No-show McGregor? TUF contender comes to Conor’s defense

Former UFC champ Conor McGregor hasn't seemed invested in his TUF season, but at least one fighter wants to counter that narrative.

By: Zane Simon | 2 months ago

A few weeks ago I wondered if it was possible that Conor McGregor could still make this season of TUF something people were actively interested in and wanted to watch. I think it’s safe to say, at this point, that the answer is no.

Conor McGregor in 2022.
Conor McGregor in 2022. IMAGO/PanoramiC

Other than the fact that the Ultimate Fighter is stale beyond belief, the big ongoing problem seems to be that—as the show’s featured star—Conor McGregor doesn’t seem to care about it at all. Without his buy-in, it seems all that much more clear that it’s just not a product people care about, even when they’re on it.

TUF finalist Brad Katona defends McGregor

Perhaps everything isn’t quite the way it seems, however. Despite his propensity to no-showing things like weigh-ins for his teammates or not cornering his fighters, former Ultimate Fighter winner and current season finalist Brad Katona was quick to defend McGregor in an interview with SI’s FanNation.

He may not look like a man who cares, but he’s spent a lot of money on his TUF team.

“I was reconnected with my coach John Kavanagh, who could direct my training, and it was so nice to be part of the team Conor put together,” says Katona. “I have to get this off my chest–I’ve heard Conor wasn’t around at weigh-ins or in our corner. Conor brought in his nutritionist. He brought in an athletic trainer and a chef and the best coaches. He basically put together a Formula 1 team with every need taken care of, and Conor paid for all of that.

“You can’t question his dedication. It was such an easy decision to go over to Team McGregor.”

It’s not really much of a surprise that Katona, formerly a team Chandler fighter, would be so quick to jump ship to work with Kavanagh, or that he’d be first to provide cover fire for McGregor’s lackluster involvement. Originally training out of Winnipeg Martial Arts, Katona made the move to SBG Ireland full-time back in 2018, before his first run with TUF. He’s called the team home for his fight camps ever since.

“I heard an interview with John Kavanagh, and he said he was very happy with Conor (McGregor) winning, but he wanted to prove that his methodology works and he wants to produce more world champions to prove that,” recalled Katona.

“I saw that and I thought, ‘Why not myself? You’re looking for someone to make a world champion, I’ll come to you.’”

Unfortunately for Katona, he has yet to provide Kavanagh with another title belt, going just 2-2 before getting released in his first stint with the UFC. A four fight winning streak outside the Octagon provided him with a spot on this latest season of TUF, however, and a chance to once again prove he has what it takes to win at the highest levels.

Conor McGregor’s future still uncertain

It’s not just McGregor’s dedication to TUF that’s seemed lacking, unfortunately. The combat sports superstar’s career has been on extended hiatus for more than two years now, following a brutal leg injury suffered against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 in 2021. The injury was severe enough, apparently, that McGregor felt the need to withdraw from the UFC’s drug testing pool in order to fully recover. He has yet to re-enter it.

This year’s Ultimate Fighter season was meant to act as the launching pad for McGregor’s comeback. A coach-vs-coach fight against former Bellator champion Michael Chandler to cap off several weeks of potential ‘Notorious’ reality TV antics for an energized fanbase. Instead, the Irishman’s been seemingly throwing in the bare minimum everywhere that money isn’t involved, and is showing less interest than ever in facing Chandler at any date in the immediate future.

“Justin, I’ll slap you around,” McGregor wrote in a sense deleted Tweet, following Gaethje’s victory over Dustin Poirier to win the BMF belt at UFC 291. “I’m the real bmf, he can fight for pennies if he wants but I want spirits, I call the shots, I’m in it to launch shots, f—k chandler, you want it call for it.”

McGregor has also recently expressed interest in fighting Mike Perry, Jake Paul, Nate Diaz—hell, he even suggested himself as a next welterweight title contender at one point. Basically, whenever Chandler isn’t involved, the former UFC double-champ has made it known he’s still interested in fighting. Now if only he’d actually sign on to take a fight.

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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