In many ways, Gunnar Nelson is Conor McGregor’s right hand man. In others, he is a unique warrior looking to forge his way in the UFC fight game.
The Icelandic 27-year-old welterweight, who fights out of the same SBG Gym in Ireland as McGregor and Artem Lobov, was one of UFC’s rising stars when he arrived on the scene with McGregor a few years ago – telling prospective fans that he would be one day be welterweight champ next to McGregor eventually becoming featherweight champion.
Unfortunately for Nelson, he was only half right. He hasn’t achieved his dream and he’s only won one of his last three fights. Typically of the nice guy, he doesn’t dwell on what might have been – a trait drilled into him by SBG Gym trainer John Kavanagh.
“Conor’s fighting at his natural weight and you’re going to see the best McGregor you’ve ever seen”
His recent misfortune hasn’t the quelled Nelson’s motivation – he only looks to his world champion training partner to maintain that same drive and energy.
McGregor faces a new kind of adversary this weekend by moving moving up 25lbs through the ranks – many contend that this is the weight McGregor should be fighting full-time, because he already trains at that weight.
According to Nelson: “Conor has stepped up very well. He’s going into fight at his natural weight and I think you’re going to see the best Conor McGregor you’ve ever seen. I’m very excited for this match up – I’m also excited to see two guys step in there at their natural weight.
“I think people should do that an awful lot more. I also think that’s what the UFC game will go like.”
McGregor will take to the octagon this weekend in Las Vegas full of confidence and vigour – he’s known for his abrasive style. Contrast that with Nelson’s quiet, businesslike demeanour and you have the perfect combination. He’s someone to bring McGregor back down to earth.
“Steroid abuse? Diaz is just trying to get something going”
The SBG team have become one of the most successful teams in the business on the back of McGregor’s success but, in the lead up to this weekend’s fight, McGregor’s opponent Nate Diaz tried to push the team SBG team’s by accusing them of steroid abuse.
It’s a charge Nelson dismisses out of hand. “To me, Diaz just sounds like he’s just trying to get something going,” he scoffs. “This seems to be a topic his camp always bring up. But fair play – because steroid abuse is a subject I’d like to be brought up more often. It’s something I’m against, and let it be known when they’re caught.”
For the fight this weekend, Nelson only has one winner in his mind.
He predicts: “Conor in the 2nd round by KO.”
Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran