Conor McGregor's coach: Negotiations 'ongoing' for UFC star's return

Kavanagh hopes to see McGregor-Nurmagomedov by end of year (1:24)

Conor McGregor's trainer, John Kavanagh, tells Brett Okamoto that while he's not involved on the business side, he knows negotiations are ongoing. (1:24)

LAS VEGAS -- Conor McGregor's head coach, John Kavanagh, confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday that negotiations are still "ongoing" for the UFC star's return, while adding McGregor's competitive spark has returned in recent sessions.

It's no secret that the UFC would like to book a lightweight title fight between undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0) and McGregor (21-3), who hasn't fought in MMA since he became a two-weight champion in November 2016.

Kavanagh, who will corner two of his athletes on Friday in Las Vegas, said McGregor and his agent, Audie Attar, are "working on" that potential matchup and expressed his hope that it would come together.

"I really have seen the spark back lately," Kavanagh said. "I think that was directed at other areas of his life for a while, building up his business world -- which is completely justified. We all know the hard-luck stories of fighters retiring broke. They get pats on the back and they're forgotten.

"I supported [McGregor focusing on other business] and I'm fully behind it, but I do see the spark back. I do see him very hungry, coming down to regular jiu-jitsu class and throwing a gi on. Strength and conditioning. There's a real fire back."

McGregor, 29, is currently facing legal issues in New York, stemming from an incident in April when he attacked a UFC bus in Brooklyn. The Dublin native is in the process of negotiating a plea deal with the district attorney. His next court date is scheduled for July 26.

Kavanagh, who has known McGregor for more than a decade, said he is supportive of McGregor in and out of competition.

"It is what it is. I don't really have a comment on that," Kavanagh said. "Conor is a man. He's his own person. He's very busy with what he's doing outside the gym. I'm super busy with what I'm doing outside and inside the gym.

"I love him to bits. He's been my kid brother for over 10 years. I am behind him 100 percent. Is he perfect? No. Are you? No. Am I? No. But I know he's a good person. I've seen all the good stuff he's done. He's incredibly loyal. He's a great teammate. What can I say? I support him."

While saying he has been in favor of McGregor focusing on business at this point in his life, Kavanagh admitted he's eager for a return to competition. He said he wouldn't rule out the possibility of McGregor returning to a busy fight schedule at some point, despite the level of fame and success he has reached.

"I think it's the normal evolution of a guy from his early 20s, approaching 30," Kavanagh said. "But don't get me wrong. I am, first and foremost, an MMA fan. That's what got me into this. I think Conor is one of the greatest fighters of all time.

"The selfish side of me is probably shoving him in the back a little more. I want to make sure he's set, which he is more than set. I'm his coach, I've invested a lot of time and energy, and you want to see that skill set used in the sport.

"If he so wished, if he was driven to do it and said, 'I've got the other side of things on lockdown, I'm confident with that. Let's do another three-year stretch of fighting three times a year,' he could easily do that from a physical point of view, as long as he found the motivation.

"You best believe I'd be behind it. I'd love it. It's so much fun. The experience of training him and coming out [to Las Vegas] for a couple weeks. The lead-up and buildup, the fight. There's just a different feel to a Conor McGregor fight."

And as far as Nurmagomedov as a potential opponent, Kavanagh is confident in the left-handed McGregor.

"It's a cliché to say, but it's a classic striker versus grappler," Kavanagh said. "Khabib needs to get into that clinch, join his hands and start chaining his takedowns together. Obviously, we need to try and prevent that.

"I think a lot of people are so afraid of Khabib's grappling, they don't engage with him. Conor is a good grappler. I know that will get a lot of people upset when I say that, but watch his fights. There's plenty of evidence to support that claim. I'm feeling and he's feeling confident, wherever the fight goes. But [the left hand] will be the difference in the fight."