UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor has spoken about the death of fighter Joao Carvalho, who lost his life after a fight on April 9 in Dublin, and has insisted he's doing everything possible to ensure he's not in the same situation in the future.
Carvalho died in a Dublin hospital days after his bout with Charlie Ward, who is a team-mate of McGregor, at a Total Extreme Fighting event. McGregor was ringside for the fight, and in an interview with Men’s Health (h/t Spencer Morgan of the MailOnline), he spoke candidly about the tragic clash:
How do I feel? How would you feel?
It's f--ked up. I wasn't just watching that fight. I helped train a guy to kill someone, and then someone wound up dying. This is a f--king dangerous game. People call it a sport, but it's fighting. I'm just making sure it ain't me. And that's f--ked up.
Per Morgan, McGregor uttered “damn, I still can't believe that kid is dead” a few minutes later.
After Carvalho’s death, McGregor said he “thought it [the fight] could have been stopped a little earlier,” and he felt “these referees need to be on the ball a little bit,” per MMAConnectTV (h/t Simon Rice of The Independent).
The official on the night, Mariusz Domasat, defended his decision, having insisted “if you watch the fight you see clearly there was no reason to stop the fight earlier,” per the Irish Daily Star (h/t the Irish Independent).
McGregor has always placed great emphasis on movement in order to stay out of the range of opponents. And in the same interview, he insisted that’s still a key part of his preparation as he gears up for a rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202.
“People are so caught in a routine, doing the same things over and over,” he said. “I want to be an expert in different fighting styles, new training methods, new ways of thinking.”
McGregor continued: “I've learned new footwork patterns that are very unusual. I’ve learned how to find a lower centre of gravity, and I've found more angles to throw shots. In a bout, I'm not just fighting another man. I'm dealing with another man and the ground. I want to understand how the ground can be my friend.”
The Irishman will certainly need to up his levels from when he met Diaz at UFC 196. After a strong start that night McGregor faded, allowing his opponent to take over in the second round and eventually score an emphatic submission victory.
“I want this rematch so bad,” he said. “I'll be better prepared this time. You can count on that.” As we can see here courtesy of this clip from UFC President Dana White, the signs are that both men are keen to get back in the Octagon for a second fight:
When McGregor temporarily retired earlier this year there were suggestions that Carvalho’s death had been a motivating factor. Indeed, per ESPN (h/t the Guardian), the Irishman conceded that the death did put a dampener on his enthusiasm for the sport and his willingness to promote events.
With UFC 202 set for August 20, McGregor will need all the appetite he can muster to get the better of Diaz in their welterweight tussle. It’s a critical phase in the former’s career, with a drop back down to defend his featherweight title surely on the cards after the upcoming bout. The result against Diaz will determine whether McGregor does so emboldened or with his tail between his legs.