With UFC 196 in the rear-view mirror for over a week it’s safe to say all the fighters from the co-main and main event bouts have come out unscathed in the court of public opinion. Tate won the belt with a hail mary submission. Holm went out like a berserker warrior, literally throwing strikes while losing consciousness. Conor displayed huge stones trying to out-gun a bigger, late notice opponent. Diaz out-classed the most incendiary fighter on the planet, stopping him in the second round in a fight for the ages.
Conversely, McGregor “movement coach” Ido Portal has taken plenty of flak from pundits and analysts. The usual criticisms of Portal and his methods were present of course, from known critics like Team Alpha Male head coach Justin Buchholz and former heavyweight contender turned podcaster Brendan Schaub. Buchholz maintains that all fight training is “movement” training; that learning the arts of muay thai, wrestling, boxing etc. familiarizes one with the movement necessary to survive and thrive in the cage. Schaub has always been a critic of the ‘movement coach’ trend, and was quick to pile on after Conor’s loss, saying “fire the movement coach, hire a wrestling coach”, among other quips.
New critiques of Portal’s fight week actions have surfaced however, and the critics seemingly have valid points. Former perennial contender turned analyst Chael Sonnen pointed out how Portal may have had the wrong set of priorities leading up to the fight, and let his ego get the best of him.
From Sonnen’s podcast “You’re Welcome”:
“Nate Diaz attacks this Ido guy at a press conference, and he’s a ‘movement coach’ whatever the hell that even means, and they’ve got some interesting workouts and Conor likes them and he does them, so Nate Diaz points this out and he teases him. “
“That’s funny enough. I thought it was a highlight of the press conference. It is true, he was swinging pool noodles at him at a park and the guy had a ponytail. Alright, fair enough.”
“Well the problem is Ido then just can’t shut up. He’s gotta go and respond back to Nate, and he does this long-form written on facebook. “
So I still didn’t get it, Nate Diaz, first it’s you who were doing some movement training already back in the day but then it’s a shitty approach to take??
Which one is it?!
Well, Mr Diaz is under a lot of pressure. I understand mistakes can happen.
Seriously, next time I’ll jump on stage with my pool noodle and smack some heads around.
“And I’m scratching my head going ‘hey man, any time a coach ends up being a part of the story line it has to be on accident’… When a coach inserts himself it’s a problem. So now you’ve got, Conor’s got a coach that’s no longer there for Conor. He’s there to get his own brand out and his own opinion out. And in the same piece he’s talking about what he’s done and how long he’s done it, and all the things he’s capable of doing, and he’s talking about his diet and all these things and you scratch your head and go ‘I get it, you’re running a business too, this is a marketing opportunity, I do get it.’
But you need to understand, Ido, that if you’re going to be a coach that’s a selfless position. If you want to be selfish, put on the gloves and get in there. If you want your name out there put on the gloves and get in there. “
Fair critique in my opinion. When Rousey addressed Holm at the weigh-in about how she’s not the first fighter that camp has put against her, you didn’t see Jackson or Winkeljohn posting a smarmy response on Instagram.
Analyst and former top-contender Kenny Florian questioned whether Portal’s training leading up to the fight may have sapped some of Conor’s trademark power. From “The Anik and Florian Podcast”:
“Leading up, and some of the embeddeds, I saw Conor doing ‘muscle ups’, and that’s pretty intense muscle training just a few days before the fight, and I’m thinking ‘how are his muscles going to recover? How are his muscles going to be on fight night?’ He might be a little heavy, his shoulders, his arms. He was doing a lot of intense upper body work… I didn’t think that’s the smartest thing. I thought ‘well, I guess Conor must be an exceptional athlete to be able to do that, to have that pop in his punches’. I don’t know, to me, I don’t think it was the smartest choice. To me, that threw me through a loop as we went into fight week.”
Conor’s quick ascendance has pushed Straight Blast Gym to the center of the MMA stage. The young fight club’s growing pains will be visible for the world to scrutinize, and we’ll learn a lot about how well they handle criticism and adversity in the coming months.