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Conor McGregor.

The methods and data behind how UFC legends are made

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The world of mixed martial arts was something of a mystery to many until just 10, maybe even five years ago.

The UFC is like the WWE of mixed martial arts. There are many companies and contemporaries, but only one truly sits atop of the industry.

There are plenty of legends in the UFC. You can go back to Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn and Royce Gracie to Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre right up to Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor.

However, it is only the last two names - Rousey and McGregor, that truly managed to break through and become household names, thus, dragging the UFC with them in the process.

But, how does a fighter thrive in the UFC? It's more than just guts and strength; the company has some of the most-skilled fighters in the world across several disciplines.

Like most sports, data has become increasingly important when training a fighter and as MMA coach Greg Jackson explains in episode eight of The Winning Formula - a GIVEMESPORT original series, investigating the role and impact of data analytics in sport - data helps support the two most important traits of a good fighter.

"Fighting is just about predictability and planning. So you're just looking for tendencies. Stats are really helping with those things."

Fellow MMA coach, Mike Winkeljohn, elaborated on the use of data within the world of MMA: "Using the data that we have, using that understanding, I can put myself in that position throwing counter strikes and things at fighters that they're going to see in the cage.

UFC 202 - Weigh-in

"I don't have to tell them what I'm doing, but through repetition, they actually get that unconscious confidence in their reactions to do it in the cage."

The idea is fighters don't have to think about the skill they are trying to perform. For example, if a fighter was to be facing McGregor and his legendary left hand, the coach wouldn't say 'look out for his left hand'.

Then the fighter would focus on that one aspect. However, if he spends enough time reacting to how the punch is set up and its range, it can become second nature to respond accordingly.

UFC 157: Rousey v Carmouche

UFC welterweight Carlos Condit explained: "To step inside the octagon and perform these techniques that you practice in the gym, while somebody is trying to hurt you, while somebody is trying to beat you down - it has to be second nature."

Thinking too much is normally the hallmark of a bad fighter. The best in the business know how to use their instincts and with the help of coaches, stats are subtly honing those instincts to unprecedented heights.

While data is helping fighters make auspicious strides, how well they digest the information plays its part too.

Here's what McGregor said just days before knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds and ending his over five-year reign as UFC featherweight champion.

"I felt when we stared down, I felt his right hand was clinching, which was a subtle tell for me," McGregor's said. "He is ready to unload that right hand and I feel that could be a downfall for him. If he lets that right hand go, I will not be there. I simply enter the way I enter, and that is enough.

“They either over-extend, or they shrink away. Either way it is not good for them. I will create traps and dead space inside that Octagon, and I will either rock him into that dead space, but all of a sudden he will be in danger."

Aldo fed McGregor the information all too easily, and the rest is history.

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