In a sport known for its high-octane drama and jaw-dropping athleticism, there’s one storyline that’s currently sweeping the MMA universe like a seismic wave. Conor McGregor, the former two-division UFC champion who’s as famed for his striking game as he is for his bravado, has just received his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. No, you didn’t read that wrong: McGregor, the quintessential striker, has just earned one of the most prestigious ranks in the art of grappling. And who had the honour of bestowing it? None other than McGregor’s long-standing coach and mentor, John Kavanagh of SBG Ireland.
“Received my black belt tonight from my coach, friend, and mentor, @coach_kavanagh of @sbgireland! 20 years of hard work!” McGregor declared via social media, his tone teeming with genuine gratitude and elation. “Thank you John for everything over the years, and to all of my teammates throughout this incredible jiu-jitsu journey! Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart! A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, wow! Praise be to God and then Helio. I’ll be in the Gi in it tomorrow Helio, I promise, and I cannot wait!! What a buzz.”
This news is not merely a blip in the annals of combat sports; it’s a clarion call signalling McGregor’s evolving capabilities. Remember, the man has only ever attempted a solitary submission in his 14 UFC bouts since bursting onto the scene in April 2013. Moreover, his most recent outing was marred by an unfortunate injury, as he suffered a gruesome leg break during his July 2021 trilogy fight with Dustin Poirier. That injury culminated in a TKO loss for McGregor, casting a shroud of uncertainty over his fighting future.
However, the Irishman is not one to be easily deterred. After a complex surgery and a period of painstaking rehabilitation, McGregor returned to the world of MMA, albeit in a coaching capacity. Earlier this year, he assumed the role of coach opposite Michael Chandler on “The Ultimate Fighter 31.” Could McGregor’s black belt be a foreshadowing of a forthcoming clash with Chandler, where he showcases his newfound grappling skills? Speculation is rife, but what’s clear is that the man is far from done with the sport.
There’s a caveat, though. McGregor has yet to re-enter the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s drug-testing pool. The rules stipulate that he must be in the pool for a minimum of six months before making a comeback. It means that if you’re eager to see McGregor roll up his sleeves and put his new skills to the test, you’re in for a bit of a wait.
Since 2018, McGregor’s appearances inside the Octagon have been sporadic, to say the least. In those four outings, he’s posted a 1-3 record, with the lone win coming in January 2020 against Donald Cerrone—a match McGregor concluded in just 40 seconds.
However, what makes this black belt truly noteworthy is the effort and time required to achieve it. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, it typically takes an individual between eight to 12 years to attain this rank. McGregor’s two decades of “hard work” speak not just to his longevity in the sport, but also to a career marked by consistency, skill acquisition, and probably most crucially, a willingness to evolve.
While the news has been met with mostly positive acclaim, there’s a subset of critics eager to point out McGregor’s history of submission losses, which stands at four in six defeats. However, the naysayers might need to chew on this: the only fighters to have successfully submitted McGregor in the past decade are Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov, two athletes at the zenith of the sport.
Whether Dillon Danis, another stalwart in McGregor’s jiu-jitsu journey, was present at the black belt ceremony remains an unanswered question. But what’s indisputable is this: Conor McGregor, the fighter, the showman, the businessman, is now adding another feather to his cap, or rather, another belt to his waist. As McGregor pens the next chapters in his complex, multifaceted career, this black belt signifies not just an end, but an exhilarating new beginning. And we can’t wait to see where it takes him next.