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McGregor's striking coach, Owen Roddy, discusses camp, advantages over Mayweather

Owen Roddy says "no one has a better brain in combat sports than Conor [McGregor]." Ed Mulholland for ESPN

LAS VEGAS -- Owen Roddy emerges from the second level of the UFC's Performance Institute, drenched in sweat from a 30-minute session with Conor McGregor.

Exactly what the two men worked on this specific afternoon, about four weeks out from McGregor's professional boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather, is privileged information.

Any time McGregor arrives at the UFC facility, in a neon green Lamborghini he parks directly in front of the entrance, the second floor of the PI empties. Specially designed windows block any views from the outside.

The unknown is arguably one of McGregor's best weapons heading into the Aug. 26 boxing match at T-Mobile Arena, and he doesn't intend to waste that.

But Roddy, McGregor's striking coach for more than a decade, is happy with the progress being made.

"Conor is killing it in sparring. He's not getting touched, you know what I mean?" Roddy told ESPN. "He can do as many rounds as we want because he's doing so well.

"One thing I've noticed in camp is that week after week, he becomes twice the fighter he was. I've said this before, talking about MMA, that every fight, the 'New Conor' would smash the 'Old Conor.' Well, that's happening every week this camp. Knowing what he's doing, and how much he'll improve in the next four weeks, I'm excited for people to see it."

Roddy, from Dublin, has been something of a secret weapon for his fellow Irishman.

SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh has been widely praised for McGregor's success -- for good reason -- but Kavanagh is always quick to say it's Roddy who specializes in striking, which is what McGregor is known for.

After some consideration, McGregor's team opted not to include a more experienced boxing coach for this camp. Which, if anything, only adds to the allure of what McGregor's strategy will be.

"I'm not a boxing coach," Roddy admitted. "I believe the striking part of mixed martial arts and boxing, once you take out the kicks, are similar enough. They move in certain ways, feint, use setups -- it's a similar sport. You have different weapons in mixed martial arts, but the mentality is the exact same."

"Everyone has a pattern -- everybody. Some people less than others, but there are definitely predictable patterns we see in Floyd. It's about trying to exploit those."

Owen Roddy

Roddy, who fought professionally from 2005 to 2012 and also trains out of SBG Charlestown, said none of Mayweather's patterns matter if you don't have the right athlete to exploit them.

And that is where McGregor's greatest strength in this matchup lies, according to Roddy -- the ability to process information about opponents and crack their code immediately. The fact McGregor has the ability to do that on the biggest stage is the ultimate kicker.

"Floyd is smaller in height and size," Roddy said. "Conor is a little bigger and stronger. I don't think that plays as big a part as the battle of the minds, the brains. I honestly believe no one has a better brain in combat sports than Conor.

"I've watched him for 16 years. I've watched every single person that's come into the gym and it doesn't matter what level they are -- straight up boxers, high-level amateurs, Thai boxers, world-class MMA fighters -- I've watched Conor read them and pick them apart time after time. You can't coach that. I've never seen anybody else able to do it. There's no doubt to me he can do it to any man."

Of course, plenty of observers don't share Roddy's optimism. McGregor is a significant underdog to Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) and some pundits have basically written off his chances altogether.

Roddy, still smiling from the afternoon session, welcomes that.

"When he was fighting in [U.K.-based promotion] Cage Warriors, winning two titles there, people said. 'Yeah, but this isn't the UFC,'" Roddy said. "We go to the UFC, he starts knocking people out, and people said, 'Yeah, but you can't win the title.' Then it was, 'Well, you can't win the lightweight title, too.' Now it's, 'You can't do it in boxing.'

"I don't think people know what's coming on the 26th. I honestly don't. I don't think anybody realizes what is coming."