Coach Kavanagh key man in putting MMA on the map

Book review - Dean Goodison

Published 23/07/2016 | 00:00

Win or Learn
Win or Learn

There'll be some tired heads at G.A.A. grounds around the county on the morning of August 21, just like there was back on March 6.

A growing army of followers will either stay up through the night, or set their alarm clocks for five in the morning, to watch, through red-raw eyes, the re-match between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz in UFC 202.

The fact that it happens on the last weekend of the Olympics is somewhat fitting. Many of those who take a keen interest in Ireland's amateur boxing heroics have gravitated towards the cage-fighting warriors to fill the void in the four years between the sport's pinnacle event.

But mixed martial arts would probably still be a niche sport here if it wasn't for the strong Irish interest created by the success of McGregor and his team-mates at Straight Blast Gym Ireland. Likewise, that success would not have been possible without John Kavanagh, owner and trainer at SGB.

Still shy of his 40th birthday, Kavanagh has taken the opportunity, while his stock is sky-high, to release an autobiography; well, an autobiography of sorts. Nowhere in the 220-plus page release, title 'Win or Learn', is the word 'autobiography' used.

But quintessentially this is the story of 'Coach Kavanagh' at almost 40. The early years of immense struggle to even have a building he could call a gym, to the neon highs of wins in McGregor's corner at the MGM in Vegas.

The first quarter of the publication concentrates on Kavanagh's formative years. He talks about his trouble with bullies at school and how he overcame those tough times. The stories of his early efforts to set up a base for SBG are inspiring and the resilience shown was remarkable.

Paul Dollery is the ghost writer of this book and he has done a superb job. It's written in simple, straightforward English. The text flows really well and while he chooses to jump scenes mid-chapter with regularity, it works because there's always a connection, be it chronologically or information-based.

Some might say it's too focused on McGregor but that's what MMA fans want to read about. They want to hear what he's like away from the cameras, what his training regime is all about, and they probably even want to know that midday is his crack of dawn.

While McGregor is a strong focus, there's plenty of interesting information on others like Cathal Pendred, Artem Lobov, Aisling Daly and Gunner Nelson to name a few. Some might be disappointed that prospects aren't mentioned, but Kavanagh is correct to not heap pressure on the wave coming down the line.

There's a slight Wexford angle here in that Slaneyside's finest, Brian 'The Pikeman' Moore, trains and fights out of Kavanagh's Straight Blast Gym. For those interested in supporting local, Moore is back in action at BAMMA 26 against German Attila Korkmaz in the 3arena on September 10.

For MMA fans in this country and further afield, purchasing this book is a complete no-brainer. It not only gives incredible insight into the workings of the trainer but also contains inside information on Kavanagh's crop of fighters, both in training and on fight night.

For those who know nothing about the world of UFC and mixed martial arts, this book gives a frills-free rundown of what the sport is about and doesn't overly try to rub its existence in your face.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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