How Failure Can Help You Succeed with Coach Owen Roddy

March 22, 2022
James Whittaker

Check out this episode on the Win the Day Podcast

Your lack of commitment is an insult to the people who believe in you.”

Conor McGregor

Today on the show we’ve got legendary coach, Owen Roddy! 

Before his coaching career, Owen had a decorated 10-year career as a professional MMA fighter, where he became the undisputed Cage Contender world champion and defended his title three times.

Owen is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under John Kavanagh and, along with competing, has been coaching for 18 years. 

After injury forced an abrupt end to his fighting career, Owen transitioned to coaching where he’s now brought numerous individuals, from Kids all the way up to Seniors, to amateur world championships.

At the professional level he’s worked with names like Gunnar Nelson, Artem Lobov, and Leah McCourt.

But he’s best known as the coach of the UFC's first ever double champion, Conor McGregor. Since day one, Owen has been at Conor’s side, and is credited with being an enormous part of the iconic athlete’s success.

Aside from his experience as an athlete and coach, Owen is founder of Shadow Fight Goods and owner of SBG Charlestown. 


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Coach Owen Roddy does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more🚀


In this episode, Coach Owen Roddy shares:

  • How failure can help you succeed
  • What you can do to remain calm and focused under pressure
  • How to stay motivated when times are good
  • Where his team’s renowned self-belief comes from, and
  • How he took Conor McGregor from apprentice plumber to sporting superstar.

Before we welcome Owen, I want YOU to be part of the Win the Day podcast! If you’ve got a question for me, or any of the upcoming guests on our show, simply record an audio message and email it to info@jameswhitt.com.

I will then answer your questions during a podcast episode – and, if it’s a question for one of our guests, I’ll ask that during the interview, too. To find out what guests we’ve got coming up, join the Win the Day group on Facebook.

As we begin, remember that the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Coach Owen Roddy!

James Whittaker:
Owen, great to see you my friend! Thanks for coming on the Win the Day show.

Coach Owen Roddy:
I'm delighted to be on, James! Thanks a lot. I'm excited to have a chat with you and talk to your listeners about my journey. 

And what a journey it has been!

To kick things off, is there a particular story or vivid memory that sums up what your life was like growing up?

I came up in a very rough area. I grew up in a place called Ballymun in Dublin, and back in the 80s, Ballymun was hit by a heroin epidemic. There were all flat complexes and a lot of people out of work, so drugs and crime were rampant in my area.

I was very, very fortunate to grow up with both parents. My mom and dad, they were great. My dad had work and he drove trucks for a living and worked every hour he could to provide for me and my siblings, the seven of us in the family.

But I had a great childhood. I loved growing up in Ballymun. It was very exciting, playing on the road and stuff like that, but it was a tough area to grow up. That's why I went into the career that I ended up in. You had to know how to handle yourself. You had to be tough growing up there. So yeah, but it was great.

What was the balance of fun versus necessity when you started to get into that fighting career?

I was always interested in martial arts. My oldest brother, Noel, he'd done traditional martial arts and he was a brown belt. And I tried traditional martial arts as a kid at the age of 12. And I'd done it for a couple of months and I enjoyed it. 

But I started to play football with my local team and I got pretty good at it, and we played for five or six years. I got player of the year and I was a good defender and stuff. So I followed football for about six years, and then the team that we were on fell apart, and I always wanted to get into martial arts and get into mixed martial arts.

So a friend of mine gave me a VHS tape of UFC 1. And it featured Royce Gracie, a small lad, going in and being able to beat these huge men. And growing up in Ballymun, you had to know how to defend yourself. I hung around with a group of lads, and you'd just be fighting a lot. So I said to myself, "Look, I need to learn how to defend myself." 

I went looking for it, and just by chance, I was in school and I was looking in the library in the school, and there was a big lad teaching jujitsu, and I was like, "This is this sport I've been looking to do. Where do you do it?" I went down to the area that he taught and I started training from there and I was hooked within the first minute.

I can still smell the gym. It was an old dingy gym, and mixed martial arts or cage fighting wasn't in Dublin or in Ireland at the time. We were the first to do it. And I was in this old grimy gym, and it was all the kind of the first mixed martial artists in the country. 

I walked in and I threw myself in the deep end. I got beat up day in and day out for a good year, but there was no stopping me. I got good fairly quick … I’m not sure how. I just kept turning up, and I think that's the big thing. 

I got beat up day in and day out for a good year, but there was no stopping me.

You just got to keep turning up, and you take your knocks, you take your bangs, you take your losses and you get back up the next day and you do it again.

But within a year, I was a professional. I took it from wanting to just learn to defend myself to “I think I could make a go with this.” Within a year, I was fighting professionally and giving it my all.

You very much paved the way for MMA in Ireland. It's a huge credit to you when you look at the caliber of those who came after you. 

A lot of people talk about the immigrant mentality, that motivation of not wanting to waste the opportunity and the sacrifices that their family has made. Yet, people don't talk so much about the motivation of people who have come from very difficult upbringings. 

With all the athletes who you've worked with now, is there a different mentality and commitment from those people who have come from very difficult upbringings?

Yeah. I definitely, believe they have something extra and I think it's the sheer desire to prove themselves. Like for me, it was about proving it to myself that I could do it. I come from this area that you're not supposed to do well. You're not supposed to do better than a nine to five job. 

And there's nothing wrong with it. You got to do whatever you got to do to get by. I don't knock anybody for doing whatever they do, but it's nearly this doubt in yourself that you can't deal with. But for me, I had the hunger. I wanted to prove that I could do it – prove it to myself and prove it to everybody around me that I have the grit and I have the determination.

I've been through troubles and tough times, and I've been knocked and bruised and banged and hurt, and I've got back up. There's nothing that anybody in a cage could do that I haven't gone through already. There's nothing that anybody can do in business or in any aspect of my life that I haven't overcome already.

There's nothing that anybody in a cage could do that I haven't gone through already.

The likes of Conor [McGregor], he came from an area similar to myself on the other side of Dublin, and a lot of fighters, they come from that background. But when they learn to channel that energy into something positive, marvelous things come about.

A big theme on the Win the Day podcast is that the most important opinion is how you feel about yourself. And it sounds like that's what made you very successful as an athlete and as a coach. 

Speaking of, you had 10 years as a professional MMA fighter. You've been coaching people for 18 years. How is the experience different between being an athlete versus a coach?

As an athlete, it's all on you, and as a coach maybe you're sitting there like, "Oh, I wish you would just go and do that" which must be frustrating!

You literally took the words out of my mouth! Combat sports and individual sports, you have to be a little bit selfish to do them. Team sports, it's a team and you walk together and you are all in it together. Sometimes in a team, some people don't pull their weight and you get frustrated or whatever.

But to go into an individual sport, it's all on you, but all the reward you get as well. So there's more risk, because it’s all on you and nobody else. But also when you win, you did it. Now, you have a team in the background, and you can't do it without your team and your training partners and stuff, but when you walk in that cage it's on you, and you have to pull it out. When things ain't going right, you have to figure it out, and that’s why the reward is so good. 

In contrast, when you're coaching, you can only do – and it took me a while to get used to this – you can only do your best and you can only prepare as well as you possibly can and put those hours in outside. 

But when your guy makes the walk, you have to let them roam free. You got to just hope that the preparation they've put in and the strategies and the plans that you put together, you can only hope that it comes out on the night. And it really is a coin toss, because the person on the other side of the cage and his team have done the exact same thing.

You have no control over the result, so you need to focus on the controllables. You're in control of your preparation: Did you work hard? Did you put the hours in? Did you get up every morning when you're tired and you're sore and you're beat up and you don't want to do it and you have every excuse not to do it, but you still do it? Did you do that? Yes.

You're in control of your preparation.

Did you look at your opponent, come up with strategies and a game plan that you think can beat that guy? Yes you did. 

When you go in there on the night, you just have to play it out and let your guy do his thing. You can shout a voice from outside, but it's all on them in there. And that was the hardest thing for me. I was like, "Oh, I wish I could just feel it for them." But you can't, but I'm still learning to get used to that. I'm competitive, so I want to win all the time. And if I'm not in control, it's hard for me to take.

It’s not just the will to win on the night, it’s also the will to train and prepare in the lead up. 

And when you're doing that, you're walking into a cage to face people and get your ass kicked by some of the best trained, most vicious and toughest people on the entire planet.

Can you share a little bit about the battle of the mind that fighters go through to have the courage, not just on fight night, but also to get there, to do the training and do the sparring and the reps day in, day out?

It is difficult. It's very, very difficult to get up every morning and go in there and potentially lose. And we lose a lot. In martial arts, especially mixed martial arts, you get used to losing very, very quickly. This is a huge thing in all aspects of life – you have to learn to lose.

And you have to learn from your mistakes. I always say, "You make a mistake. You look at the mistake you made, you find a solution to that mistake, and you go back to the same situation again." Mixed martial arts, you lose an awful lot and you have to learn to be okay with that.

You have to trust in everything that you've done in the lead up to the fight. Trust that you've prepared your best and you've given it 100%, and then you go in and you roll the dice. 

For me, when I coach, I give it 100%. There's no stone unturned. I leave my kids for three months or whatever it may be. I focus 100% on the task at hand. I do all my due diligence. I watch every fight of the upcoming opponent. I look at flaws that we can potentially work on and expose. I look at where I think they might try and expose us.

We come up with strategies. We implement these strategies, we work these techniques, then we finally cultivate this plan and then we see what happens. It's been three months. We've done everything that we possibly can. We know we've put it in, so now it’s time to put it all on the line. 

And when you deal with something like that, you can have no regrets and you can face almost anything when you know that you put the work in prior to the big night or to whatever it may be for everyone else.

Does the fighter go back and look at all their opponents' fights too, or do they they just leave that in your hands?

Some like to watch back, some don't. Now, for me, I would like the fighter to watch back the fights, because we all see something different. And the person that's going in there fighting is my fighter, and I would say to him, "What do you think this guy is going to come up with? Where do you think the biggest threats are?"

I might see something different, but I'm not fighting. I'm not the one that's going to be in there. My fighter might see certain things, "Oh, this guy, he comes with this set of skills." I might think he comes with a different set of skills, but I'm not going to be the one in there fighting. 

This is a huge thing in all aspects of life – you have to learn to lose.

My fighter needs to go in knowing that he has addressed, or we have addressed, the problems that he sees. I'll give my advice on what I see, but he has to address everything that he sees. And until we address those issues, then we don't add anything else in. 

But some fighters will refuse to watch it because they get nervous, maybe they think that they don't want to put a huge emphasis on what the opponent is going to come with and they want to focus on what they're going to bring to the fight. So it depends on the fighter to be completely honest. But, as I said, we try to address every issue possible, and then we go in and get it on.

You mentioned before, any individual success is due to the support of people behind the scenes. Just like you've been enormously influential on people like Conor McGregor and all the other fighters you've worked with, I'm sure there were people who were instrumental in your development when you were fighting.

You and John Kavanagh in particular have been the ones who are most instrumental with Conor’s meteoric rise from apprentice plumber to being one of the most recognized people on the entire planet today. 

Take us back to your first meeting with John Kavanagh. What was it about him that you respected?

It was in class in Dublin. I met John that day. John was the only guy who was kind of small and similar sized to me, and everybody else was a lot bigger. So I was like, "Can I move around with you?" And John was like, "Oh, no, no, we aren't going to move around." 

Thank God, I didn't move around with him, because he went on the mat and he schooled everyone! I was like, "Oh my God, I dodged a bullet." But what I took from John straightaway was his commitment. Even nowadays. 

John is my coach and he's been my coach for 20 years. And I'd like to think I'll get to the stage where I'm as good a coach as he is, but there's something that he does, and it's something I'm trying to implement myself. It's his commitment. He doesn't take his eye off the ball. He's committed 100% to coaching. He watches every MMA show that you can watch. He watches every fighter. He studies nonstop 24/7 and he gives back to his team. 

He's always watching his fighters, looking at what things would suit that fighter. Because, in fighting, your fighting style is determined by your attributes – what kind of body type you have, whether you're fast, slow, whether you're long or long and lean or you're small and stocky. 

And then your personality – are you a thinker, as in do you sit back and assess the situation and budget time and then make your attack, or are you the aggressor? Do you go forward? Do you take the risks and go all in there? So John is very good at looking at the fighter and seeing what style he thinks they might use. 

From day one, I was in awe of John, and I still am to this day. He's my coach. And I'm very fond of him, and I’m still learning a lot. I've taken a lot from John and I'm trying to expand on that, and I think that's the job of a mentor – he gives the blueprint and then we all need to build on that.

Wow, that’s amazing to hear. Thank you for sharing that. And I'm sure John has probably learned a ton from you over the years as well.

What about the moment that you met Conor for the first time? How did that happen, and did anything stand out in particular about his mindset or the energy that he carried?

So Conor joined the gym, and I remember his first class. I remember this confident, young lad. And we were all taken aback, because I'd been fighting for a good few years prior to getting there, and I was a professional and I was doing very well. But this young kid comes in and he's got this belief in himself. 

Now, you have to realize that he could box a bit – he was a good boxer and he had power in his hands – but he had nothing else. He had no wrestling. He had no kickboxing. He had no jujitsu. Nothing. So Conor was losing straight away. But every time he lost, he'd just get up, and he still had this belief in himself that he was the best.

Conor was losing straight away. But every time he lost, he'd just get up, and he still had this belief in himself that he was the best.

I was a bit baffled at first, I thought he was a bit mad. I was like, “This kid is crazy. He doesn't know any jujitsu or wrestling, but thinks he's the best fighter in the world.” But he had this belief in himself. And I think in order to be successful at anything you have to back yourself, you have to believe that you can do it, because at the start, everyone else thinks you're not going to be able to do it. 

You have to prove everyone else wrong, and you have to prove to yourself that you are this person. And you can't do it without putting the work in. One thing Conor did was, although he thought he was the best in the world from day one – and he'd get submitted or he'd get taken down or he'd get kicked – he would just come back in the next day, look at the situation and look at the mistakes he’d made. 

It's problem solving – How did he catch me this time? What mistakes did I make? Okay, you take notes, "Okay, I've done this, I've done that. I'm going to address them. I'm going to go back in with the same person, same rule sets, whatever, and try and fix these problems." 

Conor did it, and he did it very, very quickly. But at the end of the day, he was in every day nonstop. So I say he did it quickly, but when you're putting that many hours on the mat, it's probably not that quick. It's just that he put in more hours than anyone else. 

His confidence was the big one. I think it grew on all of us as well. We all became a lot more confident when he was there.

People talk about the physical attributes of Michael Phelps. Was there anything with Conor, aside from that unwavering self belief, in terms of maybe he recovered faster or he was stronger or just had that precision timing? Was there anything like that for him?

Yeah. He's got certain attributes, like he's got long arms, big hands, good timing and stuff, but to be totally honest, it was his confidence. It was sheer belief, he couldn't be touched. And when you fail a lot, it's hard to keep getting up and going, "I'm the best in the world." 

Even I've won and lost fights, and when you lose in a fight the old doubt kicks in and you start to question yourself, "Am I actually this good?" But when you learn to fail quickly and learn from your failures and go straight back at that problem and go at it with a new approach and with your new tools and your new weapons to go straight back at it and address it again, you will eventually conquer it, and Conor did that.

Conor’s confidence was the big one. I think it grew on all of us as well. We all became a lot more confident when he was there.

He kept believing in himself. Every time he failed, he looked at the situation, "Okay, what am I doing wrong? Okay, I need to fix this. I'll go back at it again." If he failed in a submission, where he might have been submitted in 20 seconds of that round, the next round he’ll get to a minute. Then he’ll go the whole round without being submitted. Then he’ll actually be dominant. 

So it's winning these little battles, and that reinforces what you're doing. It gives you that reward and you strive straight forward to get it.

Conor has said countless times that you are an enormous part of the success that he's had. How did you help shape him into the fighter and the person that he's today?

Myself and Conor, we were sparring partners when we were young, but just as Conor started fighting professionally, I was retiring. I had to retire due to injury. So it was a bit of a nightmare, but I'd always been working with Conor, we're both southpaws. I took up the striking coach role in John's gym. 

So me and Conor started working an awful lot together. We were both southpaws. So I would do a lot of pad work. We didn't quite use his kicks as much, so we're working on kicks and knees. He was very heavy handed. 

We were trying to come up with these strategies to make people think of something else, make them think of your kicks and all your other weapons. When they take their eye off the ball, we bang them with the big left. And we worked countless and countless hours day in, day out, hitting pads and moving around and working together. A relationship just blossomed from there. 

I eventually retired and took up the coaching role. And before I knew it, Conor was signing for the UFC. But he wasn't the first guy in Ireland, although he was one of our main guys to sign for the UFC, and it just snowballed from there, and I've been with ever since – every camp, every training session, it's been phenomenal for him. I love every minute of it.

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” I'm sure when it comes to the UFC, and these major world championships, there's a big team involved outside of the three of you. 

How do you manage the coaching duties so there's not too many chefs in the kitchen?

There's a huge team now with Conor, because he's such a huge superstar now. At the start, it was just me and John, and the sparring partner Art, and then it built. We introduced Sergey, a wrestling coach.

Then, over time, we introduced strength and conditioning, with Dr. Julian Dalby and Colin Byrne. Then we introduced the nutritionist and then we've got security and everything. So there's a huge team now.

But you know what? Everyone has their role, and we have regular meetings in camp to see when we’re going to work on striking, and I’ll slot in there, and what days are we going to do the wrestling, and Sergey would slot in. Then for overall MMA or jujitsu, John would slot in. 

This can be a very smartly played game, and Conor is very good at getting under people's skin.

The strength and conditioning would be done in the mornings, so Doc and Colin would go in there. We would be checking in with the likes of Tristin the nutritionist to make sure that he's hitting the milestones, whether it's the weight is coming down or we're maintaining, or is his energy level where it needs to be. Do we need to introduce more sugars? Do we need to reduce calories and stuff like that? 

Then you got security teams to get him back and forth from training. And so it's a huge thing, but communication is a huge one. We sit down, we devise a plan, we get a good structured plan in place, and we all stick by it. Like everything, you have to be flexible, because every now and then a spanner gets thrown in, and we have to learn to adapt and overcome. We stay flexible, we make decisions quickly, and we go for it. 

So it's a big procedure now. But back in the day, it was just two coaches, a sparring partner, and Conor, traveling around fighting like mad things. We've come a long way.

Having someone with Conor’s ambition would require, I imagine, a balancing or calming force. Is that something you guys are focused on to introduce that calm and composure so he can do what he does best?

Again, it's communication between myself, Conor, and the whole team. Conor himself is super calm. Although, he plays the game of riling people up and trying to get under people's skin! But this can be a very smartly played game, and he's very good at getting under people's skin.

When it comes to the night, or in training or sparring, anything like that, he's very, very calm. But if things do escalate, it's the same – we regroup, we communicate, and we figure out, and we go again. Conor is super calm all the time.

In the Aldo fight, the quickest knockout in UFC title fight history, you must have been like, "Wow, this is incredible!" 

How did you feel seeing that unfold? And how did that change your belief in what was possible for the team?

At first, I didn't think Conor could get to the UFC, then he gets to the UFC. Then I was like, "Okay, if he gets to the UFC, we will do okay if he gets a win." And then he gets a win, we're like, "Okay. Yeah. We don't want to overstep the mark." 

Where I come from, and where he came from, you're not expecting to do so well. But Conor just kept knocking down the barriers, and the team started to believe. And John and I both had this unbelievable belief in him, and we just thought there was nothing he couldn’t do.

So he beats Siver, Mendes, and then Aldo comes up. And Aldo was the best on the planet, and nobody could touch him. But we knew that if Conor could land on the chin, he would hurt him. Conor is so powerful. And the fact that Conor was getting under his skin, we knew Aldo was going to come out aggressive. 

We got behind him, and the whole country got behind him, and then the whole world got behind him.

If you've seen the footage backstage, Conor is imitating Aldo coming out fast, and Conor is pulling and countering. And even myself, I said it to an interviewer from Ireland, I think it was Peter Queally, I was like, "We believe Aldo is going to come out aggressive, and I think he's going to get caught."

That 12 seconds… it was unbelievable. It was nearly a little bit heartbreaking as well to see the champion Aldo go down so quickly, but I knew if Conor hit him on the chin, he would either be out or he would be on the road to being out.

And then to go from Aldo to his next fight, he just kept breaking down these barriers. We got behind him, and the whole country got behind him, and then the whole world got behind him. So it's surreal, to be totally honest.

Speaking of surreal, the road ended up at Floyd Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers of all time. The spotlight was on you even more for that fight. 

You were coaching an MMA fighter against the greatest boxer of this generation. You had limited time to prepare.

Did the enormity of that challenge bring out the best in you guys?

It definitely brought out the best in us. And at first, I had a good few sleepless nights, because I thought we could get a couple of tune up fights and build up. But, no, it was straight in.

And that's what Conor does. He went straight in against the best boxer of our generation. It definitely brought out the best in us. I was all in, and I am all in on every fight, but this it was always on me for this one, and I really had to try and think outside the box. I didn't want to go in with the same kind of strategy and become a traditional boxer against one of the best boxers of all time.

If no professional boxers could touch him, coming in with that exact same strategy did not seem like a good idea!

Yeah, so we tried to think outside the box and utilize a lot more switching up the stance. There have been a few boxers switching their stance over the years, but I was like, "Maybe if you switch the stance. Our kind of motto in there was to paint different pictures and give him different looks, switch the stance, and bump off to the side. What we did, we did amazingly well in the fight.

If you look back on the stats, Conor landed more strikes on Floyd than anybody. We knew we were fighting a very tricky opponent, and I knew myself that Mayweather has the ability to change his own strategies on the floor. He's one of the best boxers in the world to do that. So he'll come in with one style and then he'll switch in around if he needs it.

Even we had anticipated that he would come out and try to box Conor. And I said, "Conor, I think you're going to have the range, and then I think you're going to land on him." And then I said, "I think he's going to come in, and he might play a bit of Philly Shell and a bit of counter boxing. But I think if you can get your angles and work the body and work a little bit, he won't know what to do."

Efficiency is doing the least amount necessary to achieve your goal.

What we didn't anticipate – which is a metaphor for life in that sometimes you miss something, – we didn't anticipate him trying to walk Conor down. So in between the rounds, we're like, "Okay, Conor, he's walking you down and he's making you hit the arms, and he's trying to drag you into the later rounds and get you tired." 

Conor was like, "Yeah, I get you." But I think, Conor knowing that he has that power, he wanted to see one or two more shots. Mayweather just had the ability to make you miss by a millimeter. And we talk about being efficient... Efficiency is doing the least amount necessary to achieve your goal. I can make somebody miss you by a mile, but then I have to travel back a mile in order to get my own shot off, or I can make you miss by a millimeter and only have to travel back a millimeter. 

Don't you use more energy to swing and miss rather than if you actually connected?

Yeah ,that's right. But what I'm saying is that even though Conor missed, if I slip a shot and I slip a good bit, I have to travel back a little bit. But Floyd has the ability to make you miss by a millimeter. So now he only has to travel back a millimeter in order to land on you. And he did this very well. 

Maybe with the bigger gloves, Conor’s range might have been off a little bit, because he’s super accurate, but he was hitting Floyd’s gloves and Conor got tired in the later rounds. And in the 10th round, the ref stepped in. 

But I was devastated, I was heartbroken, because I had this belief in Conor that he can do anything. For us to lose there, and we've lost before, it was heartbreaking. But you look at the mistakes you made. And I know that I would come in with a better strategy and we as a team would come in with a better strategy. If we had that fight again, we would definitely do a lot better.

So that's life. Make mistakes and fix them.

It's been almost four years since the Khabib Nurmagomedov fight. In retrospect, how would you have changed your preparation to give yourself a better probability of success with that one?

With that one, we were too defensive orientated. Khabib has a set of skills that are very hard to beat, because he hasn't been beaten. And if you play a guy at his game, he's got a lot more answers than you have. 

We went in worried about the wrestling and came up with a lot of defensive wrestling strategies where maybe if we had been a little bit more focused on the striking, moving, and controlling the range a little bit better – and keeping it long, circling off the cage and making them shoot from distance and failing, and then striking – we probably could have done a lot better there.

If you play a guy at his game, he's got a lot more answers than you have.

If we got the opportunity again, I think we'd have the answers for it. But in life, you can't get it right all the time. You have to accept that, learn from your mistakes, and go again. And not be afraid to go again as well. 

Some people fail and they're like, "I'm not going to do that again. Now I failed. I don't want to fail twice." No, you got to do it. You got to go back at it, and you got to come in with a new strategy and you make half of it right the next time. And then the time after that you'll be 80% there, and the time after that you'll get it. And I would love to get any of those fights again, but who knows what's around the corner?

Yeah, there are so many parallels in fighting with life, business, and relationships. 

You've had extraordinary experiences on the world stage. What was the moment where you just pinched yourself and thought, "Wow, I can't believe that this is happening. This is real life."

I've had that feeling every moment through Conor's career. The big one was when Floyd Mayweather got in the ring. I was like, "What are we even doing here!?" 

I was like, "Hold it together now. Come on, we're going to do this." But, at the same time, I was like, "That's Floyd Mayweather, oh my God!" And then you're looking around and it's all the A-list actors, just the cream of the crop in the crowds, and the best boxer of our generation.

Then there's me, a guy from Ballymun, a disadvantaged area on the Northside of Dublin, there's Conor from Crumlin, from a very disadvantaged area on the Southside of Dublin, and put John from Rathfarnham and the council area as well. We’re lads that come from nothing, and we're on the world stage, for the biggest fights ever.

I've had that feeling every moment through Conor's career. The big one was when Floyd Mayweather got in the ring. I was like, "What are we even doing here!?"

So yeah, it was one of these moments where I'm like, "Okay, what do I do here?" But you know what I always do, I always fall back on the effort that I put in, the preparation that I put in, the belief in what I do, the belief that I put 100% in the belief in my team, the belief in my fighter.

Then, same again. I know we have prepared. I know the other team has prepared and ready to go. Let's go in and play, put our cards against their cards, and see who gets to win.

Clearly, you, John, and Conor are in vastly different situations than when you first started out in terms of resources, accomplishments, and experiences. A lot of people have speculated that the desire might not be there anymore.

Is there anything you work on as a team to make sure no one gets complacent and that everyone is firing on all cylinders, even after all the success you've had?

To be totally honest, when we go into camp, we know what it takes to succeed, and it's just reaffirming that with the team. Especially for Conor now. Conor is at the top, and everybody wants that goal, so everybody's coming for it. That’s why we need to be on your game, because if you let up for a half a second, there's 50 guys behind you that want that spot.

It's just reaffirming, having that belief in yourself, and the competitive spirit that you’re not going to let somebody come and take what's yours. That mentality probably comes from where we all came from, “If you want to come take it, well, let's see.”

But you get there by looking back at what you did in the beginning, at what it took for you to become that champion. It's seven days a week, 24/7 nonstop, 100% commitment to it. And we all do that. 

Even Conor, in the last camp, left Dee and his kids. Very few people will commit. Especially with Conor, he doesn't need to do it, but he still did it, because he knows what it takes. Unfortunately, he breaks his leg and it's a nightmare, but when he wants to come back and go again, he'll do the exact same thing.

He'll have 100% commitment and that'll be a 100% commitment from the team, because we know that the people coming for us are going to be doing the same.

That competitive spirit you guys have is incredible. 

We've got some questions now from the Win the Day community. If anyone wants to ask questions of me or people who are upcoming as guests on our show, email us at info@jameswhitt.com or join the Win the Day group on Facebook.

The first question comes from Brandon in Florida: 

“When working with someone like Conor McGregor, what are the things that no one sees, or things no one hears about far away from social media or press conference that really makes someone great. What makes that person stand out and achieve things far beyond their means or what anybody else would expect of them?”

The first thing is commitment, 100% commitment to the task at hand. He's this superstar, and sometimes even myself, I forget, especially when he pulls up in a Rolls-Royce with a big entourage or our security team.

But when he goes into that gym, he is a student of the game. He is always willing to learn and, like myself, always open to learning new skills and learning from coaches. So commitment to the task at hand, open mindedness, and being willing to take advice from myself, from John, from Sergey, from the strength and conditioning team. 

Also, it's his attention to detail. The smallest detail can make a huge difference, especially in this sport. Even in life, if you get those finer details right, it opens up everything.

So he'll be like, "What angle are you taking on that shot? Or should I be close to the shoulder? Or should I be..." All of these small details, some stuff that I would even forget about. So yeah, 100% commitment, attention to detail, and always be a student.

The second question comes from Brett in Queensland, Australia:

“How do you balance, or what's the fine line, between digging into someone's head using the ego versus having a strong game plan?”

So, the balance is when the cage door closes, we implement our game plan and our strategy. Everything prior to that, to be honest, is entertainment for the people looking to watch. 

Conor is the best at drawing the crowd because of how he entertains people. But I will say he doesn't get emotionally attached. Very, very, very rarely does he get emotionally attached in any fight. 

He'll say all sorts of things to get his opponents riled up, but when we go backstage he just laughs, “That's hilarious, isn't it!? Look at how Aldo is acting. Look, he's losing his mind out there!” And he's just laughing.

But when he gets into the cage, you'll see this switch. He knows the cage door has closed and now it's trying to do what you set out to do. We know what our game plan is, now let's go in and implement it, and he does it like no other.

On this crazy journey that you've had and that you're still on, you've experienced the dizziest highs and the crushing lows. Is there a particularly dark day that stands out for you?

Personally, the darkest day in my career was when I was forced to retire as a professional fighter. I was on the cusp of getting to the UFC. I think if I’d had one more fight, I would have been signed to the UFC. 

I had a fight on a show in the UK, in Cage Warriors. I fought a guy, Wilson Hayes who ultimately went on and fought for the UFC belt. He didn't win, but I went and I lost a fight, but I gave him a bit too much respect in the fight, and I didn't implement my game plan. I lost. But I remember a couple of days later, I was upset, obviously.

If I lose, I'll give myself a week to sulk, and then I'm like, "Okay, now let's talk. You've done your crying and your mourning, now it's time to get back on the horse and go again.”

I realized I had an injury and I'd done some research to see if I would get cleared to fight in the UFC. It was a high risk injury and I had two kids at the time. I was forced to retire. So my dreams were shattered. I was done.

I was like, "What do I do now?" I had left a good job that I had when I was 18. I had an apprenticeship and I could have done very well with it. And then I walked out, I gave my notice to the job and said, "Look, I'm going to be a professional fighter and I'm going to be fighting in the cage." 

And my boss was like, "You're crazy. Don't do that." And I did it, and I was on the doorstep of the UFC and it got taken away from me. So I had to realize that I have to adapt now. What do I do from here? 

I became a full-time coach. So the biggest negative for me was obviously losing at one of the goals that I set out to achieve. It was taken away from me, but then I learned to adapt and improvise and move into another area. And I became a hugely successful coach. So when one door closes, another one always opens. 

What excites you the most about the work that you've got on at the moment as a business owner?

I think we evolve into different characters over a lifetime. The thing is to make sure you don't get too fixated on the character you are or the person you define yourself as. I was a professional fighter, and that was my life. 

I was a professional fighter, then I became a really high level mixed martial arts coach. Now, as I'm getting older, I've got a couple of businesses and now I'm evolving into being a business owner. I've got my gym, which is very successful, SBG Ireland, which is turning out lots of new, young up and coming fighters, young amateur champions, world champions, and young professionals coming through. And it's doing very well.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Coach Owen Roddy does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more🚀


But I've also moved into setting up an equipment company called Shadow Fight Goods. Shadow Fight Goods at the moment, I've really fallen in love with it, because I've been a professional fighter for many years and I've used every bit of equipment and I've had every injury and knock and bang.

I looked at the equipment that's out there and it's below par. So I set up Shadow Fight Goods to improve and innovate on all the equipment that's out there. And I'm becoming a student again. Now I'm a business student.

It's okay to be a beginner. I was a beginner as a fighter and I was a beginner as a coach and I'm a beginner as a businessman and I'm learning every day and I'm making all those mistakes and I'm finding the solution, and I'm going back at that problem. No problem will out do me forever. I will find a solution to every problem for them. 

I love Shadow Fight Goods. It's my baby at the moment, but also I've online MMA programs that I'm trying to reach out to, trying to give people the opportunity to train with me and learn some of my martial arts philosophy and get fit while doing so.

I live in Ireland, so it's for people who can train with me from the US or Australia or wherever they may be. So now they have the opportunity to train with me online. They can do it live, or they can do it in pre-recorded training. It launches in March 2022. 

And then Shadow Fight Goods is selling well, and we're enjoying what we're doing there. So yeah, I'm enjoying the new challenge. Business is great, it's very tricky, but I love every aspect of it.

Well, I feel like the apprenticeship you've had as a fighter is going to hold you in good stead with all that!

And speaking of being a beginner, there is no manual when it comes to parenting. You just come home from the hospital and you're like, "What the hell am I supposed to do with this baby!?"

So much of your work is on resilience. How do we raise resilient children? Obviously, life has to kick you on your ass multiple times for you to learn those lessons, but is there anything you are particularly focused on as a parent to achieve that resilience in your kids?

You know what? The big thing is exposing them to failure. Unfortunately, what breaks my heart sometimes, my kids are in sports, they do martial arts with me. I've got three girls, I don't particularly want them to do mixed martial arts competitively because it’s tough on the body, and my body, it's a bit broke up to be honest. There's easier ways.

But if they fell in love with martial arts, I would be behind them 100%, just as I will be behind them 100% in whatever they do. My goal as a parent is to expose them to failure, then teach them to look at the failures, look at the mistakes they've made, look for the solutions to those mistakes, and go straight back at that. Like I said previously, go straight back at that problem and go again.

My goal as a parent is to expose my kids to failure.

Unfortunately, many people don’t want to see their kids upset, so we try and keep them away from failure. But it's on the other side of those failures where all the success and all the good stuff is. So that's what I tell my kids.

And I communicate with them. My kids do GAA football, it's Irish football, and they're very competitive. It's very physical and they fail a lot. They lose the ball, they miskick, and I say to them, "It's okay. You're going to miskick hundreds. But you know what? The more times you kick that ball, the more times you're going to be successful kicking that ball. So don't worry about it, just look at the problem and find a solution and go again." 

And they're getting there, they're still very young, and they get upset, but it'll stand for them in the long.

Yeah, I'm sure your example as a coach and a business owner is enormously beneficial for them too. 

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Treat every day, like it could be your last. If we woke up tomorrow knowing that this was the last one, you would do everything, you would give it all, you would do what you love to do, and you would do it with passion and with determination.

So imagine somebody that could live every day like it was their last, imagine how successful they would be. 

Owen, what an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much for coming on the Win the Day show.

I really, really enjoyed that, James. Thanks for your time. And I hope your listeners enjoyed that. If anyone wants to reach out and communicate with me, hit me up on Instagram or LinkedIn, I'll be happy to chat. 


Final steps to Win the Day...

💕 Share the love:

I hope you enjoyed that interview!

As you heard, our guests love to hear positive feedback, no matter where they’re at in their careers. Share a comment on the YouTube version of this episode with your favorite takeaway so our guest knows they made a difference in your life today.

Also, the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one out there who needs to hear this episode – or could use some help to Win the Day – share it with them right now.

🤗 Subscribe to the Win the Day podcast:

If you’re new to the Win the Day show, hit the subscribe / follow button so you can get access to episodes like this one as soon as they are released.

The Win the Day podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, Google, Audible, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

🙋‍♀️ Join the Win the Day movement:

We’ve created a safe space for the Win the Day tribe to connect with each other, share ideas, and upgrade their mindset. You’ll also receive access to content that you won’t find anywhere else.Join the Win the Day Facebook group.

That’s all for this episode! Get out there and win the day.

Until next time…

Onward and upward always,

James Whittaker

PS - If you have a question and want it featured on the Win the Day podcast, email your question (in writing or as an audio message) to: info@jameswhitt.com


Resources / links mentioned:

🗝️ Got a question for the Win the Day podcast? Join the Win the Day group.

🎵 Send us an audio message.

📷 Coach Owen Roddy Instagram.

⚡ Shadow Fight Goods website.

For 20% off all Shadow Fight Goods products, use promo code: wintheday20

🌎 Coach Owen Roddy website.

🎤 There is No Honor in Killing | TEDx Talk by Nina Aouilk.

🐒 ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Dr Steve Peters.

🎬 Subscribe to exclusive Win the Day videos on our YouTube channel.

Back to Newsletters >

Ready to win the day®?

Get actionable tips from James and the world's leading experts. Delivered to your inbox every two weeks 🔥
youtube-squareapplegooglespotifyfacebook-official linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram