conor’s big shot and it’s SBG’s big shot. She knew that it would be tough for her, but she said she would handle it. Only for her, I wouldn’t be here.
“It’s my daughter’s birthday today actually. It’s a killer. Kellie sent me on a video of them all singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her and it broke my heart. It’s very hard. My dad’s not been well either. It was very difficult to leave him for a month. Even my da, he said to me before I went – I don’t want you here looking at me when you could be doing something amazing over there. He told me to go basically.
“He wanted me to go, he wanted me to help and do whatever I do with Conor. He told me that he would be there when I got back so I shouldn’t worry about anything like that. He was kicking me out the door! I still get to talk to them on Skype, the wonder of technology and all of that, so that makes it a lot easier. It’s all good,” said the former national featherweight champion.
Even back in his fighting days, Roddy was never a man to sing his own praises. McGregor has spoke about the importance of having a “Ballymuner” in his corner in the past, and ‘Rowdy’ commented on what it has been like to become a recognizable face to a lot of international fans and media on the back of the success of ‘The Notorious’.
“It’s a huge compliment for Conor to say he wanted me out here. Ariel Helwani sent me a message on Instagram the other day, I got so excited that I went in and thanked him in person. He told me he is a fan of mine. That was insane. It’s a real privilege and I’m delighted that Conor asked me to come over. When I was debating whether I could come or not, he told me he needed me over here and that meant a lot to me. The fact that he appreciates me being here is great, because I’m more than happy to help in anyway I can.
“We’re padding together for years now. You’ve got to be able to match your partner’s pace, you’ve got to know what shots they’re going to throw and you’ve got to know the way they move and stuff like that. Even if me and Conor don’t have a session for a few months, within 30 seconds we’re back to where we left off. It’s the same with all the guys out here really. We know how we move, we know what to be ready for, so it’s worked out really well.”
Speaking of the improvements Conor has made in this camp, Roddy went into detail to describe the devastating power that the featherweight contender has become famous for.
“Conor improves dramatically in every camp. His overall approach to training has been so much smarter lately. It’s a little bit more relaxed, he’s really fine tuning a lot of things. He doesn’t need to do 100 rounds of sparring anymore, I think that’s old school logic at this stage.
“You don’t have to flat line yourself and train for 40 hours every week. We know how good the tools he has are already, so we’ve been trying to get them even sharper before he fights for this title. We’ve got our few combinations that will work against this opponent, we know what shots are going to land and I’m very confident.
“I’ve never been hit by anyone that hits as hard as Conor. People spar within their weight category nowadays, back when I started I was sparring heavyweights and everything, anyone that would show up to the gym basically. These guys would knock me all over the place, but I took the shots just fine.
“When Conor hits you, it’s like getting hit with a brick right in the face. It’s not good. Even at that, he still isn’t hitting guys 100 percent when he spars – he is still holding back.
“He doesn’t hold back at all once he’s in the Octagon. He doesn’t have John telling him to ‘lighten up’ with his punches – because John’s job is to protect the other team members that are there too. It’s like he’s let off the leash in there, he can do what he wants to do.”
Finally, Roddy spoke about what it means for the younger generation of fighters to spend time in the championship camp.
“It’s showing all the guys out here the path. By seeing this, they know that hard work can pay off. If they do what’s expected of them, the sky is the limit. When I was coming up we didn’t know that we were going to get here, the Irish MMA scene was unknown. Now, here comes Conor, now every Irish MMA fighter can see the path.”
Check out all the editions of Inside Mac Mansion here
Owner/Editor of SevereMMA.com. Producer on 'The Notorious' Conor McGregor, 'Ten Thousand Hours' and 'The Fighting Irish' documentaries.