It might surprise the mixed martial arts universe to hear that Conor McGregor still has a hands-on approach when his teammates are primed for big fights.
Ahead of his five-round clash with Cub Swanson in the UFC Fight Night 108 main event (live odds) this Saturday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, Artem Lobov trumpeted the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder’s impact on his preparation. McGregor has long been revered for his ability to break down opponents, and Lobov claims his SBG Ireland stablemate offered plenty of pearls of wisdom in relation to Swanson.
“He knows Cub’s style very well,” Lobov told Sherdog.com. “He is very familiar with his fights, so he had a lot of pointers for me going into this fight.”
Given the buzz surrounding a potential boxing match between McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr., it should come as little surprise that “The Notorious” one focused primarily on hands and footwork with Lobov.
“At the start of this camp, I did a lot of boxing sparring with Conor,” he said. “Just a few days ago, I was over in his house for a training session, and he gave me a lot of points to work on after it with my boxing. He has a great mind for fighting. He will talk about what movement he thinks will work and what shots he thinks will land against Cub. He has always been really good at breaking down fights, so I always appreciate all the help he gives me. Conor has a great eye for detail. He sees everything.”
While McGregor’s technical insights are undeniably beneficial, Lobov also underlined his teammate’s ability to inspire.
“He can motivate people like no one else I’ve ever seen,” he said. “He’s such a motivational person to be around ahead of a fight. He gives me these speeches, and they can be so powerful. I’m sure he could make going to the shops sound like an achievement for me if he wanted to. Even if it was for nothing else other than motivation, Conor is a guy you always want to train with, but of course, he has helped me in many other ways, as well.”
As he awaits the arrival of his firstborn, McGegor does not figure to be present in Lobov’s corner. SBG Ireland trainer John Kavanagh will also be notably absent. However, Lobov has grown accustomed to traveling to fights without his lifelong coach. “The Ultimate Fighter 22” finalist views Kavanagh’s absence as inconsequential, as they have done all the heavy lifting in the weeks leading up to the fight.
“I’ve fought without John in my corner many times,” Lobov said. “Really, what happens on the night [of the fight] isn’t the most important thing. It comes down to all the work I’ve done with John in the lead-up to this fight. He’s always overlooking my sparring, recording the sessions and giving me lots of feedback on the work that I have done. At that stage, when I’m in the Octagon, the hard work has already been done with John. Really, it’s no big deal.”
Over his last two appearances, Lobov has departed from the old brawling style that once defined him and taken a more conservative and refined approach. After looking far more reserved in a decision over Chris Avila in August, he made several adjustments before collecting a second consecutive victory and taking a unanimous verdict from Teruto Ishihara at UFC Fight Night 99 on Nov. 19. Lobov believes his ever-evolving style will make it challenging for Swanson to get a read on him.
“It’s just come about from constantly evolving and being open to trying new things,” he said. “As fighters, we’re always looking for the style that has the highest success rate, and I feel like this approach [benefits] me a lot more than the one that I used before. You want to be as efficient as you can while being as effective as you can. That’s the aim I always have. Of course, I think that I have refined my new style even more since the fight with Ishihara. I think that will make it difficult to prepare for me.”
Improvements to technique and increased strength made the new approach possible for Lobov, who has suffered the vast majority of his losses by decision.
“I haven’t been in this sport for as long as most people, so I feel like my style changes a lot from fight to fight,” he said. “I’m still constantly improving, even though I’ve had so many fights. Really, in the past, I don’t feel like I could have fought with this style. I’ve become faster, stronger and more skillful. Only with those physical attributes in place could I really start to practice with this style and make it my own.”