FILE PHOTO: Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (blue gloves) reacts to fight with Nate Diaz (red gloves) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters
Mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor has never boxed as either a professional or amateur, but sparring partner Artem Lobov says the Irishman will blast the undefeated Floyd Mayweather when the two meet in Las Vegas on Aug. 26.
The much-heralded boxing match pitting Mayweather, a 49-0 machine and one of the greatest boxers of all time, against McGregor, the UFC’s first simultaneous two-weight world champion, was finally officially announced on Wednesday.
Bookmakers immediately installed Mayweather as the hot favorite for the 12-round, super-welterweight bout. But Lobov says the 28-year-old McGregor is ready to write combat sports history by pulling off a shock win.
“Just look at all the stats – Floyd hasn’t faced anyone significant for a few years now,” Lobov told Reuters in an exclusive telephone interview.
“When he fought Manny Pacquaio it was five years after Manny’s prime, he was on the way out basically. Conor is bigger, stronger, younger, and has a longer reach.”
Lobov said that McGregor’s broader fighting skill set would give him a big advantage over the 42-year-old Mayweather, who is renowned as a brilliant defensive boxer.
“If you look at Mayweather’s fights he often likes to get into the clinch, but what is a boxer in a clinch against a wrestler, an MMA fighter? Boxers are absolute novices in the clinch,” Lobov said.
“Get a boxer and get him wrestling for a minute or two – the arms get so heavy, filled with blood, they can’t even hold them up any more, they can’t box.”
Known as “The Russian Hammer”, the 30-year-old Lobov has trained and sparred with McGregor ever since the Dubliner started to ascend the mixed martial arts ladder.
Famed for his granite chin and ability to keep coming forward, he has sparred countless rounds with the brash McGregor, who went on to become UFC champion at both featherweight and lightweight and is as well known for his trash talk as for his fighting skills.
“He has incredible power, a power that nobody else has. I’ve never seen anyone hit that hard,” Lobov said.
“You won’t see many other training partners around – only a Russian Irishman can take those bombs. That’s why I’m there, from the start until the end.”
McGregor’s stamina has previously been questioned, but a five-round war of attrition last August in a welterweight rematch against Nate Diaz – the only UFC fighter to defeat him – showed that he can go the distance.
“There’s a reason why MMA is only three five-minute rounds, or five fives when it’s a title fight,” Lobov explained.
“MMA is so much more demanding on the body – the wrestling, the changing levels, all that takes a lot out of you. Boxing is a breeze for us after MMA.”
Lobov says he understands why Mayweather, who held world championships in multiple weight classes before retiring in September 2015, wants to take on what could be a risky fight.
“You have to give Floyd respect – he loves to compete, he sees this young lion coming up, everyone is talking about Conor and saying he’s potentially a man that could beat Floyd, also wants to prove the world wrong.
“That is what makes this fight so interesting – Floyd is undefeated, Conor is young, he’s the best MMA fighter ever. That’s what makes it a great fight.”
Having witnessed McGregor’s power first hand, Lobov is in no doubt that Mayweather’s proud undefeated record is about to come to an abrupt end at the MGM Garden on Aug. 26.
“When Conor connects, people fall and they don’t wake up. That’s why I believe Conor will stop him within six rounds.”
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor in Stockholm; editing by Mark Heinrich)