Hayden is relishing experience of training with UFC star McGregor

By Hayden Moore

ONE of Irish amateur boxing’s most highly-rated prospects William Hayden has spoken about training with Conor McGregor ahead of the UFC star’s much-anticipated return to action on January 23.

The 11-time National champion and 2016 European Schoolboy Gold medallist from Bohernabreena, has been drafted in to spar with McGregor in recent months.

 William Hayden 2a 1

William Hayden has been relishing the experience of training with UFC star Conor McGregor

Hayden has found great success under the tutelage of Crumlin BC Head Coach Philip Sutcliffe, who also called upon his fighters Paul Alexander and Cillian Geraghty to link in as sparring partners with McGregor.

Crumlin native, McGregor, is set to take on Dustin Poirier for a second time in a lightweight bout at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.

Speaking about his experience training with the Notorious’ ahead of his return to the octagon, Hayden said: “He’s coming along really well, from the first time that I sparred with him you can even see how much sharper he is.

“You hear about the differences in striking between MMA and boxing, but he’s like a pro boxer – he’s at such a high level.

“Seeing that type of training everyday has been great, I can take loads from it” he said.

The Crumlin boxer returned from a four-week camp with McGregor in Shinobi Gym in Portugal just before Christmas and jetted off to Dubai on Wednesday as preparations ramp up for fight week.

“I first sparred with Conor over in Portugal on the mats, which was strange because you couldn’t wear the boots.

“So there were certain things I couldn’t do, I couldn’t pivot [when punching].

“I’ve learned so much, even speaking to a nutritionist, there’s so many things that he’d be doing that I can learn from.

“I’ve taken so much from that trip. When I was over there even getting to do pads with Phil [Sutcliffe] everyday has been great.”

While in Portugal, Hayden had his eye on the 2021 National Elite Boxing Championships in January but that was postponed indefinitely by the IABA amid COVID-19 restrictions.

After doing it all at underage, Hayden has his eyes firmly fixed on an Elite title.

“I would love an Elite title and I was more than ready for it. That’s definitely what I want next,” he told The Echo.

Sutcliffe, who has formed part of McGregor’s backroom team for over a year now, believes that the experience of training with the former two-weight UFC champion will stand to Hayden.

“I’ve seen a massive improvement in his short game, his inside work has come on,” says Sutcliffe.

“Willo is a go-forward fighter, so he likes to walk people down and he can adapt.

“He trains very hard and he’s at an elite stage in his boxing career.”

William graduated from Tallaght Community School last year and started studying Digital Marketing in Technological University Dublin – Tallaght Campus on an Elite Scholarship.

Sutcliffe added: “Willo has been doing Zoom lesson with his computer in between training.

“It’s been very much structured, so Willo would get up and go for a run at seven in the morning and, after doing his boxing, he’s going off into a room by himself on his computer.

“Even though it mightn’t seem as important at the time, education is absolutely so important because boxing doesn’t last forever, and he knows that.”

A team from Crumlin Boxing Club has formed a structured regime around boxing for McGregor that is headed by Sutcliffe and supported by Bra Brady, Raj Vrinceanu and Andy O’Neill.

The Crumlin team, which includes Hayden and Alexander have undergone regular COVID-19 testing and continue to be tested as the fight nears.

After flying to Dubai to quarantine on Wednesday, the McGregor camp will make their way to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi ahead of the fight with Poirier on January 23.

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