Firas Zahabi: Conor McGregor going ‘borderline illegal’ is best shot to beat Floyd Mayweather

When he steps inside the ring to face Floyd Mayweather in a boxing superfight Aug. 26, Conor McGregor will be contractually forbidden from “going rogue” and resorting to MMA tactics.

No kicks, no elbows and certainly no takedowns will be allowed, otherwise the UFC lightweight champion risks losing a significant portion of his massive payday.

But does that mean McGregor should completely suppress his MMA instincts? Noted MMA coach Firas Zahabi, longtime trainer of former UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, believes otherwise and explained why during some pre-fight analysis in a video posted to the Tristar Gym YouTube page.

“You’re not allowed to clinch, but clinching happens. … ” Zahabi said. “(McGregor) has that grinding gear that Mayweather doesn’t need to develop so much in his sport. So, if I was Conor McGregor’s coach, I would tell him to tie up Mayweather as much as possible, pull on his head, step on his toes, bump knee to knee, get physical, push him up against the rope with your forearms, tie him up as much as you can. Be physical with him.

“Mayweather is a lot smaller than Conor McGregor, and when (McGregor) comes forward, if you try to punch (Mayweather), he’s just going to slip, slide, defend, counter. Of course, you’re going to have to punch him. It’s a boxing match, absolutely. But I would spend a lot of my time dirty boxing Mayweather – grabbing the back of his head, throwing uppercuts, doing things that are borderline illegal. They’re not illegal, (but) the referee is going to have to come in a break you up. The referee is going to have to come in and save Mayweather.”

It seems pointless for McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC), with no professional boxing experience, to enter the fight thinking he will outbox the 49-0 Mayweather. While clinching and “doing things that are borderline illegal” could prove smart in making Mayweather uncomfortable, Zahabi explains the strategy would also wear on him physically.

“Grab him, throw him, drop him on the floor, do borderline illegal stuff,” Zahabi said. “Get him thinking, ‘What is this? I don’t know how to grapple with this guy. I don’t know what an overhook is. I don’t know what an underhook is. I don’t know what this type of clinching is.’

“And he’s going to get tired. He will get tired from clinching. If you haven’t done a lot of clinching in your life, it’s extremely exhausting. …

“After a certain period of clinching, you build up that lactic acid. Your muscles have less pop; they’re less explosive. And all of a sudden, you’re trying to punch, but it doesn’t feel right. Do a hundred push-ups, then go hit the heavy bag. You’re going to see that your muscles aren’t feeling right.”

If McGregor is to land his signature left hand, certainly his best shot would be against a slower, fatigued and somewhat sluggish Mayweather.