Mark Henry: Conor McGregor would be a champion without coach John Kavanagh

Peter Carroll speaks to the Eddie Alvarez's coach ahead of UFC 205

Eddie Alvarez, Mark Henry,

Image: Image: Eddie Alvarez with Coach Mark Henry. ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

Mark Henry will be one of the busiest men in Madison Square Garden on Saturday as four of his fighters – Eddie Alvarez, Chris Weidman, Frankie Edgar and Katlyn Chookagian – are set for action at the historic event in New York.

Despite him being involved in high stakes fights for a number of years, Alvarez’s bout with McGregor has brought a bit of fire out in Henry.

The New Jersey native even issued an apology on the Talking Brawls MMA podcast for speaking out about the polarising Irishman, and insisted that he deserved the tongue lashing that 'The Notorious' gave him because of his outbursts.

There has been ample back and forth between him and McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh too. At the end of September, the SBG head coach declared that his beef with Henry had been squashed with a handshake and an apology from the American coach.

However, Henry insisted that there was no apology when he met Kavanagh, even though he suggested there could have been if the two had more time to talk.

"To tell you the truth, I really didn’t get to apologize. It was a very quick interaction – he was rushing somewhere and I had just arrived at the hotel. I put out my hand and he accepted it," explained Henry.

"The thing is, I’m not the type of guy to see someone who I’ve had a bit of trouble with and not acknowledge them. I’m not going to look at my phone and pretend that I don’t see him. If I’ve got a problem with you or you’ve got a problem with me, we should still handle the situation like men.

"I didn’t want to dance around the issue. I figured I’d shake the guy’s hand and it would either be more of a problem or we could squash it. We really didn’t get to talk, I just wished him luck in the fight.

Image: Conor McGregor with coach John Kavanagh between rounds at UFC 202. ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

"I would have talked to him and maybe we would’ve got to something then. The way I behaved is not the kind of example I want to set for my kids as a Christian. I’ve never done anything like this throughout my whole history of training people and it’s not the way I want to be.

"Look, as a coach, there was no way that I should’ve said something about Conor. He had some more things to say about me on the Countdown show too, but anything I get I deserve. Again, I apologise for what I said about Conor."

John Kavanagh appeared on the MMA Hour alongside veteran MMA journalist Ariel Helwani on Monday, and on the subject of Henry, Kavanagh said that he didn’t know who the coach was before their back and forth began.

"I really don’t know what to say to that," said Henry on Kavanagh’s claims that he didn’t know who he was.

£He must be a better coach than I am because when my guys fight anyone that’s a top ranked fighter in their division, I know every one of their coaches.

"If I was ever thinking of bringing a fighter into the 155 lbs division, I would know who Edson Barboza is, I would know who Eddie Alvarez is, and I would know who Frankie Edgar is.

"If the same guy coached all of them, I would definitely know who he is and I would be watching his fighters for any insight I could get. Again, he’s obviously a much better coach than me."

Henry admits that he was "ruffled" for the first time a few months ago, which made him reevaluate his comments on McGregor. He has always believed that coaches should stay in the background, because he believes it is the fighter’s work that makes him or her a champion, and not the work of the coach.

"For me, personally, I want it to be all about the fighters," he said.

"I’ve been blessed enough that I happen to train a lot of great fighters, and training fighters isn’t even my full-time job. I have an amazing team too, with Ricardo (Almeida) being my main partner, and we’re just very happy that a lot of our guys happen to be doing so well.

"I really don’t think a fighter’s success is down to the coach. For me, it’s always about the fighter. Honestly, I believe Frankie (Edgar), Eddie (Alvarez), Chris (Weidman), Edson (Barboza) and Marlon Moraes – all of these guys would have been champions without me.

"In the same way, Conor would have been a champion without Kavanagh – that’s just how I feel.

"Take a Lamborghini and a Hyundai. I can work tirelessly to try and prepare a Hyundai for a race against a Lamborghini, but I’m not going to have a lot of success. Conor McGregor is a Lamborghini. All of these guys could do amazing things without me and without Kavanagh.

Image: Conor McGregor with Striking Coach Owen Roddy at Madison Square Garden. ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

"Are you gonna try and tell me that Greg Jackson, Henri Hooft and Duane Ludwig couldn’t have made these guys champions? C’mon man. Coaches get way too much credit, it’s all about the fighters."

Turning his attention to his fighter's bout on Saturday, a lot of people believe that Alvarez will look to grind McGregor down in the clinch and take him down, given the success Diaz had on that front in his first bout with the Irishman.

However, Henry believes it would be very foolish for Alvarez not to test the chin of McGregor because of the trouble he appeared to be in against Diaz in their rematch three months ago.

"We’re ready for an MMA fight, we’re not pushing Eddie to take Conor down. Chad Mendes showed us some things that could work in the striking element of the fight, and Nate definitely did.

"People forget that Nate rocked Conor, his legs were wobbled. If someone was rocked a few months ago and ate a lot of punches, we would be foolish not to explore the striking options in this fight."