Professor Greg Whyte puts Conor McGregor through his paces at CHHP
Sports scientist Greg Whyte on Conor McGregor’s condition ahead of his fight Whyte carried out a number of in-depth tests on McGregor ahead of his bout at The O2 in Dublin and was willing to discuss the results with us.
What attributes stood out for you which suggest Conor is in great shape for this fight?
The one thing that you get from Conor is this global fitness. If you take a look at an endurance athlete they’ve got a very high VO2 max but they are relatively weak with little power output. You look at a sprinter and they are powerful but no endurance capacity. I think the one thing that you notice with Conor is that he has this global conditioning so you’ve got a good aerobic capacity, similar to a midfielder in football and also good anaerobic capacity, similar to what you see in a sprinter.
The one thing that did stand out for me was probably the simplest of the tests, and that was the strength endurance. It was the ability to pump out 23 full straight-arm pull-ups followed by 23 burpees, both in 30 seconds. Hi ability to maintain power output over a period of time was quite impressive, and I think that if people try it at home, they will see how impressive it is.
Considering from the statistics, how much sacrifice do you feel Conor has put in the lead-up to this fight?
I think what characterizes that when we are talking about MMA & the UFC now, is that it’s so professional, it is elite there’s no doubt about it, and the sort of preparation these guys put in is no different to what you find in other elite sports. You get that from the data but you also get it from just looking at Conor, he is in incredible condition and just aesthetically you can see he is in great shape. Just talking to him as well you feel that professionalism; you feel that approach that he has dedicated his life to this.
It’s obvious Conor is highly fit as he completed 54% more pull-ups and burpees than the test subject. Statistics like that would clearly benefit a footballer and runner but what effect does it have on a fighter?
The thing to remember is that these are 5 minute rounds he’s fighting. 5 x 5 minute rounds and the ability to have great power output and to be incredibly strong is fine, but that will only last about 30 seconds if you’re not durable, if you haven’t got strength endurance and power endurance. It’s the latter part of every round where you start to see that really come in but critically it is rounds four and five when you are utterly fatigued that if you can maintain that strength and power output, you become a much more dangerous machine.
You watch the UFC and you can see that fights are often won by incredibly well conditioned individuals that can stand the test of time and go the full five minutes in each round and go the full five rounds, and it’s that strength endurance that will really benefit him.
Conor had 40% greater power than the test subject. Will that increase his adrenaline inside the octagon?
What is it will do is the reverse of that, it will actually repress his adrenaline levels. Being an elite athlete is all about is performing under pressure and actually being able to control that anxiety, being able to control that stress, being able to control all the emotion.
What the very best are able to do is actually produce their best performance under pressure, and they do that by controlling that level. Adrenaline is part of this fight or flight response and what you tend to find is that when people get scared our adrenaline goes through the roof and that is a very immediate response. Conor’s adrenaline levels are going to be high anyway because of the environment, because it’s a combat sport and because of the Dublin crowd around him. His goal will be to control that, and one of the ways he controls it is by being in ultimate condition because what this gives you is confidence. You are that much more relaxed, therefore you are less stressed, less anxious and you’re better able to control yourself. In other words, your skill level rises and whilst it is a very physical sport, the higher skill level you have, the less energy you expend, the more durable you are and the more likely you are to win.
Is there a tangible link between the physical conditioning and psychological pressure? With fighting at home, Conor’s going to be under more pressure in this fight than he could be in any for the any other for the rest of his career so will his conditioning affect his ability to deal with that?
We call the link between the two psychophysiology and it’s really important, you see it all the time and experience makes a big difference here. Inexperienced fighters come out and they throw everything they’ve got for the first 30 seconds so they are dangerous for 30 seconds and then they are spent. So it is very much about control – that is what makes great fighters great. What makes truly special UFC fighters great is their self-control under pressure.
Was there anything in Conor’s results that made you think about any other particular test that you would have liked to put him through?
To some extent, to feel the fight and really understand the fight, I’d like to try and test Conor whilst he’s sparring. To actually collect some data during sparring and measure his blood lactates, which is our global measure of intensity, it would give us an idea of how intense and tough the activity actually is.
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Sportvibe, Q&A with sports scientist Greg Whyte on Conor McGregor’s condition ahead of his fight with Diego Brandao [Andrew Lee | 18 July 2014].