Phil Sutcliffe was the first man to ever train Conor McGregor in the art of striking.
The pair initially worked together when McGregor was just 12 years old at the Crumlin Boxing Club in their native Ireland. The partnership dissolved, however, once McGregor made the decision to move into MMA, but Sutcliffe has returned to Team McGregor in recent times.
A two-time Olympian, Sutcliffe had a notable amateur career and brought a wealth of experience when he linked back up with his star pupil last year – and Sutcliffe was part of McGregor’s camp for his 40-second victory over Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 back in January.
Sutcliffe clearly likes what he is seeing from ‘The Notorious’ in the gym – and had some pretty lofty praise for his fighter recently.
“He’s the Muhammad Ali of the UFC,” said Sutcliffe in an interview with The Mac Life.
Now McGregor is undoubtedly one of the best self-promoters in combat sports history and certainly mirrors some of the trash-talking style that Ali was famous for throughout his career.
However, this is not the comparison that Sutcliffe is making. The 61-year-old coach went out of his way during the interview to praise McGregor’s technical ability.
“He always had the ability to not get hit and reading the punches even as a child,” recalled Sutcliffe. “He is able to move his head, bob, weave, and the work ethic of him is unbelievable.”
McGregor has never been overly popular with boxing purists and these comments and any comparison with a figure as beloved as Ali was never likely to be well received.
The 32-year-old has repeatedly insisted that he plans to return to the boxing ring at some point, keen to redeem himself after his sole professional defeat to Floyd Mayweather in August 2017. A bout against Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao is something that McGregor has teased for some time.
The next time, though, that we will have the opportunity to see McGregor in action will be inside the UFC Octagon. McGregor meets Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.
Whilst it might not compare to the work of a prime Muhammad Ali, it seems fans can look forward to an improved version of Conor McGregor on January 23.