Some fighters are born with punching power and speed. You can improve those two attributes, but a big factor in how fast a person is and how hard they hit is genetic. Legendary trainer Firas Zahabi, head coach at Tristar Gym in Montreal and longtime coach of Georges St-Pierre, sat down with Joe Rogan recently and explained why some fighters, like Conor McGregor, wear down in fights and others don’t.
McGregor’s UFC 196 loss to Nate Diaz was largely due to fatigue. McGregor slowed in the second round and Diaz took advantage. In the rematch at UFC 202, McGregor faded in the later rounds, but did enough to win a majority decision.
“I think it’s partly genetic because you see, I call it the touch of death. He’s got that left hand. It’s the touch of death. That touch of death comes at a cost. How does he have the touch of death? Where does power come from?” said Zahabi.
“Number one on the list is where your muscle is attached to the bone. It’s genetic. So (Mike) Tyson hits, he has a powerful left hook not because his coach taught him how to hit a left hook. He could hit a left hook like that if he had a mediocre trainer. It has to do with the leverage of his bones. For instance, imagine I had a really heavy pole that weighs 100 pounds and I want to stand it up. Well, depending on where I grab it, I’m going to have more resistance or less resistance. If I grab it near the end, I have more leverage. So where you muscles attach to your bone is going to dictate how much leverage you get out of it,” he explained.
Not only is the location of the muscle attachment an important factor in punching power and speed, but what type of muscle fiber an athlete has plays a significant role in their stamina.
“The second most important element is the type of muscle fiber you have. A type, so if you have a fast-twitch muscle fiber, you can hold less oxygen, but it can twitch faster, hence the name. So if you’re a slow-twitch muscle fiber guy, you can metabolize more oxygen, but you can’t twitch as fast. So there’s a give and take,” Zahabi said.
“You have a guy (like) Nate Diaz that needs to knock you out with volume. He can’t knock you out with one shot. Look at BJ Penn. If round 1 he doesn’t knock you out, the likelihood of knocking you out in round 2 is less. Diaz is the opposite. The likelihood of him knocking you out in round 3 is higher than round 1 because of the accumulative attack.”
When McGregor faced Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing bout in August 2017, he had success early, but fatigue set in after the third frame. By the 10th round, McGregor could barely keep his hands up to defend himself.
“McGregor, look at his stats, it’s all round 1 knockout, round 1 knockout, round 2 knockout. He’s fast-twitch, high leverage left hand. If you take him into deep waters, his fast-twitch muscle fibers can’t metabolize. With Mayweather, Mayweather is so smart. He let him work. He let McGregor work for three rounds. He knew you were getting excited. Keep working and when you have nothing left I’m going to put you out. That was such a brilliant strategy.”